A few years back when I was still getting used to not setting an alarm clock, wrestling with rushhour traffic and dealing with cantankerous bosses, I found I had a lot of new free time to occupy. Given my sleeping issues there was no way I’d fill a lot of that time snoring away with long naps. My writing was going full throttle, but I still had this drive to get involved in something new. So, what to do?
I have always been a football fan but that’s about all the sports I’ve paid any attention to. Some of that involvement resulted from my work. I served several years as the radio network producer for both the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins. Those were pretty exciting jobs but your perspective on the game is a bit different from those sitting in the stands sloshing a beer and cheering on the team.
I’ve never been into basketball, hockey or curling, but there was some hope for baseball. Yeah, baseball. I decided I wanted to learn more about the game—you know, all the strategy of who pitches when, why does player C follow player F in the batting order…stuff like that. Now, I obviously knew nothing about baseball beyond the basics, but I decided I’d pick one team and become a loyal fan. But what team? I was set on wanting a team that wouldn’t lose a lot of games. I favored one that maybe had a chance of making it into the playoffs and maybe, just maybe, eventually into the World Series. That’s the team I wanted to follow, one on the way up.
I consulted with one of the two baseball experts I know and my friend Ron told me I should the Chicago Cubs. So I forked over the season fee to Major League Baseball and subscribed to all the Cubs games that are streamed on the Internet. This was in 2015. The Cubs went to the playoffs that year, something not to be taken lightly by a team with an unusually dismal past. Then, in 2016…guess what? The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in over 100 years. It was very exciting, especially having faithfully followed the team for the past two years. Since then, however, they’ve fallen back a bit and the glow from their championship season has dissipated. It has been especially troublesome this year as they’ve only won two of their first eight games.
A team is just like a family—capable of being just as complex and just as dysfunctional. There are many moving parts, some are people, others are things…like schedules and opponents. Then there’s all the logistics, the weather, injuries, player slumps and even player misbehavior. But it’s all family, so you gotta stick by it and love everybody. I know I must have arrived at that point with the Cubs because this past week has been like watching your kid make just about every mistake possible doing something he or she has previously mastered. For sure, a sports team is a living organism that breaths in and out, has good days and bad and exudes all the emotional stress of a family. In fact the only thing I don’t worry about with the Chicago Cubs is all the financial stuff and the incredible amonts of money it takes to run a baseball team. And, oh yeah, it’s a good thing I don’t have to cook and feed all those people.
My wife bought me a Cubs hat and a t-shirt and my one granddaughter got me a Cubs blanket and a mug. But that’s the extent of my craziness. I don’t get all dressed up in blue and red or paint my face when I watch the Cubs play. That’s not to say I don’t understand why many fans turn fanatics. Being married to a team can do that. Things are great when it plays well and then things are just as miserable when nary a run makes it onto the scoreboard.
Now, all that being said, as emotionally tied as sports fans get to their teams, there is one thought to hold onto if you want to keep in touch with reality, especially when your team has had a rough time getting started as the Cubs have this season. What’s that, you ask? It’s simple. If the game is making you a wreck, you just turn it off and walk away. You are under no obligation to continue a relationship with the team if things have gone too far and your wellbeing is threatened. It happens! Sure, if you are a true fan you stick with your team regardless of how goes it on the fielf. But sports can be a pretty potent inhibitor. People have blood pressure and it goes up and down with all of life’s ups and downs, including numbers on a scoreboard. If your health—mental or physical—is suffering simply based on the performance of a sports team, it’s time for you to blow the whistle and yell, “Game Over!” …and then you just walk off the field and find something else to do with your time. In other words, if they build it, no, you don’t have to go.