Monday, October 29, 2007

Front-running with the Sox and Pats

I got a short email today from a good friend and replied with an avalanche. Let's share:
Congratulations again.

Boston wins another world series and the Pats hang 52 on the Redskins (without running up the score).

I can't help but ponder the existential effect this all has on The Brown Psyche -- to go from backing perennial down and out underdogs to supporting 800-pound gorillas can't be easy ...
My reply:

Odd. I was thinking about that very thing this morning on my walk to work. I was also thinking about what you'd be thinking about it, given our conversations around 2001 and then again in 2004.

When people brought up this (former) harmony between me and my teams, I used to say something like, "I don't know whether I'm a Red Sox fan because of the way I am, or I am the way I am because I'm a fan of the Red Sox." Well, things are changing. I'm not as much that way anymore, for one thing. And obviously, neither are the Sox or the Pats.

I can't really say what effect it's had on me personally, yet, but I can tell you that I care a lot less about MLB now than I used to. It's lost a lot of the romance I used to attach to it and I come face to face with an important truth: unless the game in question has some inherent drama to it, I don't much care to watch. Baseball on TV (especially regular season) is boring. That's all there is too it--turns out I'm just not a fan the way I am with football.

With the Pats, it's different. Now we're winning, but not like the last 6 years or so. This is out of the realm of experience for me and, I think, everyone who's a fan of the NFL. Depending very heavily on this tilt with the Colts, we could be seeing something that is historic. If this kind of thing continues throughout the season and the playoffs, we might find ourselves referring to this team, without hyperbole, as the greatest football team ever assembled since the invention of the forward pass. In some ways, this has gone beyond "fandom," team allegiances or anything like that. It doesn't matter if I root for them or against them. It doesn't matter if I'm worried about the game or not. It doesn't seem to matter whether they're playing at home or on the road, if there are fans or no fans, if it's grass or fieldturf, rain or shine, hot or cold.

Of course, that bit about my support has always been the case. But this team is a machine like no other I've ever seen on TV or on tape. It's impressive and a little scary. If they lose (not counting the last few games of the year -- the 'perfect season' is meaningless in the context of the modern NFL), I won't be disappointed just because we lost (unless it's the playoffs). I'll be disappointed because what I think I might be witnessing will have proven not to be.

But if this keeps up, it will be impossible to argue that this is anything less than the greatest football team ever assembled and still be thought in touch with reality. That would be something to see.

With both, there is another problem: you get saddled with a lot of people who need to identify themselves by the team they're rooting for--it really means something to them, says something about who they are. Or they desperately want it to. This is hugely annoying to me. I love the Pats, and love rooting for them. I used to hate rooting for them (but I still rooted for them). It still makes me down when they lose (more than winning brings me up). But I don't self-identify in the aggressive, in-your-face way that some people seem to do. When all you can think to do is chant "Yankees Suck" something's the matter with your psychology. A winning team seems to hatch these folks like a basement of horseshit sprouts mushrooms.

There's something funny about it. When I was a kid (I was thinking about this this morning as well), we had a short string of station wagons that led ineluctably to the Dodge Caravan. I was on the brink of early adolescence when my Dad was driving the Ford Zephyr. The Zephyr was a light tan on the outside and a dark tan on the inside. It had vinyl seats and manual everything and an AM radio and I couldn't understand how my father stood to drive it. I certainly hid my face riding in it. It was only much later that I realized he had moved past thinking of a car as an expression and into a world where it was a straight-up tool for getting his family from place to place. It didn't bother him to drive it because he didn't care what people thought about his car.

Now, rooting for a team is an extravagance for the ego in the first place. But it doesn't represent some reality where you are the team and the team is you. Or it shouldn't. But successful sports teams seem to draw people out of the woodwork who need that to be true. That used to be me, all the time. I used to be that guy. Oddly, the more successful my teams have become, the less "that guy" I am. I don't know if that's because I've gotten older as they've gotten better, or if it's because I only identify with near-misses and not actual successes. But the more a given team seems to win, the more people like that seem to appear around them, wearing their gear and getting in people's personal space. It's like they're waiting for some semblance of dominance before they'll come out of the closet, as if they identify so completely that any whiff of weakness in the team would expose them as a weakling. And they are supremely obnoxious and annoying.

With the the Sox and the Pats winning regularly, it's become obvious that my failures and mishaps aren't part of a cosmic scheme anymore. Clearly they're just mine. Which is actually kind of nice.

And rooting for lovable losers is overrated. Winning is way more fun.

1 comment:

PotsNPans said...

I wanted to say thanks for liking our blog (Poor Sports). I'm looking forward to reading what you have to offer. It looks pretty interesting so far.

Oh, and there is definitely something fun about rooting for "lovable losers" but for some reason I feel like it might be more fun to root for lovable winners.