“The fan is the one who suffers.” –Frank Robinson
When you have spent enough time screaming at the TV in public or when you have worn enough team-branded clothing, you become known as the sports you support. You become the first person people think of when your team loses or wins, which means the sound of 489 text messages coming in at the same time runs the gamut from “Merry TEIX-mas!” or “%!! Did we really just give up a four goal lead to the Caps?”
And it means when the Giants beat the other NFC juggernaut known as Carolina, in OT, to win homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, the camaraderie between fans is punctuated by “GREAT game on Sunday!” for days.
But unfortunately, I could offer no additional game commentary to any of these enthusiastic outreaches. Why? Because I saw approximately eight percent of the game.
I did not see the game go into OT, Carolina’s missed FG, or Brandon Jacob’s winning TD. Did not do shots with my two younger sisters who came out solely to spend time with their older sister. Absent for all of it.
I almost wish it was because I was working Sunday night, or because I was abducted by pirates. Really anything other than the reality that I was sitting in a bar bathroom, trying to gauge the game based on the sounds I could hear erupting from people in the bar actually watching the game.
I missed the Giants’ game of the year because they scored their first touchdown while I had been in the bathroom. And when I came out and continued to watch the game as convention would dictate, they did not score.
To my warped senses, this translated into one thing only: the obvious and logical conclusion that the Giants would never score again unless I kept remained right where I was.
Maybe I would have conducted some control experiments on this theory if we were, say, playing Seattle in October. But this game was entirely too important to entertain my own selfish desire to watch it. So I took one for the team, while a bar full of people most likely assumed I had just eaten really bad wings.
I realized when I was going to bed that night how jealous I was of my sisters, because they have not an ounce of vested interest in football. One actively loathes it and the other is indifferent, although she did graciously agree to wear the Giants hat I forced on her because I said it would be lucky.
I was envious of the simple fact that they, who had about as much interest in the Carolina game as they would have if they had been watching the local weather forecast on a loop, got to watch that game.
And when I finally retreated to bed mere hours before I had to get up and get ready for work, it just made me think (with an acute, sad awareness) how much easier life would be if I just did not like sports.
It is worse than an addiction. People have successfully gone through rehab, quit smoking, given up alcohol. But have you ever heard of someone successfully diluting their passion for his team?
The truth is, we are too far gone.
But what if I could? What if there were Betty Ford clinics for sports fans? How, exactly, would my life be different if I was able to temper my irrational emotional investment in my teams?
And after musing about this, with the Panthers game still at the forefront of my mind, I came up with this: the Top 10 Ways My Life Would Be Easier Without Sports.
1.) I’d be able to watch the game.
I remember during the infamous Bug Game two years ago, when the Yankees ultimately lost to the Indians amidst a sea of terrorizing midges, during the last inning of the game, I had curled up in a ball covering my ears, staring at the wall, and instructing my sister to watch the game but not to make any tell-tale exclamations.
15 minutes of this maniacal behavior later, my sister says, “Um, do you want me to tell you what happened? The game has been over. Pronk hit a walk off. Stop acting like a freak.”
2.) I would drink less and sleep more.
It is a Catch-22, really. The only reason I was able to stomach the intensity of Super Bowl XLII was because I did not have enough faculties to be nervous. While I was relaxed enough to watch the pressure-cooker, I was perhaps too relaxed to remember anything that occurred thereafter.
And it is almost a lose-lose for sports fans when it comes to sleep. “HOLY %^&*! The Sox just came back from 7-0 to avoid elimination in Game Four! Ok, I am hitting the hay.”
No. You do not want the feeling to end, and sleep would indeed end it.
Conversely: " I hate you, Mets! Why are you categorically averse to the post-season! I loathe you so much I am going to wash up for bed extra brusquely!"
3.) My wardrobe would be considerably less limited.
I wore my Plax jersey up until about three weeks ago. After the shooting fiasco, it was admittedly embarrassing to wear it out, but you cannot quibble with a good luck shirt. I was almost (almost) relieved when they dropped the Eagles game since it meant it was no longer lucky, and I could get a new shirt in good conscience.
And the rest of my clothes are governed by a similar code. My Drury sweater—collecting dust (lost every game I attended with it.) Anything article of clothing I wore to Yankee Stadium on October 20, 2004—shoved in the dark corners of my closet. Adjustable hat—game-watching staple. Giants helmet—so lucky I am scared to touch it unless absolutely necessary.
4.) I would probably be more interested in politics.
I watched the Rangers-Islanders game on November 4th instead of the returns. I do not understand the allure of broadcasting the vote count updates. I asked someone, “can’t you just wake up tomorrow and find out who won?” He countered, “Can’t you?” Touche.
I guess the returns are what StatTracker is to me. And after Obama won, the cheers and screaming outside my apartment were indistinguishable from what NYC sounded like when the Giants took down the Patriots. I have to assume the rambunctious celebrators did not follow sports. Because if they did, they would know what it feels like to win a World Series or Super Bowl. And this feeling of triumph and glory would not be a novelty to them.
5.) I would have more professional credibility.
