I’ll begin with an apology both to my real-life friends and loved ones, and to anyone who has ever or currently follows me on Twitter. They all can corroborate this one irrevocable truth about me: I am maybe a bit annoying, especially about The Bachelor and hockey (specifically the Minnesota Wild), my two favorite sports. I like to think it’s an earnest desire to share my interests with loved ones, but truthfully it comes from a complete inability to shut up and a deeply selfish desire to make everyone I know abandon their own hobbies and interests and instead like mine so I have people to talk about the things I like 24/7. (Folks who are kinder to themselves than I am would call it hyperfixations, but I’m being charmingly self deprecating, come along with me for this, guys.)
Here is what I used to be more annoying about and am maybe slightly less annoying about now that I’m annoying about the Wild instead: The Bachelor. What started as slightly ironic hate-viewing has transformed into a lifestyle. This show is two hours long and I supplement that viewing with at least a few recap podcasts to fill the time in between episodes. That’s about four-to-fiveish hours a week spent on consuming Bachelor content and that does not begin to touch the amount of time spent on it during Bachelor in Paradise season where it’s on both Mondays and Tuesdays. So that’s four hours just on the show itself without the podcasts. Listen, my love for this show isn’t even really a guilty pleasure anymore. I don’t shame-watch it in secret. I’ve bought books about it. I’ve read several former contestant memoirs.
I like reality TV competition shows in general. I’ve watched Project Runway since the early aughts, I love love Top Chef. I love all the garbage Netflix is churning out (The Circle, Too Hot To Handle, Love is Blind etc.) I literally think Are You The One? Is a work of genius. But there is something about the Bachelor and its spin-off shows that I think transcends the experience of those other shows.
This is where sports comes in.
My relationship to sports is like a classic enemies-to-lovers trope. I’m very tall and deeply uncoordinated and I outright rebelled against all the well-meaning folks bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t playing basketball and wasting my height. I would not be playing basketball thank you very much, I would not even try — I would not even LOOK at a basketball, or anything tangentially related. I was a theatre kid, I played the cello, kids at school called my friends and I the “Barnes and Noble Crew” sort of behind our backs?? I don’t know, I was only offended because I prefer the library and independent booksellers. I did not do well at fitness tests in gym class. I didn’t care about sports and I didn’t want to because I didn’t feel a part of that community, I wasn’t a jock, wasn’t going to be a jock and if soccer players couldn’t make it to orchestra concerts, I certainly wasn’t going to make it a priority to see a soccer game.
As an adult, I understand the basis of my adversarial relationship with athletics was a little silly. You can appreciate things you aren’t good at. And I’m, like, pretty sure people came to plays and stuff who weren’t in theatre, so that premise was broken to begin with.
That being said, I don’t think I had the tools to understand and appreciate sports until I loved The Bachelor. There are some easy comparisons on the surface; it’s a competition, obviously. If you like the experience of rooting for someone and making it to the end, well, there’s that. All reality competition shows have that. But The Bachelor is even more. It’s event TV for one — I don’t know if there’s very many shows that air live anymore that beat the numbers The Bachelor gets, besides actual live sports. Folks live tweet the show and engage with each other online. They have Bachelor watch parties. I love that aspect of The Bachelor, and it wasn’t until my personality transformed into also being a Minnesota Wild fan that I realized, holy shit, that’s sports.
Loving and watching and being a fan of sports is so deeply rooted in community. When I still stubbornly hated sports, I still couldn’t make myself actually hate the Huskers even if I didn’t like football. I’m a Nebraskan (yes, sorry, Gophers fans, I know this is Minnesota territory, I am not a Minnesota homer.) During the parts of my life when I lived in Chicago and South Dakota, I would see a big red “N” on a t-shirt and lose my mind yelling “Go Big Red!” to a stranger! And I didn’t like football. But I loved seeing a piece of my home away from my home. Shared passion is so cool, y’all, and sports fans are so passionate. And that’s there when you watch The Bachelor too.
And then there’s the big brain/high-level of compete/strategy shit. This is a big category. Despite my love of trash television (not including The Bachelor in this category by the way, this is a DEFENSE of The Bachelor blog), I’m a bit of a brainy/self-identified intellectual douchebag as evidenced by the “Barnes and Noble Crew” thing mentioned earlier. I definitely had a preconceived broken notion of sports as sort of a brainless activity, and I think hordes of people have similar feelings about The Bachelor. Now I don’t think Nick Viall, certifiably a G.O.A.T. in the Bachelor franchise, or Ryan Hartman, breakout top center of the Wild, is probably reading Sartre in their free time — although Hartman once asked for nonfiction book recommendations on his Twitter and I did reply with some pretty obnoxious suggestions so maybe he did pick up Being and Nothingness — but let me tell you high level competitors in their sport of choice have to have such a deep understanding of their game and have to be so, so smart. Knowing when to make a play, when to hold back, when to pass, that’s the kind of shit that blows the mind of a brainy kid like me.
And The Bachelor has that stuff in spades. If you’re a sports fan and at all moved by my impassioned description of The Bachelor as a reality dating show for sports fans, I’d really recommend listening to Game of Roses, a podcast that’s literally just about discussing The Bachelor as if it’s a sport and they’ve developed their own lexicon that sounds so sports-speak it’s insane.
Guys, there’s also stats and data for this show. If you’re a stats guy and follow the likes of the EvolvingWild twins or Dom L. on Twitter, there’s @bachelordata on Instagram.. Y’all, it’s so mathy.
There’s a HUGE fantasy community for The Bachelor too!
