Everybody knows, the heroes are the guys who don’t have a chance in hell.

It’s depressing. I put an incredible amount of emotional energy into rooting for people to beat the best, when they don’t have anything approaching the talent, skill, drive, or training required to beat the best. It would be like if, at the end of every Rocky movie, he took a monumental whupping, got humiliated for a few rounds by Apollo Creed or Ivan Drago or Mr. T or Mason Dixon or whatever, and was eventually knocked cold and toothless and had to be carried from the ring, with Adrian sobbing and choking over the gurney, screaming WAKE UP ROCKY! WAKE UP! It just wouldn’t be such a popular film series.

I was a huge Hartford Whalers fan growing up in Massachusetts.

You might be surprised to learn that I wasn’t always the nerdly pariah you read before you today. Indeed, I was once a comer, a staunch young Republican in starched shirts, a church-going lad living fifteen minutes from Yale University, full of piss and absolutely dismissive of everything, ever. You could blame the affection for losers on any number of things – the encroachment of self-awareness that came with age and pain… a decline in social fortune that makes Stephen Dedalus look like a Horatio Alger protagonist… suddenly moving to Ohio (shudder)…

Not me, though. I blame my rabid tendency to root for underdogs on my childhood allegiance to Hartford. The Whalers were terrible. Just terrible. But my dad would drive me across the state line every few weeks for a game, and we’d sit there behind the Plexiglas watching the Whalers get killed. Every time, they just got killed.

One weekend, we went to a Harlem Globetrotters game, and I was ashamed when I learned that I wasn’t supposed to be rooting for the Generals. It was infuriating. It wasn’t enough that the Globetrotters waxed them by fifty-odd points. They had to spray the Generals with Silly String, pour buckets of water on them, and take shots from a stepladder set up at half-court. It just wasn’t fair.

Some weekends, we’d drive to Boston and watch Roger Clemens pitch seven decent innings against the Yankees. It was always close until they called in a reliever, who invariably got burned for 76 homeruns in the last two innings, yielding soul-rending, pride-immolating losses. When it was anybody but the Rocket on the mound, it was over in four and we could get out of there before the traffic was a problem.

I’ve never understood how anybody could be a Yankees fan. I’ve never understood how a human being could so wholeheartedly embrace that kind of underhanded bastardery, smug superiority, unabashed fascism. Especially when the Mets are just down the street, and really, the Giants and the Dodgers haven’t been gone so long. The Yankees are like a cyst stuck to the side of New York’s neck, except New Yorkers go around in a jersey that says CYST on them. People from all walks of life wear caps that say CYST – subtext, We support and love this unnatural, freakish growth, no matter how bloated it gets.

In the last five years, my beloved New England Patriots have become what is, to me, the dirtiest word in the sporting lexicon – a dynasty.

Rooting for Kobe Bryant, before he became a hysterical basket case of neurotic fury, was akin to rooting for the jocks in Revenge of the Nerds. Who could possibly be such a heartless bastard? Who could be so duped? Everybody knows, the heroes are the guys who don’t have a chance in hell.

Even more than in real life, in fandom – incredible as it seems – I am a doormat; a loser. I jumped off the Red Sox bandwagon when Johnny Damon strolled into town with his feathered hair and his turgid batting average. I could smell it from day one – he was a Yankee in sheep’s clothing. He won “us” the pennant, he won “us” the series, he beat the Yankees, and then he became… a Yankee. Didn’t see that one coming. Motherfucker.

I jumped off the Steelers bandwagon as soon as Ben Roethlisberger stopped looking like a long shot. He won the Super Bowl shortly thereafter. You might have heard me, wherever you live, screaming in agony for every yard they gained against the Seahawks, who didn't have a chance in hell.

I watch as many March Madness 16 seeds as humanly possible get pummeled by NC or Kentucky.

This shit is exhausting, but I feel like it’s my job. I feel like I’m supposed to be there, any time there’s a televised athletic event, on the off chance that I might witness the miracle of a collapsing Goliath. It's happened, once or twice. It has failed to happen hundreds, maybe even thousands of times.

This year’s NBA finals might kill me.The San Antonio Spurs – my all-time least favorite sports franchise, beating out the Yankees, the Broncos, the Cardinals, EVEN THE WHITE SOX – are going to Brazilian wax the Cleveland Cavaliers – one of the most charming sports franchises in the world – in, I would guess, about five games. Maybe six. On national television.

Just imagine what it would feel like, watching somebody you love getting Brazilian waxed on national television. That’s how I feel.

And it’s getting more and more difficult to face the harsh reality, but more and more obvious that I must. For years, I didn’t understand why people would tether their sporting allegiances by geography. I didn’t see what living somewhere had to do with liking a team. But now, I’m starting to get it. Your fortunes rise and fall together. There are no mercenary leaps from sub-par club to sub-par club. You don’t have to disown a team when they get good – you actually get to be proud, and feel like that, in some way, reflects on you. Look at my cyst! It’s a glorious cyst!

It’s sort of like some people I know. They realized, “Hey, I could go from ugly chick to ugly chick, having one night stands, telling crazy stories to my friends, making fun of them behind their backs, having no respect to them, yet feeling some abstract allegiance to them that I can’t put my finger on. But this shit is exhausting. So, I could just marry Anygirl USA, and hope she turns princess for a season down the road and makes a run at the title, before she slides back under the morass forever. I’ll always have that banner, hanging from my ceiling.”

So there’s really only one thing I can take away from this whole situation, and that is this: I’m glad the Baltimore Ravens are good. At least for now.

1 comment:

SenorStephenUrkelDaedalus said...

It's not looking good for our heroes.