I do not think it is entirely fair that my outside interests define me at work. Just because my coworker is pregnant does not mean I print out Baby Hot Stove articles for her, aka birth announcements, and tape them on her door.
Or if I was leaving work early for some recycling fundraiser or manatee charity ball I would be responsible and professional. But I feel like when I say I have to leave early for a game, people think I am cutting out to go play in the dirt and eat bugs or something.
What is worse, a few months ago we won a new account, and I was told my interaction with the client would be extremely limited: “Well, he is a huge Red Sox fan. We told him our copywriter was a big Yankees fan, and it did not go over well. Is there any way you could pretend to be a Boston fan?”
“Sure. Is there any way you could pretend to worship Satan?”
5a.) I would have more credibility with significant others.
“You didn’t watch the game?”
“Because you were in the bathroom.”
“Hmm…well, then I guess you didn’t see the interview with Coughlin.”
“Yeah, he kept getting asked about his offense in the second half, and how the defense worked Steve Smith, and he just goes, ‘I can’t say enough about this team. But none of this game goes our way without Kris locking herself in a public restroom.’ Seriously, I don’t know how to explain you sometimes.”
6.) I would know people by their real names and not their fantasy ones.
I play in a baseball league with a bunch of guys who I see once a year, if that. A few of them I do not think I have ever met, actually. And when their names come up in conversation, I have little to no idea of who they are…until someone recognizes my perplexed expression and says, “It’s DirtyBirds, you guys had that tiff over Torii Hunter” or “You know Gil…’Suck on this 1 Time’? He had the awful Manny/AJ/Dice-K team.”
7.) I would use Facebook for normal purposes (like stalking people I have met in my single-digit years?) rather than using status updates as a passive-aggressive (or just plain aggressive) vehicle for slinging my contempt at opposing fans.
Nothing good ever comes out of my mindless perusal of status updates. And despite the fact I am 27 years old and should have matured at some point in the last decade or so, I still cannot help myself:
“Liam is recommending good golf courses for the Yankees in October.”
"Kris would recommend some good golf courses to Brady for the rest of his playing career, but unfortunately he can’t physically do much more than catch up on his DVR.”
“Adam just learned from Roger Goodall that making snow angels is unsportsmanlike.”
“Kris thinks our first responsibility is to be a good person, which is why she doesn’t believe in taking extra bases or endzone dancing when winning by a lot.”
8.) I would be less judgmental and probably have more friends.
Over the summer, one of my buddies had a request: “I’m not watching games with you anymore unless you refrain from making fun of the Mets.”
Cut to us watching the Amazins relinquishing the standard 10-run lead at the hands of their formidable bullpen, as the Mets are want to do.
“Do the starters in Queens get paid more since they have to spot their relievers twice as many runs as other teams?...Ok, I’m sorry, sorry. I’m done now. Actually, Heilman probably has pretty good numbers in fantasy ‘holds.’ Seriously.”
“Ya just can’t let it go, huh. There’s something wrong with you. You have like Mets Tourettes or something.”
9.) I would enjoy weddings more.
Since the onset of the Friends-Dropping-Like-Flies era, I have missed a Giants home opener, multiple NFL Sundays (thanks to non-JetBlue flights), Rangers playoffs, Yankee-Sox series, and worst of all, the last game at Yankee Stadium.
I love the fall, and I even love weddings. But the appeal of an open bar and seeing all my college buddies is compromised by being a bajillion miles in the air on return flights home. I told my mother that when I get married, it is going to be February 29th, because I only have to celebrate it once every four years, and also there is zero risk of stepping on anyone’s sports plans.
(She responded without skipping a beat, “So you’re getting married in 2012?? Ahh, from your mouth to God’s ears!”)
10.) I would be generally less high-strung.
A few years ago, I was in a bar watching the Yankees in the playoffs while a guy next to me was doing the same with his Mets. After an hour or so of our staggered cheers and groans, he said, “I miss watching them play some Brewers game in July.”
I knew exactly what he meant. In the summer, I am listening to radio broadcasts of the Yanks on the beach, and life is good. Autumn comes, and I am a cracked out lunatic who goes into cardiac arrest with every pitch.
Which is why I pay little to no mind to the Hot Stove or off-season rumors. I spend the tail end of any season twisted up in knots. After a few weeks of coaxing my muscles out of tightened stress, I can take a sabbatical from all of it. Til opening day, at least.
I suppose this could all be traced back to my years of watching sports with my dad, having no idea what was going on, my dad explaining to me how many the bad guys needed to lose by, how many “tries” to get a “down,” and making screaming at the TV look cool.
Is it worth it? Sometimes I wish I just had an amicable appreciation of the sport. I could root for the Sox when the Yanks are out of it, because it would make my boyfriend happy. I could get draft-day-giddy over a tight game, and not public-speaking-nauseous.
But then again, exchanging the ice water in our veins for tepid ginger ale is a high price to pay for being boring. And if I start to question the weight we assign to every game, I shall recall the sage words of an East Asian proverb, and know this madness is all truly worth it:
“There are no fans in hell.”