There are plays we can spot and applaud: Shy guy style, personal tragedy cards, a HUJU (hug jump). There are things to watch out for: Tattle tales, FTWR (for the wrong reasons). There are the different metrics of success of the show: Ring winner (you end up with the lead), crown winner (you are chosen as the lead for the following season, so a Bachelor finalist becoming the Bachelorette), you make it to Paradise, and perhaps the most important stat of all: Instagram followers.
As influencer culture — I know, its inherently a bit gross, but bear with me — has grown, folks who can see what going on the show can do for them and their Instagram accounts have dialed in and followed in the footsteps of the greats before them, this means that the show has a new generation of talented hot people who know the game and know how to win, so the competition has only gotten tighter.
Here’s a fun comp: Gossip. And, like, gossip without harm? Chatting with your friends about if we think Mari and Kenny will last longer than Serena P. and Grocery Store Joe doesn’t hurt anybody, there’s no real life harm to friends and family to gossip about that stuff, and it scratches an itch we all have and if you deny it, you’re a dirty liar.
Discovering how much gossip there is in sports has been…well, a real treat. I was as much #freeEichel as the next person, but come on, the little bit of breadcrumbs every month or so that had Eichel’s name associated with Minnesota was scintillating content. Wild fans losing our goddamn collective minds over the Parise and Suter buyouts? Are you kidding? I am desperate to find folks who will discuss Michael Russo’s every tweet about Jack McBain, a prospect we probably won’t sign, might trade for a second-round pick – I want to spend every second until March 21 speculating. This is the GOOD shit, y’all.
The next bit is perhaps the most important, and ultimately what invited me into the sports-loving fold at all. Narrative. Yes, all the people going on The Bachelor want to have a million Instagram followers and sell tummy tea so they don’t have to go to an office ever again. (I don’t blame them. I am writing this at work, don’t tell my boss.) But the really good players sell the love story. I want to cry at the end of every season, despite knowing exactly what I’m watching. I want to believe they were all Stockholm Syndromed into falling in love with this boring piece of white bread named Clinton or Brad or some derivative of that. I love rooting against a villain, and picking sides in rivalries. I would liken the excitement of seeing Mari throw the birthday cake Demi made for Kenny into the fire to the experience of seeing a Marcus Foligno Superman Punch.
This blog is ultimately about how I owe my love of hockey to The Bachelor, but I can’t talk about how it began without crediting my old roommate as well. They’re a lifelong Bruins fan and we had our TV patterns down to a science while we lived together, and it involved a medium amount of negotiation about who got TV privileges when and the non-negotiables for us included The Bachelor for me and Boston Bruins games that we had access to (out of network probably) for them. Eventually those spaces overlapped, I was watching hockey and asking questions and vice versa.
It started with asking questions about rules, basics about what was going on, but suddenly I was seeing patterns that were unrelated to the mechanics of the game. I was watching a story. This probably seems really obvious to people who have been sports fans for longer than two minutes, but it broke something wide open for me. And like, I don’t live under a rock, I’ve obviously seen Miracle, and like know that people talk about underdogs, but suddenly when I knew the characters and cared about the teams, it meant more than an abstract “this team isn’t supposed to be as good as the New England Patriots, it would be crazy if they won” that I was told while I was watching the Super Bowl for the commercials.
The Wild happened a bit less naturally for me. I was loving watching hockey with my roommate but I couldn’t develop the fervor around Boston that they have, so I wanted a team that was mine and not my roommates. I started watching hockey on my own and ultimately I fell in love with Minnesota. I live in Nebraska which isn’t a hockey state at all, besides a few USHL teams and the Mavericks, so the support your local team thing wasn’t really an option, I sort of wanted to like a Central Division team just so I could imagine making it to games at some point.
I live two hours from Des Moines, so being that close to the farm team is pretty cool. Plus, Brandon Duhaime and Nico Sturm both played for the nearby Tri-City Storm a thousand years ago and that is as close to a local team as I got as I grew up in Hastings, Nebraska.
Regardless, suddenly I was spending as much or more time learning about hockey and learning about the Wild specifically, as I was consuming all my Bachelor content. I was certainly tweeting about hockey more. I made my friends watch some playoff games with me. One of my friends, an actual diehard Huskers fan who has quietly tolerated my apathy for sports for years texted me after I left his house deeply upset over a loss and he said, “isn’t it fun to have your night arbitrarily ruined by something other people trivialize?” And it’s so true, how much and how quickly you can care about this and how it’s hard to communicate it to folks who aren’t on board. The emotional investment is… shocking.
Except… except I knew that feeling, how many times have I absolutely fallen in love with a Bachelor contestant and watched the lead pick the other girl instead. How many times have people rolled their eyes about me being a fan of a silly reality TV show! How do you explain to people why these sports just mean so much to us? That all being said, it’s not like being a sports fan is a unique experience, people do get it, just the transformation in me seemed improbable. And convincing people that The Bachelor is also a sport is going to be a continued uphill battle.
I had been secretly a fan of a sport for years, and I didn’t realize until I started watching hockey. I can’t really begin to describe to you how much time and lol, now money I spend on Wild stuff now. And I owe that passion in large part because a silly show about people competing to get engaged on television taught me how to watch sports.
I can’t even tell you if I’m trying to convince you to watch The Bachelor (well, yeah, obviously) or watch hockey with me (that too) or if I’m defending why I literally can’t shut up about this stuff online or in real life. Maybe I just wanted to take this opportunity to call all of you sports fans nerds. Mostly though I want people to get that like… there are loads of entry points for all sorts of hobbies and interests that seem deeply outside of your purview, and it can be rewarding to try them out. And like, it’s fun to love stuff with other people. I love loving the Wild with you!