How to Tell You're in a Toxic Relationship with Your Team
"You're an idiot. You are drunk."
These are the lines spinning in your head as you punch the digits into your phone. This is so stupid. Then again, you knew it would come to this.
Three hours ago you were fine—a solid rock. You were sitting on the couch, watching the game and praying just to feel a hint of that old spark. But then, the same thing happened that always happens. Your team lost a winnable game, and you drank all the Fireball.
Now you're lying on your bed as the phone rings. Dear God, you shouldn't be doing this. You are so stupid.
"Hello?" comes a voice at the end of the line. "Who is this? Hello?"
"Listen, mister—this is Pete Carroll you're messing with. I can hear you breathing! Why do you keep call-"
This is a dramatization of unhappy fans fantasizing about other teams—just one of the many telltale signs of toxic fan-team relationship.
Just like a relationship between two people, a stagnant bond between fans and his/her team is an unhealthy arrangement for both parties. They can be saved, but first you have to identify the problems.
The following are 10 questions that can help determine if you and your squad are in a toxic relationship. Just remember, relationships can be saved, but it's going to take some honesty and work from both sides.
Now it's time to pass the conch. Tim Tebow and Cleveland Browns fans first.
Does Your Team Ignore You?
"So, I was thinking...maybe this weekend we could go out and fire Jeff Ireland."
"Doesn't that sound fun?"
"Huh? Yea, sure...sounds good, babe." [Continues playing Battlefield 4]
Does it seem like your team has selective hearing? Does it not pay attention when you talk about your hopes and dreams?
Your team is its own entity and doesn't have to agree with everything you pitch its way. It does, however, have to keep a pair of open ears. If ownership goes out of its way to ignore a majority plea from its fans, it could be said that this relationship has become a one-way street.
Detox Suggestion: Ask your team if it will sign Tebow. If it says yes, it wasn't listening. At this point, begin a frank discussion about your future together.
Do You Project Your Shortcomings onto Your Team?
Harboring angst over a loss is a natural impulse, but when this anger becomes toxic when it begins to bleed over into your daily life.
However justified you may feel, you can't tell your boss that "turnovers" are the reason you blew Monday's presentation. Jared in sales didn't watch the Super Bowl, and he has no idea why you broke his driver's side window with a promotional snow globe.
All he did he was notice your Broncos bumper sticker and ask if the "Mustangs" won "the match."
Detox Suggestion: Swallow your pride, look in the mirror and admit that it's you that's bringing you down.*
*Unless you're from Cleveland, in which case it's definitely them.
Do You Keep Bringing Up the Past?
"I told you to get green onions. These are scallions."
"Oh...well, they're practically the same. Does it matter?"
"Yes, it matters. The recipe called for green onions. This is so you, Derek. First our anniversary, now the scallions!?"
"Well, at least I didn't get hammered and MAKE OUT WITH JEFF!"
Raking up muck—it's the most telltale sign of a toxic relationship. It happens in fan-team relationships the same as it happens between two people.
Fans guilty of muckraking constantly keep a track of their grievances, tallying up missteps on an invisible scoreboard so they can bring them up again at a later time. If a player messes up, they say it's just like that time in '96 when [blank] messed up the [blank] and [blanked] us all in the [blankety]. If they make a good play, they're still "in the hole" for screwing up that one time.
Detox Suggestion: By choosing a team, you're choosing to be with all their previous decisions. Get mad at the time, but you eventually have to move forward. They are not perfect. You are not perfect. If you can't let go of the past, you can't appreciate the gift of the now.
That's why they call it the "present." Heyo!
[Walks off bridge]
Are You Holding Your Fan-ship Hostage?
Threatening to leave a team every time they fail to meet your expectations is manipulative and stupid.
Frustration is natural, and it should be expressed. But throwing out ultimatums like "If they don't draft [blank], I'm done," isn't productive—that is, unless you're actually going to follow through with it.
Detox Suggestion: Quit making empty threats. Or leave your team.
