Do you care too much about sports … I might be the wrong person to ask.
Red Sox games in my house as a child were referred to as church, much to the chagrin of my religious mother. I thought my parents were going to get a divorce when my mother entered the living room during the world series in 1986 and announced she was rooting for the Mets since they were the underdog. My father, sitting maybe seven inches from the TV, gave her a look that could have started spontaneous fire were it directed upon something that wasn’t comprised of 70% water.
My younger brother learned to read not by stumbling over repetitive sentences about Spot, but by memorizing the sports section every morning. He retained an impressive amount of information, and knew the fluctuating day to day stats on almost all baseball players.
Sports, when adored and scrutinized to this depth, becomes more than a game. True fandom encompasses and realizes mathematics, sociology, psychology, art, philosophy, religion, economics … everything.
However, there is a fine line, pointed out to me recently. It all started with the Bruins. Game Seven. 2009 playoffs.
I’m going to blame my difficulty in swallowing this loss on my 4 year-old son. He adores hockey and those of you who don’t know him, might think, oh cute. But you don’t know my son. When I say adores, I mean, he went to bed with all 300 of his hockey cards tonight. Organized by team. He also sleeps with his hockey sticks, plays hockey games with his lego men, his marbles, and his baseball cards, is constantly, and I mean constantly, quizzing me about which team I would root for in any theoretical match up on the ice, invites anyone who walks in the door to play floor hockey with him, has memorized almost the entire script of Miracle, will only wear shirts with numbers in case an impromptu game should arise, makes me announce hockey games while I’m brushing his teeth, pretend I’m Savard shooting at his mouth when I help him finish his dinner, and these things all happen many times a day every day. Yes, it’s still cute, but it’s intense.
When I told him he could stay up to watch a play off game if he took a nap he dropped directly to the floor and was asleep within 5 seconds. I thought he was faking, but he was still asleep on the floor three hours later. And he stayed up to watch the whole game, the overtime, and ultimately, the losing goal. I tucked him in and listened to him moaning for 45 minutes. I felt responsible. I had introduced him to fandom, Boston fandom, and I had broken his heart for the first time at four and a half.
But don’t buy my story that the game was tough to watch because of his emotional investment in the Bruins. The passion starts with me. I took him to the games this winter, I set the Tivo to record every game, I personalized his jersey, taught him which player wore which number, the toe drag, the five hole …
And therein lies the fine line. Caring, becoming attached, adoring – all fine. Being upset after a loss – understandable. Being four and going to bed moaning after your gods get beaten in overtime – heart-wrenching to witness, but acceptable. Drinking a handle of B&B and throwing up in your friend’s kitchen sink and at work all the following morning – funny as hell for your co-workers, and tolerable. Not being able to talk on the phone, as I might have been after game seven of this year’s playoff series, starting a fight with another fan, crying in public (I didn’t do either of those) – not acceptable.
Considerable passion is not understood by all, not even by those who can appreciate athletics. If you’re thinking you might care too much, that might be an indication that you’re flirting with disaster … but if you’re still able to enjoy the game, I have no answer.