Why Writing About ‘The Bachelor’ Is Just Like Covering Sports
The Sport Of ~True Love~
Back in another life, I covered high school and community sports for a newspaper in the American South. It was filled with sweaty handshakes with teenage football players, so much agate, and parents who yelled at me for not putting their kid on a soccer all-star team.
Fast-forward roughly a decade: I write about The Bachelor franchise a lot, and have covered various other competitive reality TV shows. And every time I write about The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise, I can’t help but think it feels just like the old articles I used to write about balls going into hoops and into goals. Sometimes I sincerely think, “Wow, covering sports was great training for this.” Deadspin has made a similar observation, noting how much sportswriters seem to love the show.
I’m not saying that reality TV is the women’s version of sports — the women’s version of sports is women’s sports and let’s not forget that, thanks Title IX — and this isn’t ploy to get my boyfriend to watch The Bachelor with me. But The Bachelor shares a lot of things in common with sports other than Jordan and Aaron Rodgers. Just look at this erudite Hollywood Reporter column by NBA legend/cultural critic Kareem Abdul Jabbar, which name-checks Chad “Protein Powder & Ham” Johnson and Toni Morrison in the same text.
It’s just that perhaps The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise are sports in and of themselves — the sport of ~reality TV true luv~.
1. Fantasy Leagues
Fantasy sports is big business for every sport imaginable. I mean, ESPN has a whole section just devoted to FANTASY. In addition, college football often produced bracket prediction games and the Super Bowl has that complex points game I still don’t get.
And for The Bachelor, unofficial prediction leagues sprang up and now ESPN/ABC has opened their first official Bachelor Fantasy League, which looks just like a fantasy sports league with questions about dresses and crying and hot tubs. Bless the weekly hot tub question during these turbulent political times. ESPNW has also debuted Bachelorette rankings, just because.
2. There Are Traditions
I haven’t paid attention to sports in years, but one of my favorite things about sports will always be the ceremonial-ness of it all. There is so much tradition and anyone who questions those things just doesn’t get it yet, like the infield fly rule or the beauty of the 4–6–3 double play.
The same thing goes for The Bachelor villain, group dates, and rose ceremonies. When Chad “Meat Plate” Johnson ate a plate of meat during JoJo’s Rose Ceremony, that was a big deal because it’s the Rose Ceremony.
3. The Final Four
Sport seasons and Bachelor(ette) seasons are similar, as well. NCAA sports have their FINAL FOUR; The Bachelor franchise has HOMETOWN DATES, which is the FINAL FOUR contestants getting to host the Bachelor/Bachelorette on their home court. The New York Times has also made this sports comparison, calling Hometowns the playoffs and I could not agree more.
4. It’s Shocking When Someone Is Smart (Or Diverse)
This isn’t my favorite segment of the list to write, but here it goes: Neither The Bachelor nor sports have a reputation for having smart people. It was a big deal that former pitcher Mike Mussina had an economics degree from the University of Michigan and NBA legend Tim Duncan co-authored a chapter in a psychology textbook. Then there’s the issue of sports and race, which is so immense that it would take up this entire hobby listicle and then some. Let’s just say it’s complicated.
The Bachelor is a little less complicated: It has been super white for most of its time on-air. But now Rachel Lindsay is the first black Bachelorette. It’s a huge deal. And Rachel is a trial attorney! She’s super smart and cool and I’m scared none of the dudes on The Bachelorette are good enough for her. Some of the contestants are attorneys, too, but others fall into usual Bachelor franchise territory, like “Real Estate Agent,” “Salesperson,” and “Personal Trainer.” And then, of course, there’s quirk territory, like “WHABOOM” (eff off pls), “Aspiring [insert dumb thing here],” “Chicken Enthusiast,” and “Pantsapreneur.”
5. There Are Positions; Heroes & Villains
In sports, there are quarterbacks, forwards, point guards, kickers, lineman — you get it. You have your Derek Jeter golden boys and then your Curt Schillings *shudder*.
On The Bachelor, there’s the Bachelor and Bachelorette, the coveted position that runs the (love) plays for the entire season. Someone always becomes “The Frontrunner.” Then there’s the “Weird Person.” And where would we be without the Bachelor(ette) Villian to launch a thousand thinkpieces?
6. There Are SCANDALS!
In both sports and The Bachelor, some people just aren’t in it for “the right reasons.” Some are in it for the Instagram followers. Some for the money and notoriety. And some people are just trouble.
7. There’s History (& It Matters)
Much like Michael Jordan and Tim Tebow (wow, I’m sorry I said those names in the same breath), sports heroes and Bachelor franchise contestants seem to rise like phoenixes and come out of retirement often. Rivalries get reignited. Grudges renewed. Loses must be avenged. Championship Roses must be earned (you get it).
8. There are Pre-Game & Post-Game Shows
Sports has 18 hours of SportsCenter. The Bachelor has After The Final Rose, Men/Women Tell All, and After Paradise, which probably adds up to 18 hours, too.
9. The Intros Are Epic
This topic can only be illustrated through videos. Sports intros have been expertly parodied on Key & Peele. (Plus this one has a reluctant Bachelorette connection at the end.)
The Bachelor franchise also dolphinately has some pretty epic (and ridiculous) intros.
10. It Creates An Instant Bond
I cannot tell you how many brunches or media events I’ve attended in which the conversation dips into Bachelor Land and, suddenly, the gathering is 100x more fun. Someone’s ex or boss has been spotted on the show. Did you see what they did? Who are these people OMG?
I have formed so many new friendships based around The Bachelor, much like people who form those friendships that solely revolve around kicking back and watching some sports.