Why do I invest so much heart and emotion into the teams I root for?
I am a long-time fan of the Golden State Warriors … started rooting for them when I moved to the Bay Area in 1979. Before that, I had rooted for the Knicks, a leftover from when I lived in New Jersey. But seeing as how basketball was somewhat down on the list of sports I cared about, it was a relatively easy switch to simply root for the “home” team.
For some reason, I got invested in them. I tell you, there were years that they were so bad, I think that on any given night, they could have lost to Duke, North Carolina or Kansas, three perennial college powerhouses. I lived through the “Run TMC” period, named for Timmy Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullen, the three stars of the team back in the early 90’s. Those teams were fun to watch, but they had as much defense as Switzerland … it was nothing for them to score 125 points in a game, and then wind up losing by 10 points!
So the Dubs resurgence (“Dubs” as in “W” as in “Warriors”, for you non-basketball enthusiasts) over the past 3-4 years has provided a great deal of sports joy. Unfortunately, “sports joy” is fleeting. It’s like a sugar rush: when they win, especially a championship, the feeling is incredible. But it’s short-lived. Not only that, it doesn’t translate over into the rest of your life. A couple of days later, if you get a ticket, or if you get into an argument with your boss, you don’t really sit there afterwards and say, “Yeah, but man, those 49ers are Super Bowl champs!!!!”
What’s even worse, is that when they lose, it does seem to translate over to the rest of your world! I’ve gone through times when, after one of my teams lost in the playoffs, it would affect my mood for weeks! So that being the case, why, why, why, why, why do I invest so much heart and soul into rooting for a team?
Last night’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers sucked. Big time. I mean, the Dubs were up three games to one!!!! I was already celebrating, which was stupid, seeing as how I know “it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings!” I experienced the other side of that “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” experience a dozen years ago, when the team I root for – the Boston Red Sox – came from four games down to sweep the hated New York Yankees in the AL championship series and then went on to win their first World Series in 86 years! At a gut level, you know that anything’s possible … that having a commanding lead doesn’t mean squat. That’s why they call them “upsets” or “miracles”. But when your head says, “Jeff, you know they haven’t won it yet,” your heart steps in and tells your head, “Shut the hell up, will you? I’m celebrating here!!!!”
After they lost last night, my Facebook post was, “Shit. Shit. Shit. Wasted season.” Here they had set a record for the most wins any team had ever had in a season. They were now part of the, “Who’s the best team ever?” debate. And then last night, they shit the bed!
Funny thing, though. I woke up this morning … and the world hadn’t ended! The sun was shining, Frank was licking my face, and the coffee tasted pretty damned good! Huh. What’s going on? And that wasn’t meant as a rhetorical question, either? After finishing my morning meditation, I really thought about it … “What’s going on?” Why wasn’t I feeling the way I felt in 2003, after Grady “effing” Little left Pedro in too long and the Red Sox had yet another kick-in-the-gut loss?
My first thought was, “They won last year.” As bad as last night’s loss was, they did win the NBA championship last year. They’re part of what could go down as one of the top five “Game 7 of the Finals” of all time, albeit on the losing side. They didn’t get blown out, being in it until the end. They had a record-breaking season this year and were one game away from a repeat. Maybe this loss will give them reason to improve the team, perhaps go after free agent Kevin Durant in the off-season. Either way, they’re set up for potentially being in the finals for the next 6-7 years, given the team’s talent. Yeah, they lost, but it could be worse.
Then I thought about one of my favorite movies, A Bronx Tale. Everything in life can be explained in a movie … and I am one of the biggest movie buffs (literally and figuratively) of all time. Here’s the scene I was thinking about – where young Calogero is heartbroken after Bill Mazeroski’s grand slam gives the Pittsburgh Pirates the World Series over his beloved New York Yankees … and Sonny the gangster imparts his sports perspective. “If I can’t pay my health insurance next month, maybe I should go ask Steph Curry and see what he tells me.”
