The Ecstasy and Agony of Being a Fan

fan

I have always been a sports fan, dating back to the Impossible Dream season of 1967 when I was eight years old. I was also an athlete, having played every sport I could growing up, all the way through college where I played varsity baseball. Golf was also a favorite pastime, although some will argue that isn’t a sport.

My ability to golf or participate in any sport obviously came to a crashing halt once MS reared it’s ugly head, but the fan in me remains strong. My passion is baseball, and my addiction is the Red Sox, but I am also heavily invested in the NFL (Packers since the Lombardi days) and UConn college basketball. You can add the Boston Celtics to that list, although until recently I had given up watching any NBA games, and the Boston Bruins, although the Whalers were my team of choice until they left Hartford.

Sports has always been an escape. Some people like dramatic television or movies, but those are scripted and in many ways predictable. What I love about sports is that it is completely unscripted, can be as dramatic as anything you see and read, and it is something I can relate to having played teams sports for such a long time.

The state of my teams is as good as it could possibly be.  The Red Sox are having a historic year, the  Packers have the best quarterback in the game and an improved defense that could serve them very well on their march to the Super Bowl. The Celtics are relevant again and should challenge for the NBA crown. The UConn men have a new head coach and should return to their winning ways soon, and the women’s team is a dynasty. The Bruins….well, I’m more of a hockey fan than a Bruins fan in all honesty, and I don’t really start paying attention to the sport until the Stanley Cup playoffs are near.

I should be thrilled right now, particularly about the Red Sox, but I’m not, and that is because I take the state of my teams way too personally, and this is where the agony come in.

Here’s the thing. This edition of the Red Sox will be the greatest in their long history as far as the regular season is concerned, but that won’t mean shit if they don’t win it all, and they aren’t playing well right now.

They entered a three games series with the Yankees on Tuesday, and the Yankees were reeling. All they needed to do to clinch the division was win one game, but I wanted more than that. I wanted them to stomp the snot out of New York, win all three games and leave no question about who was the top dog.

Instead, they just lost the first two games and have not looked good doing it. Even worse, they may have given hope and confidence to a Yankee team that has not been playing well the last two months, and that is about the worst thing that could possbly happen from my perspective. You want teams to crest as the playoffs arrive, and that ain’t happening for my Sox right now. Given the nature of this rivalry, this season has provided me with ample opportunity talk smack with Yankee fans, but guess who the Sox will probably play in the first round of the playoffs? And guess who is just itching to give back what they have been receiving in spades all season long?

The Red Sox have flamed out of the first round of the playoffs each of the last two years, and if that happens again this year, especially if the Yankees are the team that does it, not only is this team going to be known as a fraud, I am going to have to take so much shit from Yankee fans that it will be coming out of my eyes, ears, nose, and every other orifice I can think of.  This often feels like a fate worse than death, especially when you consider the history of those two teams playing head to head.

Up until 2004, I knew nothing but heartache, which was made infinitely worse because most of the Yankee fans I have known are true assholes when it comes to rubbing it in. But they have the history behind them, and if you get in this arena you have to expect it and take it. That is why coming back from a three game to none deficit to those dreaded Yankees to win the American League pennant was so orgasmic in 2004. No team in baseball history had done it before, and it was almost as if the Gods had conspired to have the Sox exorcise their demons in the most glorious way possible, while the Yanks lost in the most humiliating way possible. Justice was sweet!

If the Red Sox lose a game they should have won, or look bad during a particular stretch of games, my mood is beyond foul. As you can probably tell, I’m pretty pissed about things right now, and that will exponentially escalate if they don’t win tonight’s game. That will have meant they squandered a chance to clinch the division against their most bitter foe, spit up a hairball by losing all thee games, and gave a floundering team confidence in the process. Keep the shape objects away please.

Although nothing can touch the passion I have about baseball and the Red Sox, football comes close. The fallout from games is worse in some ways because they only play once a week, and I have seven days to stew over a loss. The game is so visceral that it is hard not to get completely engrossed in the emotion of it, and because they don’t play every day, the high from wins are higher and the lows from the losses are lower. I’m still mad as hell that Minnesota tied the Packers last Sunday, primarily due to an awful call by the refs towards the end of the game. This will stick in my craw until they play Washington on Sunday. A win will make the world right again while a loss will make me rue the day I became a sports fan for about the millionth time.

I know it’s silly to let a game where the players make more money than I will see in my lifetime and who, as K likes to say, spit and touch their crotch way too much, dictate my outlook on life. But I can’t help it, and I know there are a lot of people like me out there.

Having a team in the playoffs is thrilling, but it also takes the joy out of watching the games. When these games involve teams I don’t love or hate, I can watch them for the pure enjoyment and spectacle of the sport. It is a completely stress-free experience.

That all changes when my teams are involved because now I have some skin in the game, and it feels like a life or death struggle. The tension becomes unbearable at times, but the joy that results from going all the way is supreme, makes the journey worthwhile, and provides a warm glow that lasts well into the next season.

On the other hand, getting eliminated, particularly if my team blows the game, is unequaled in its agony and the despair that follows. These two sides of the pillow represent the Ying and the Yang of being a fanatic. There are times where I honestly wish I could jump off the bandwagon and swear off being a fan of any team, but unless I come down with a permanent form of amnesia, that isn’t going to happen. It’s in my DNA, and is my one true addiction. Otherwise, why would I put myself through so much torment?

So, when the baseball playoffs start, I will strap on the seatbelts and watch the games, hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I will live and die with each inning, each win and each loss until the season comes to an end. Maybe I should dull the senses and anesthetize myself with alcoholic beverages or the MMJ while watching the games. Maybe I should DVR the games and watch them if the Red Sox win but delete them if they lose. Maybe I should find a lucky talisman and keep it around. Any other suggestions you might have will be entertained.

I am supremely confident that if the Red Sox get to the World Series they will bring home their fourth crown in fourteen years,  but the AL is stacked with good teams and those fucking Yankees are going to be an obstacle. If the season does end prematurely, my only hope is isn’t against those guys. And if they do lose, maybe the Packers will take some of the sting out of it by winning the Super Bowl.

If the Sox and Packers both disappoint, I will survive. But it will be a very long, sad winter.