September 29, 2008

Madam, I Pray You're Not Toying With Me

In the time I’ve spent interacting romantically with the opposite sex, I’ve discovered that there are girls with the tendency to put a halt to situations at key moments. These girls, usually acting either coy or pretentiously intelligent, seem to think that hesitating before taking this “significant” plunge will assuage any fears they may have about what might come next. Of course, this requires them to ignore the fact that they’ve already stated a rather obvious interest, along with having spent a decent amount of time or thought on getting the circumstances this far in the first place.

These actions either confuse or frustrate me. “Why would someone act this way,” I wonder, “when both desire and rational thought are clearly pointing them in the right direction?” Are they merely attempting to insure that I won’t hurt them emotionally, or do they take a certain pleasure in believing that they’ll always have the ability to pick and choose, believe or ignore? It usually seems like more trouble than it’s worth, and unless you consider it in another context, it can be borderline insane. That other context, though, is being a Philadelphia sports fan.

We, Philadelphia sports fans, can often be coy or pretentiously intelligent. We’re coy because we know what committing ourselves entirely can do; we’ve seen the failures of the past, so excuse us if we’re a bit disdainful or aloof when asked to believe in another overachieving bunch of rapscallions who probably won’t come through in the clutch. We’re pretentiously intelligent because many of us think we’re on a level above the common sports fan and his simpleton rooting styles. Anyone can show up with an empty head and cheer for 9 guys in baseball uniforms, but to be able to constantly critique, judge and malign these subpar superstars, well, therein lies the true joy of sports fandom. Being a sports fan in Philadelphia isn’t often easy, so if you choose to distance yourself for safety’s sake, or distance the game itself with constant mockeries, you can feel confident that you’ve made the right choice.

But you haven’t. The fact that you went to the effort to make an informed decision on how to deal with your fandom shows that you already care more than enough as it is. Desire and rational thought are telling you to care, and its just your fears that push you the opposite way. Fears that are usually unjustified, by the way. Just because you’ve watched teams come up short year after year has little bearing on what you’re now seeing; odds are, it’s an entirely different set of guys who just happen to wear the same jerseys. There’s no curses, no supernatural reason why you haven’t gotten to babysit a trophy for 12 months. There’s probably a lot of teams, usually 30, in your sport of choice, and a bunch of them probably spend more money or employ smarter management personnel than yours. This shouldn’t make you pull back anytime an opportunity arises to connect with them in a more intimate, engaging fashion.

I bring this up due to a polarizing weekend featuring the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Phillies, long a black sheep in the foursome of Philadelphia sports, earned their second straight division title on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Eagles, considered to be one of the premier franchises in the NFL, lost a heartbreaker to the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football. The Phillies victory was exciting but unconvincing; for about a half-decade, this very talented team has made a habit of underachieving, and many local fans might still be hesitant to buy into them. The Eagles loss was crushing but expected; popular opinion remains that Donovan McNabb will never win the big game, and that Andy Reid might not coach another one. Two totally different outcomes, but two more opportunities to distance ourselves from a “projected” catastrophe that no one can adequately project.

This, it can be argued, is justified; I’ve done it myself. But it’s wrong. The Eagles have 12 regular season games left to play, most of whom will probably feature their currently injured star running back, Brian Westbrook. A week ago, most people probably would have considered them a Super Bowl-caliber football team. And the way the Phillies captured this second division title indicates a more mature, more responsible team, a team much more likely to achieve postseason success. The sight of familiar faces that arguably choked in last year’s NLDS against the Colorado Rockies should bring satisfaction as much as it causes concern, as these players now understand that there’s more to a winning season than just getting to the playoffs. It’s 2008, not 2007, and while that might seem simple, it’s not.

If more people adopted this philosophy, sports and life both would be better off. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? It’s of your own creation. People are different, relationships are different, teams are different, seasons are different. To judge one based on the other is to deprive yourself of a new sensation for unjustifiable reasons. The 2008 Phillies might break my heart, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to break yours.

1 comment:

Brad said...

Cross out Philadelphia, insert Cleveland. The only difference is, as you all are well aware, God hates Cleveland. It is not a curse, nor bad luck. The reason we don't win is the Creator has decided we shall not. It is the ultimate spite.