If you are going to break up with your team, you need to do it like this Knicks fan (Warning: NSFW).
Do You Get Jealous When Your Players Talk to Other Teams?
They're a rival team, not a machine gun nest at Normandy.
You can't treat every game like some insurgency-clearing mission. Your players are people, and occasionally they're going to joke around with a member of another team you don't like. They might even have friends on the other side. Gasp!
This sounds obvious, but there are fans out there who can't stand when athletes smile, joke or even talk to the other team.
Detox Suggestions: You need some immersion, friend.
Before your next game with a big rival, read an article written by an opponent's beat reporter. You'll notice it's not a war declaration scrawled in calf's blood, but an article typed and written by a human being much like those done by your team's beat reporters.
Do You Act Different Around Your Team?
You are not cool.
I mean, you can be cool, but when you're on the couch watching TV after a long day of work, you are not trying to impress anyone.
You sit there, watch True Detective and send text messages to people about how they should also be watching True Detective.
This is not how it is with sports. Sports get the blood pumping. Your voice raises an octave or two, and you engage in the game. This is fine, but we all know someone who becomes a rude, insufferable monster as soon as sports becomes a factor.
This isn't always toxic for the team, but it can strain relationships with other fans on the couch.
Detox Suggestion: If you're someone who is always loud and uncouth, that's fine. Keep doing that.
Otherwise, grab a Snickers, and sit a couple plays out.
Are You Constantly Flirting with Other Teams?
Do your eyes wander? Have other fans walked in on you watching Marshawn Lynch videos?
We all get the urge to cheat now and then. Every morning, ESPN throws a Top Ten of sexy sports highlights in our faces, and we're not supposed to look twice?
Checking out the menu is fine, but getting physically involved with another team is a dead giveaway your current relationship isn't a healthy one. Admiring other teams is one thing, but wearing a Johnny Manziel jersey when you're a Big Ten football fan is taking it too far.
Detox Suggestion: If you're not getting what you want out of your team, just say it. And if your team isn't even trying to provide what you want emotionally and physically, officially break up with that team and move on.
Just remember, you can never come back.
Are You in Denial?
"So how are things with you and the Redskins?"
"Oh, good...they're just trying to figure some things out right now. It'll be fine."
Lies are a great way to put off dealing with certain realities. Take your team, for example.
You claim that everything is fine when they lose their first five games. You can say they're just going through a rough patch and that everything is going to be peaches and disco sticks in the long run.
You can do this, but you'll do it in denial, which is a crippling state of being and a river in Egypt. I know, I hate me, too.
Detox Suggestion: Write your deepest fears about your team on note cards, and then flush them down the toilet. No one likes a whiner.
Do You Keep Quiet to Avoid Conflict?
Got something to say to your team? Say it. Say it to whoever will listen.
What you don't want to do is bury it deep down. When you bury your frustration, you get crazy ideas. When you get crazy ideas, you kidnap the general manger's Bichon Frise. When you kidnap the GM's Bichon Frise, you end up in a hostage situation. When you end up in a hostage situation, a trained sniper shoots you in the neck with a tranquilizer dart.
Don't get shot in the neck with a tranquilizer dart. Air your grievances when you feel them.
Detox Suggestion: Start a blog about your team. It's the perfect way to vent privately, as no one will read it.
Do You Constantly Worry About Infidelity?
Team, fan and town are a holy trinity, and if the world were a perfect place, that would mean they're forever.
Unfortunately, teams (and players) move—sometimes leaving your bed in the middle of the night. If you're a fan in a town who's been dumped before, worrying about your team (or favorite player) leaving you for greener pastures is an unavoidable reaction.
But you can't just assume you'll be left again because you've been left before. Don't make somebody pay for someone else's past mistakes. You're better than that.
Detox Suggestion: Let players test the waters of free agency and evaluate their options. If they really want to be with you, they'll make it work. Sometimes.
I think all sports relationships are a little bit toxic. And that's the way I like it.