Listening to Audiobooks While Watching Sports – Inside Higher Ed (blog)

My happiest moments come when I’m able to watch a sporting event – either live or on TV – with an audiobook playing in my ears. Living in a college town affords me frequent opportunities to attend high level sports for shockingly low costs. At every live basketball, soccer, hockey, field hockey, or football game (the teams I follow), I’ll listen to an audiobook while watching the game.


This year we got a TV. With the kids at college, I now feel liberated to spend evenings watching sports. Mostly the Celtics, sometimes the Patriots.  My TV sports watching method is to record the games, and then watch them the later that night or the next day, skipping over the commercials. The challenge is avoiding all news that may give away the results of the game.


The way I watch is to mute the volume of the TV, and to listen to an audiobook with a pair of Beats wireless headphones. I got the headphones as part of the back to school deal for Apple laptops, as my first-year college daughter got the MacBook and I got the Beats.


Are you skeptical that you can watch sports while listening to a book?


It may be that I’m not achieving the sort of attention to either activity (the book or the game) by doing both at once as I would if I did either separately. I would not recommend this method if you were being tested on either the book or the game. But for most of life, it is not necessary to focus 100% of energy on 100% of the information.  Our brains may not multitask, but they seem to work just fine at integrating diverse signals in low-stakes situations.


The balance that I give is to pay more attention to the audiobook, and less to the game.


While watching basketball or soccer I’m not giving much thought to strategy, the history of past games, or team dynamics. Rather, my sports viewing is passive.  The active attention goes to the audiobook.


I might argue that giving our passing attention to watching other people play sports is all that sports viewing deserves. Sports are diverting, but they are not meaningful or important. Sports are tribal. Sports are enjoyable. But unless it is your kid playing the game, or you make your living through watching the athletic pursuits of other humans, then it is okay to give sports less of your attention.


Audiobooks, on the other hand, deserve our focus. The beauty of audiobooks is they allow us to read while doing other things. I’ve long thought that we are doing something wrong in higher education by not prioritizing audio books. One of the best habits that we can instill amongst our students is the habit of reading.  We know that most students don’t read books (whole books) because they are as time starved as everyone else.


Plus, audiobooks are expensive. The audiobook selection in most academic libraries is small, and certainly minuscule compared to Audible.


Why doesn’t Audible have a college program? Doesn’t Audible get that the next generation of audiobook listeners are today’s college students? Do you know of higher education leaders who are actively scheming to lobby Amazon (owner of Audible ) to develop a college program?


My dream in life is to be an academic in residence at Audible. I would figure out how to make so that every student who attended a college sporting event did so while listening to an audiobook. If a student is at the athletic center on a treadmill or an elliptical, they should have an audiobook in their ears.


Have you ever tried to watch sports while listening to a book?


Do you fantasize, as I do, that everyone else watching the game would also be reading a book?


What do you do while listening to audiobooks?


 

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