Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays (or Sundays … wink, wink). Matt wrote about why he was a sports fan. I am writing about something slightly different – learning to cope with my sports addiction.
“If I cared this much about other things in my life I’d be a fully functioning adult.” ~ a text I sent to Matt on June 20, 2013.
At the moment I tapped out this text I stood inside Bowery Ballroom. Neo-hippie rocker Mikal Cronin’s fuzzed-out melancholia filled the room, yet failed to hold my attention. My focus centered on NBA Finals Game 7 between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. I refreshed my Scorecenter app on my iPhone every two minutes. I considered skipping Cronin’s concert, despite purchasing tickets a month in advance, to watch the game but figured I would be bummed if the Heat won … and I missed the concert. The Heat won that night, leaving me feeling furious despite the fact I consider their opponent, the Spurs, the human embodiment of a shoulder shrug. Cronin, poor guy, might as well have been elevator music.
I consider myself a laid-back person but after it become obvious the Heat would win back-to-back titles I shuttled between feelings of anger, disappointment, and sadness rolled into Nancy Kerrigan’s “why god, why” face. It’s hard to define precisely why I wanted the Heat to fail. I could list LeBron’s “Decision”, the artificial way the Heat built their team, Miami’s “fanbase”, but none of these reasons measure up. Maybe it’s because I consider myself an underdog of sorts – no, ginger Cajuns are not considered aristocracy in this life.
With sports, I’ve always been addicted to the illusion – the illusion that a game meant so much when it really meant so little. I read the box scores in the sports page as a 5-year-old. I annoyed the hell out of my dad watching televised bowling events on Sunday afternoons. Anything to fire up my addiction. As time passed I watched less sports, became a bit more detached from the games that mattered so much in my youth. Even so, the passion, thrill, and wow factor sports produced would return periodically. Often this revival of interest occurs when watching my hometown teams – New Orleans Saints and LSU Tigers – but sometimes it involves someone I root against (i.e., overdogs such as the New York Yankees, Notre Dame, Duke, the Heat, etc.).
My working theory on why sports matter so much (to me): They allow me to invest in something completely without feeling the sting of personal defeat and everyday indignities. It is the player or coach who loses, who fails. I am an observer and I can move on to the next game and on with my life. I’ve often considered what it would be like to harness my sporting passion and use it in my real life. Which is to say, what would happen if I treated my participatory life with the same enthusiasm as I did my observed life? That seems like something a fully functioning adult would do, at least.
The Heat may yet three-peat this summer. I plan to ignore this development like I ignored the Sochi Winter Olympics. It almost goes without saying I will keep my phone in my pocket this time if I am at a concert while Game 7 is happening. After all, a fully functioning adult should know when to tune out things that don’t matter in his or her life.