Talking sports at work should be encouraged

Tue, Apr 12

Attention: The surgeon general has determined that talking about sports can be hazardous to your health.

OK, so the surgeon general in question is actually a Canadian health licensing body. The sport is the NHL. And the heath hazard involves doctors cutting you open without forgetting to stitch you closed because they're too busy yakking about Caps-Rangers.

Alexander Ovechkin
Harry How/Getty ImagesDoes talking about Alex Ovechkin hurt your job performance? Or could it actually help?

Otherwise, I'm not making this up.

According to the CBC, British Columbia surgeons have been reminded to nix operating room hockey talk. The reason? A patient who was awake during an eye procedure overheard a surgeon and nurses discussing a hockey game. He subsequently expressed concern that the "idle chatter" could lead to a mistake, prompting the B.C. province College of Physicians and Surgeons to issue what a spokeswoman dubbed a "gentle reminder."


Look, I'm all for professionalism. And fastidious attention to the task at hand. Particularly when said task involves scalpels. That said, the jibber-jabber ban misses the point. At least when it comes to office sports talk. Babbling about Alex Ovechkin and company isn't a workplace distraction; it's a performance-enhancer. Maybe not a way to stay sharp, but definitely a way to keep from becoming completely dulled.

Simply put, it's a way to cope.

Texting while performing open-heart surgery would be distracting. Much like managing one's fantasy baseball lineup while administering anesthesia. But sports talk? Mindless. Which is the whole point. Thinking is optional -- unlike discussions involving, say, personal problems or workplace politics. Fact is, sports talk provides relief from the drudgery of work -- of doing the same thing over and over again -- without causing you to do it badly.

Hey, if Marx ever had the chance to make three hours of document review bearable by lamenting his busted NCAA bracket, he wouldn't have labeled religion the opiate of the masses.

As such, hockey chat should be encouraged. Not admonished. Even among doctors. Could be the B.C. college already knows this. According to the same spokeswoman, the no-yapping reminder was meant for surgeons operating on patients who haven't been sedated. That says something.