Monday, February 04, 2008

The Wisdom of Fandom

"Thank you for coming . . . the visiting room is ahead, and to the right . . . please be sure to sign the guest book . . . "

The undertakers rolled into every living-TV-Rumpus-dorm-bed-den-barroom in New England last night around 11:00 PM EST -- just after Eli Manning and the NY Giants committed regicide on the presumed-kings of the NFL, our New England Patriots -- and welcomed us to the funeral parlor. The Giants dispatched the men from Foxboro brutally, ruthlessly and with the utmost professionalism -- qualities we'd come to expect from our own team of football-Gods. It wasn't personal, except that it was, and always is, when you make your living imposing your will on other men. When it was over, we were all reminded how personal and painful fandom can be.

I've been around sports and Boston Sports (capitalization is intentional) for a long time. We've long supported teams that were whipping boys and also-rans. Historically, Boston Fans are die hard, stubborn, bitter-enders who pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost causes. The past seven years have been the Golden Age of Boston Sports -- the Celtics 80s notwithstanding. Super Bowl XLII was meant to be the crown jewel amongst a ridiculous trove of treasure: 3 of 7 Super Bowls, 2 of 4 World Series, the best record in the NBA, a highly ranked D-1 college football team, a pro hockey team that's currently playoff eligible, and as I write this, BC and BU just tore it up in an OT of the second game of the opening night of the Beanpot -- one of the best college tourneys of any kind.

Super Bowl XLII, however, showed how fragile the line between pleasure and pain, success and failure is, and how emotionally devastating fandom can be. I go about my day-to-day, and try and not get overly fired up about sports, though I do like them, I follow them, I derive pleasure from them. I loved this Patriots team -- not in the latently homosexual way that so many "dudes" around here "love" Tom Brady. It was a distinct honor to watch them play, and go along for the ride. Yet, as a friend wrote on his blog "Why do I get so emotionally invested in something that is out of my control?" I wish I knew because Super Bowl Monday was a drag. There is no energy in the area, everybody is down and I've heard more than once that people were up all night; that they thought that what they'd seen was a bad dream. No such luck. It was all too real, and now many of us are questioning why we are fans; is the sort of pain we feel in the wake of a loss like that in XLII worth it in the long run?

Dreams of 19-0 ended "oh . . . no . . . " as Plaxico Burress hauled in the winning TD with 35 seconds to go. Perfection was thwarted. A tremendous, record setting ride has been written off as meaningless. That seems a bit harsh to me, and not entirely fair but never forget the aforementioned, razor thin line between pleasure and pain, success and failure. A miserable 2:24 at the end of XLII, wiped out the previous 18 hours 57 minutes and 36 seconds of superiority, and now the Patriots are judged failures and now their fans, me included, suffer an existential crisis, as we contemplate the wisdom of fandom. I've long said though, that regardless of the team, win or lose, I've got to get up and go to work, pay my mortgage and feed and care for my children. Today was no exception, and, looking ahead, pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Meyers in 9 days, and Patriots mini-camp is only about 6 months away . . .

"Hi, my name's Agricola."
"I'm a fan . . . "


Matt said...

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Agricola said...

Ha ha! thanks Matt. indeed.

I meant to post the below on this posting, but ended up dropping it under my kitchen painting posting (?):

Bill Simmons has a good piece about XLII, and a good discussion of fandom and loss:

I agree with him too, there were loads of omens this past week . . . I was fearful all week about this outcome.