Then I thought about the Cleveland fans and how they must be feeling right now. Not only had the Cavaliers never won a championship, no sports team from Cleveland had won any championship for over 50 years!
I remember when the Red Sox won in 2004. I sat on the end of my bed and cried. I mean, I had both hands covering my face, with tears streaming out between my fingers! How could I begrudge that feeling to some Cleveland fan who was stupid enough to invest as much into his teams as I had in the Red Sox? And by the way … what I wrote about sports joy being fleeting at the beginning of this post? The 2004 Red Sox championship is the exception that proves the rule. That championship provided sports joy that will last me the rest of my life!
So, I’m cool. I’m surprised as all hell that I am … but I am! Only thing I can chalk that up to is the perspective of coming so far out of the valley I was in only 19 months ago. Of feeling an overriding sense of inner peace after being on the road for more than a year. There’s a lot to be said for that.
I root for four teams: the Boston Red Sox; the San Francisco Giants (out of deference to my grandfather, who introduced me to baseball – the greatest game ever invented; the only time I ever saw the man cry was when the Giants left New York for the west coast); the San Jose Sharks; and the Golden State Warriors. If I had to pick a football team – I’m a semi-interested New York Football Giants fan, so five teams.
Since the beginning of 2004, those five teams have won nine championships. Nine championships … in twelve years! Maybe I should go ask a San Diego sports fan if I have any right to be unhappy about the Warriors failing to make it ten last night. What do you think he’d say?
Yeah, this “inner peace” thing is pretty cool!
Frank and I took a drive over to see the ocean yesterday. I’m planning on taking him to the dog beach in Wildwood, NJ this afternoon, but it was nice day yesterday, and I’ve been missing the ocean ever since we left Charleston a year ago.
Avalon-by-the-Sea is the closest beach town. It’s right across the bay from where we’re staying, so that’s where we headed and drove a little ways north from there. The bay was on the left, the ocean on the right, and we were approaching a waterway connecting the two. We caught a break … just after crossing a tiny, two-lane drawbridge over the inlet, I noticed a cruiser approaching from the bay and knew they were going to have to raise the bridge to let him through. So I sped up a little and made a U-turn at the next chance to head back over the bridge in the direction from which we had come. Sure thing, we were the first car in line as the bells started ringing, lights flashing, and the safety arm lowering. I got out of the car and snapped a few shots. What a great vantage point it was, being up over the water instead of at sea level. Here they are:
A view looking towards the southeast, out into the Atlantic. Lots of surf fishermen out today:
A view looking to the northeast. I was surprised there weren’t more folks out on the beach celebrating Father’s Day. The weather was glorious! By the way – check out the rust on the bridge. Pretty scary, huh? What do we need to do as a country to develop the will to address our failing infrastructure? There are like, what … 70 thousand bridges that are structurally deficient in this country? We’re waiting for a disaster before we do something about it? Why can’t we get our elected officials in Congress to do their freaking jobs instead of focusing on bullshit??? (Hmmm … where’d that “inner peace” go?) :o)
A view over the car looking due west, into the wetlands. The NJ mainland is in the distance.
A view to the southwest and the “Great Bay” separating Seven Mile Island from the mainland. The cruiser in the foreground was the reason we were sitting on the bridge. All because of those outriggers!
Five years ago, if you would have bet me that I’d be happy sitting on a drawbridge waiting for a ship to pass underneath, I’d not only have taken the bet … I’d have given you odds! Isn’t it funny what perspective can do for your psyche? :o)
This last shot was taken after we crossed back over the bridge and were back on the island. The view is from behind a seawall in Avalon, looking north. I’m pretty sure the buildings in the distance are the south side of Atlantic City, about 20 miles due north as the seagull flies. By the way, if a seagull spends all his time on the sea, what would you call a bird that spends all his time on the bay? Answer: a bagel!!! (Don’t shoot the messenger – I ran across that little dandy a few days ago. Nothing in this world is as good as a bad pun! And yes, I know – “bad pun” is redundant!) :o)