Being a sports fan is an inherently ridiculous endeavor. We spend time and money watching a bunch of strangers in silly outfits playing games, games in which we really care about the outcomes of, are the acts of crazy people.
This only looks even more insane to a non-sports fan.
Here’s a little background; my girlfriend of many years is not a sports fan. Like, not at all. Yet, she’s very tolerant of my wide-spread sports fandom because working relationships require lots of compromise and there’s plenty of other interests we do share. She even indulges me in accompanying me to the occasional live sporting event.
Her not being a sports fan can really illuminate some of the downright psychotic behavior we sports fans engage in, though.
I'm a New York Mets fan and as many of you know, this past month they played their first postseason games in nine years and reached their first World Series since 2000. This resulted in me spending much of the month of October and the first day of November watching baseball games to nearly midnight or beyond. As I age, staying up that late for consecutive nights and attempting to go to work the next morning is a much tougher proposition than it was those years in the past.
After Game 1 of the World Series in which the Mets blew a ninth-inning lead and ultimately lost in 14 innings, I explained to her the next day how exhausted I was as I hadn't gone to bed until after 1:30 AM and how much of a struggle it was making it through those extra innings. She responded with a simple yet quite soul-crushing couple of questions; "If you were so tired, why didn't you just go to sleep? And you stayed up to watch them lose?"
It was so simple but it really puts into perspective how absurd all of this is. I was actively hurting myself; both physically and emotionally for something that I had zero control over. Whether I watched or not wouldn’t have affected the events in Kansas City that night. I could’ve gone to sleep and found out that they had lost in the morning. I’d have been disappointed in the result, but I would have got some rest at least.
Why do we do this?
As I’ve got older sports have become less important to me in the emotional sense. But trust me, they still take up a sizable chuck of my leisure time. I’m a Red Bulls and Brooklyn Nets season-ticket holder. I was a Mets season-ticket holder though 2014. (My father and I joked that as soon as we gave up our tickets they’d get good. Who knew 2015 would turn out to be *that* good? Life is funny that way.) I’m still plugged into every New York Giants game as well as many Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and various soccer matches around the world. I still consume A LOT of sports.
The difference these days is the emotional investment. While the highs aren’t quite as high as they used to be, the lows, most importantly, are nowhere near as low as they used to be. And frankly, I know that I’ve made the right choice. I’m the happiest sports fan I’ve ever been. I get all of the enjoyment without nearly the same amount of angst.
BWP & THE MOMENT
I may not "care" about sports in the same way that I used to, but there are moments and emotions that only sports can produce.
Like, this past Sunday, when Bradley Wright-Phillips scored in the 92nd minute to seal RBNY’s Eastern Conference Semi-Final victory over forever-rival D.C. United. As jubilant the celebration was, that moment wasn’t exactly about BWP scoring the goal.
Gonzalo Veron stripped the ball from United defender Bobby Boswell and raced down the right side of the field before cutting in towards the top of the 18-yard box. As he was scrambling back, left back Taylor Kemp completely loses track of Wright-Phillips allowing Veron to easily slide a pass across the face of goalkeeper Bill Hamid right into BWP's path. Once Wright-Phillips coolly allowed the ball to cross his body, eluding a sprawling Hamid, there's nothing but six yards of green grass and a wide open net.
While the goal itself sent Red Bull Arena, and in particularly the South Ward, into a state of delirium, there was a hidden moment in that sequence that only sports can provide.
As stated earlier, I am a RBNY season-ticket holder and proudly stand in the first row of the South Ward in section 101 with the Empire Supporters Club, right next to the Viking Army in 102. The vantage point for the moment couldn't have been any better. As BWP lets the ball run across his body, there was a split-second where I, he, and everyone in Red Bull Arena knew that the series was over. The business of BWP tapping the ball into the empty net was merely a formality.
While it was only a split second, that moment of anticipation seemed to last five minutes. It was at that moment that we knew that the series was over. That moment of anticipation for euphoric eruption was almost more enjoyable than the actual payoff. In fact, as there was nothing visually impeding my view of Bradley with the ball other the net, the phrase that ran through my mind was, "Oh, $#!+. This is done!"
In this video posted on the teams' website, you see, and hear, a few fellow supporters who seem to have experienced the moment as well. We knew! From that moment it was party-on, Wayne.
Being a sports fan is an exercise in absurd, and many times downright silly, behavior. But there are those moments, however fleeting, where it's so damn cool.