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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sports Is Where Fans Can Lose Even When Their Teams Win

I usually follow sports on TV with just a passing interest but this year's playoffs were different. My favorite baseball team is the Red Sox. I have been a Red Sox fan since watching game 6 of the 1975 World Series. I was rooting for the Red Sox then because they were playing a nemesis of the Phillies, the team I use to be a fan of, and thus the enemy of my enemy was my friend. But the game was so dramatic, I continued to be a fan and the Red Sox has become my only baseball team when the daughter began dating, and then marrying, a yankees fan. Thus, I had to be a Red Sox fan so someone had to bring balance to the Force in our family. 

But it was important to me that the Sox win it all because of what NYC police officer asked me during a peace protest. It was after the Sox got rid of Manny Ramirez and a police officer came up to me and asked if the Sox could win the title without Ramirez. We can now declare that the answer is yes.

And there is a political reason to root for the Red Sox, a reason that causes dismay amongst the members of the NLGNYC. That reason is that one cannot be anti-Empire and be a yankees fan.

The series against Tampa Bay was a decent series. Their manager, Joe Maddon, is an intelligent man who can win because of the way he thinks outside of the box. Their team played tough but the Sox won the series 3 games to 1. 

The series against Detroit was something else because the Sox started that series as if they were dead in the water until Ortiz hit a grand slam in the eigth inning to tie the second game while Saltalamachia hit a walkoff single to the nineth to win the game. After that, because of Detroit's balance between superb starting pitching and their dangerous lineup, all of the games were tense. In fact, they were so tense that, for some of the games, I only watched the part of the games when the Red Sox were batting. The Sox won in six but they gained something more than just a championship; they were now seasoned and prepared to play against St Louis. 

St. Louis was a scary team like Detroit except that the Cardninals had a very strong bullpen. Add to that the sloppy defensive play by the Sox in games 2 and 3, it didn't look good for a while until the Sox returned home and took a 6-0 lead in game six. It was great to watch my team win it all and thus prove to yankee fans again that the Curse is over and that they can win without Ramirez. 

Before I get into the negative stuff, we should note that the sportsmanship and respect that the teams in all of the Sox's series had for each other was simply wonderful. There was no trash talking, there was only mutual respect paid to the opponents by the players of each team. In doing this, the players provided a wonderful example for PARENTS across America who have children in sports.

However, there was something that Sox manager, John Farrell, said during the post game celebration following game six. In talking about the fan reaction to the championship, he talked about how important the Sox were to the people in Boston. And it is at that point, we need to step back from the fun and feel-good frivolity and ask questions about ourselves. We should ask ourselves why the accomplishments of given sports teams are so important to us. We should also ask what are we ignoring when we focus so much attention to a sports team. Finally, we should ask ourselves how much life are we really living if we are constantly living through the accomplishments of others.

Why are the accomplishments of a given sports team so important to us? There are a number of reasons. Sports, like other forms of entertainment, provides an escape from the reality that is pressing in on us. And we do need breaks from a real world. The problem becomes determining how many breaks we really need in order to be refreshed from taking so many breaks that we are simply trying to escape the world by burying our heads in the sands of diversion. We should also note for those of us who closely follow their favorite sports team that the time and resources needed to follow any particular team often shows an economic privilege. That is that one can closely follow a team if one's own economics allow for the time and resources needed to do so. Some people are just too busy just making a living or helping others to dedicate themselves learning everything they can about a particular team.

The next thing we should ask ourselves is whether we are spending so much time following our teams that we don't know what is going on in the world. Often, we don't even know that a given  country being reported on exists let alone is suffering. That is what happens when we venture to follow and learn so much about fantasy or irrelevant worlds that we neglect to learn what we need to in order to become responsible voters and citizens. Our lack of knowledge prevents us from loving our distant neighbor in meaningful ways. And the louder we turn up the volume when listening to a given sports team, the less able we are to hear the cries for help from our neighbors. Watching a game often becomes just another reason why we pass up the man who was robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho. 

Finally, we need to ask ourselves about the quality of our own lives if most of the accomplishments we have come vicariously through others. We often follow sports teams because of the significance it adds to our esteem when they win. When one's team wins, there is a certain pride one takes in the accomplishments of others. When your team wins, you are guilty of winning by association. Choosing the right team to root for then is like being a consumer who looks for the right product to buy.

But how much more fulfilling would life be if we achieved more on our own than vicariously through others. And if we are going to  experience success by cheering for others, why not root more for those who are on the other side of the financial tracks who are competing just to live or to overcome harsh obstacles. Our cheers and support would mean far more to those who are struggling to live than to millionaire athletes who are merely trying to win a championship. If those from the latter group lose, they can return to comfortable homes and compete again next year. But if those who are down and out lose, it could mean their lives.

It isn't that we should not enjoy cheering for our favorite teams and celebrate their successes. It is that we make such alliances and celebrations with teams too important and consuming of our lives. When that happens, we lose touch with reality especially the reality of those who are struggling. In addition, the joy we feel when our team wins becomes an anesthetic that prevents us from feeling the pain of others or even our own future. Finally, when we make following sports teams too important we end up breaking God's command to love your neighbor for we have spent too much time not doing enough for others who really need our support.


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