Written by Joe Hubbs. Media by Darius Fridge.
“Come on Wainwright!” My dad screams at the TV, his voice cracking in anxiety. At this point he is no longer seated in the comfortable couch in the living room, but on his feet inching closer and closer to the screen after every pitch. Again, he screams, now squatting a few inches in front of the TV like he is the catcher setting up for the pitcher’s delivery. Wainwright looks in. Dad stops talking. My heart stops. Curveball…Swing and a miss! Immediately the house erupts in ecstatic chaos. We made sure that everyone down the street knew that our team… OUR TEAM was the World Series Champion.
Unless you’re a Yankees fan, watching your team win a World Series is an atypical experience. For instance, Cubs fans unfortunately have not seen it for over one hundred years. So when the Cardinals beat the Tigers with Adam Wainwright striking out Brandon Inge in game 5, this type of reaction from my family was completely mandated, correct? Here’s the problem. Although we basked in a surreal, atypical experience, my family’s reaction afterwards was not an atypical reaction. Countless baseball games throughout the year I sat in the same seat, heart stopping in the ninth until the final out endows my team a victory. Is that not normal for a baseball fan? The ecstatic fan maybe. There are 162 games in a season; surely I can relax for a hundred of those and wait for the playoffs before I become a nervous, raving fan. If they don’t make the playoffs, all of my pointless screaming is done in vain anyways. So why do we do it? Why does being a fan of a team constitute abnormal and obnoxious behavior?
I ask myself these questions all the time. For the ecstatic fan, there is no answer- it’s just life. A win or loss dictates how they wake up and breathe in life every morning, and that same morning they drool at the site of the circled calendar, already anticipating the next game. The sad reality did not dawn on me until this World Series victory, the greatest day of my life. What kind of deranged mind did I have? Legitimately believing the outcome of a game connoted the greatest day of my life, I had given in to the insanity fabricated by ecstatic fans.
Growing up, I my dad surrounded me with sports. Nights spent watching baseball games, hours dissipated at card shows, and road trips to the closest stadium simply acted as father and son time. Baseball brought us together in a closer bond, and I would never trade any of that. However, at no point did I predict it would take control of my life. Before I knew it, I had collected hundreds of baseball cards. My weekends were spent watching games, analyzing stats, and drawing pictures of my favorite players. My mom’s fridge masked a mural of poorly drawn Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds action pictures. Instead of actually playing the All Star Baseball 2000 video game, I spent hours adjusting the rosters so they would match the real ones perfectly.
In 2006, (other than the drawings) I still did all of this. I did not uncover my obsession, my insanity, until witnessing the events unfold in my house during that final inning of the World Series. At first I tried to lie to myself, that my family’s behavior resembled a normal household’s joy after their team wins. But as I replayed that image in my head over and over again, I realized that I truly exemplified insanity as a sports fan over the years. We all know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. My mom always laughed and me and my brother when we screamed at the TV. “You know they can’t hear anything you’re saying.” She would tell us. Physically, I knew this of course, but deep down there is that deranged thought that if I screamed enough, Jason Isringhausen could hear me and stop throwing fat pitches in the middle of the plate, and stop blowing so many saves! Crazy with anger, my mind urged me to throw pillows at the TV. I went off the deep end more than a few times. I think that counts as insanity, and if so, I know a lot of other people are in the same boat that I was. I get that. But the next time you think about kicking your dog and swearing profanities at the television, you should realize that the athletes can’t hear you, and nothing you do can change the outcome.
The ecstatic fan often times has anger problems. After this wonderful, but fateful day, I began the transformation from ecstatic, to content. Content fans watch plenty of games but do not allow emotions to control them. A step below that loom the apathetic fans. Apathetic fans associate themselves with a team, but hardly care if they win or lose. They just hop the bandwagon if their team so happens to be good that year. Honestly, these people drive me crazy and the love of sports would never let me stoop to that level. But those people are out there. You should not be apathetic about anything, and I feel sorry for these people. To be a fan provides a sense of belonging. Even the biggest outcast sitting alone in the lunch room with no friends can have a sense of belonging by associating himself with a sports team. That association then brings in other friends to that person’s life. So fandom is not an unhealthy practice. Communities form around a fan base, and no one is alone. They always have that one thing connecting them; that one thing bringing them together.
For some, letting go of insane emotion is a battle. Sometimes a hint of my old ecstatic self still sprouts up and I blast my true feelings at the TV. But for the most part I have learned to contain it. Personally, I think sports are great to get emotional about, and it’s easy to completely let go. In America I think that has become the norm. But if you can cheer with moderate control, it is a beautiful thing. Be a content fan. Connect with a community. Bond with your family. A sports fan knows this like no other.