Bleacher Banter in B Flat...

JA AllenSenior Writer INovember 22, 2008

Bleacher/Report offered me two things I never had before—a voice and an audience.  When you are a writer these gifts mean life…however, the ability to speak also means examining the truth and sometimes that is painful…


After a difficult day of coping that may include wrestling with words about tennis or football—or worrying about some careless off the cuff comment I may have made in passing—I suddenly find myself awake, startled by something going bump in the night…hmmm…


Subtly, some form of mental distress has crept into my subconscious.


Restless I roll over to face my Roger Federer poster on the wall.  Even though he does not come readily into focus in the dark, I sense those deep set eyes and the knowing smile and that luxurious dark hair cascading over his forehead.  I sigh…deeply.


I tell myself that this is perfectly normal.  That writing and thinking and dreaming about sports and its superstars is the best part of living.  But deep down inside, railing against that irresistible tide of self-worth, is a deep-seated fear that I am wrong…or in denial.


The world of sports is, after all, the common thread that binds us together.  It unites us, gives us a single vision and an agreeable social stage upon which to tread. 


In the modern era, sports has become the first and best of reality television—the largest platform for the biggest spectacle…where we are thoroughly engaged, focused and happy.


As children we learn to share, to follow commands, to execute and to strive toward perfection as we play sports together.  As young men and young women we perfect our bodies, building muscle structures that serve us well for many years—although sadly not forever.


Sports augment and accentuate all the drives that propel us forward. 


As we age, it is natural to be drawn to our past experiences—to relive those sports where we excelled or dreamed of excelling.  Tendencies to exaggerate or rewrite the past are forgiven in this arena because in the glow of rekindled athleticism, any feat is possible and none prohibited.


We understand this world.  It makes sense.  You win or you lose—very few ties or draws are allowed here.  When you leave the stadium, you have an answer.  Not so in life.


As we dwell in this world, we develop deep attachments.  We find our focus zeroing in on particular athletes or teams.   


But the depth of passion inside this rich avocation grows alarming at times.  For those of us who dwell too deeply and too well, there may be a danger of excess by existing too close to the fire.  When we write about sports, we write about life, our reality…but not as it exists.


For as we pour out our expectations, our dilemmas, and our constant frustration, we are denied our quest for perfection.  Supremely gifted athletes are paid exorbitant salaries to perform for us and we cannot forgive a loss or worse yet an uncaring attitude…even at the amateur level.


We feel compelled to criticize the man, his motives and his methods—all for the sake of what? 


Partially, we do it in order to appease disappointment in ourselves and in our lives.  If we can reallocate our inadequacies to athletes we do not and cannot know, it alleviates our perceived sense of failure.


If we can assign our loyalty, our enthusiasm and even our love to a man or to a team, then we don’t have to locate or deal with these emotions in our real life.  We subjugate our desires, we hide from commitment and we run like hell.


I can lie here in the dark and dream about Roger Federer because it is impossible to cultivate a relationship with this man.  It is like my propensity to fall in love with gay men.  I can agonize and fantasize about it forever, but in the end, I’m going nowhere.


It seems far easier to maintain a one-sided fantasy than to sustain a real life relationship where hurt is probable.  So, we step back from reality in life where nothing is within our control—where we are clinically judged by superficial standards like age, beauty, gender, race, nationality and political allegiance.   


Instead we invest our time, our energy and our emotions in sports where the feedback is quick and the losses are shared.  Sports is, after all, a reality we can handle.  We can turn on our televisions and find release 24 hours a day. 


We can write about this consuming passion and share it with others who are equally committed or equally in denial, depending on your point of view.


In the end we move forward and connect anonymously and love in the abstract…