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Are Live Sports Basically Just Long Form Improv?

A sport is a series of scenes and games. Improv is a series of scenes and games. Both strive to entertain and provide the unexpected.

Five For Chili’s by Belinda Hankins Miller is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Are Live Sports Basically Just Long Form Improv?


Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes

When you go to a see a game in person (remember live sports?) there are a few things you expect. You’ll sit in a chair that may or may not be comfortable. Maybe you’ll have something to eat. Or an overpriced drink. Perhaps you’ll catch a ball. But above all else, you’re there to see something entertaining and probably have a personally desired outcome. Your team, or a player you support, to win.

Have you ever been to a comedy show? You’ll sit in a chair that may or may not be comfortable. Maybe you’ll have something to eat. Or an overpriced drink (or two if there’s a minimum). But above all else, you’re there to see something entertaining. And to laugh, I’d expect.

Long form improvisation

What is long form improv? According to Finest City Improv, it’s still a series of scenes and games, but without the interjections of an emcee or evaluation of points (unless you’re in the world of Whose Line Is It Anyway?). Successful long form shows are spontaneous plays with characters and scenes, though often without a strict plot line.

Essentially, they start with a suggestion, or an idea, and work out how they’re going to find their way to the end of the game. They’ll bob and weave and sometimes you may expect what comes, and sometimes you’ll be completely taken off guard. And that’s the exciting part. The shifts and the unexpected keep you on the edge of your seat.

And maybe you’ll want to surpass that drink minimum. Of course, the cause of that could be a raucous show or a complete dud. Who can say?

Tell me the difference between improv and sports

A sport is a series of scenes and games. When you watch on tv, you’re without an emcee. Sure, the evaluation of points is a necessity in sport, but that’s not the crux of my point. You’ll see players forced into spontaneous scenarios throughout different sets, innings, quarters, halves, or periods. The desired outcome is a win for somebody, but you can’t predict how it’s going to happen along the way. There’s structure, for sure. But there’s no mandate to what happens within that structure.

So they bob and weave and sometimes you’ll be able to see something coming from a mile away, and sometimes you’re completely taken off guard. You hope someone hits a home run. But you don’t know for sure it’s going to happen. You want to see someone pull off a wonder goal. But you don’t know for sure it’s going to happen. You want to see your team successfully make a stand at the goal line. But you don’t know for sure it’s going to happen.

And maybe you’ll go for some more drinks. Of course the cause of that could be a high scoring affair or a sloppy, boring nil nil draw. Who can say?

Kevin is an actor, director, playwright, and musician who works in tech. He is die hard New England sports and an avid Tottenham supporter. His qualifications include scoring 1 point in his elementary school basketball career, 4 years of mixed little league results, and breaking his arm with a skip-it days before pre-season workouts started for Freshman football.

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