This past Monday I watched with glee as the Oklahoma City Thunder somehow managed to slip ahead of the Golden State Warriors in the first game of the Western Conference Finals.
It was not a game the Thunder were supposed to win. In fact, most people thought they’d get creamed. I was one of those people.
See, I love my teams passionately. The Thunder, the Oklahoma Sooners, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Southampton Saints, and the Utah Utes. I’m ecstatic when they win and often as pissy as a hungry tiger when they lose.
Which I recognized some years ago is a problem.
Let me explain.
There are things worth investing yourself in. Your family, friends, community, spirituality, career, passions, art (whatever your art may be). All worthy because all have positive emotional and/or financial returns.
Sports fandom can be one of those if not kept in perspective.
The Last Time I Wept Like a Sad Little Infant…
was after a football game. It was September 2005 and I was homesick for Oklahoma. Sooners football was sort of the next best thing to being back home.
Their first game of the season they were upset by TCU 17-10.
I didn’t move from the couch for the next 16 hours or so. I soaked a pillow with tears and questioned the very fibers of existence.
Needless to say I needed to dial things back a bit.
Having a son born the next year certainly helped with perspective. But it took me a while to really find the balance between fandom and stability.
As I’ve opened myself up to wild changes in the past couple years, I’ve grappled with sports. They’re in my DNA in a way, and I still love being in the arena and watching on TV. But my son doesn’t care about them, nor does my wife or daughter.
I willingly cast aside my interest in politics as a sacrifice to spending my emotions on things more worthwhile. No more arguing with people, or wondering what “side” they’re on. Or listening to pundits, or reading news sites with my preferred bias.
Could I do the same for sports? Could I just become a casual observer, and give up wearing team colors and chatting with other fans and opponents?
I could, actually. But I decided not to, and here’s why.
Sports Force You to Practice Discipline
I’m a fan. What’s happening in the arena has nothing to do with me. I’m a passionate observer, yes, but an observer nonetheless.
The players – the literal men (and women) in the arena – are what I aspire to be. Not an athlete, but someone who works the hell out of my abilities in an attempt to be world-class. Someone who can ignore a world full of critics and fans alike and find excitement in the pursuit.
The sports talk radio, the angry fans, bandwagon abandoners, the people who rub it in when my team loses, all are irrelevant. The more removed from the side shows of sports I allow myself to be, the more it all feels like entertainment. Which it is, at the core.
I put sports in the entertainment category. That’s the discipline side.
Sports Make You Stretch Your Passion Muscle
No, that’s not an intentionally dirty subhead. But I can see why you think that.
Like a lot of emotions and brain functions, I think passion can be exercised.
And it needs to be. Your passion can be sucked right out of you when you get into your 30s and beyond. There’s so much responsibility with family, career, yard work, paper work, work, work, work.
It’s easy to get caught up in that and simply maintain an even keel all the time. But I think life is better when we give ourselves to some highs and lows.
It’s good to get bummed when your team loses. Let it nag at you for a bit, then walk it off.
Conversely, get excited when your team wins. I squealed like a little German schoolgirl with a jar of candy after the Thunder won game one.
Bask in it for a bit. Then, just as with losing, move on.
I found that the frills of sports, like politics, aren’t worth my emotional energy however. I don’t tune in to sports talk much anymore, and I just don’t have the energy to argue with fans of other teams. You may or may not find yourself feeling the same.
Overall though, sports are worth the emotional investment. Go be a passionate, thinking fan. Appreciate the ridiculousness of the whole thing and the role you play in it. Appreciate the players, coaches, strategies, even the insane logistics of getting 90,000 people into and out of a stadium.
Keep the highs high enough and the lows not so low, and flex that passion muscle a bit.
Boomer Sooner and Thunder Up, too.