I’ve written here recently about my brand new role: basketball fan. I’ve been lucky and spoiled so far — I get to go to games all the time and the right team always wins. Almost. But I had a rude awakening this weekend. Middlebury lost.
Intellectually, I understand that with sports (and games in general) you win some and you lose some. God knows I’ve spent enough time preaching that to John over the past five years: it’s important to try your very best no matter what the score is, to never give up, to be a good sport, to shake hands, to be gracious in losing just as you would be in winning, to hold your head up, and then to move on and get ready for the next game. And on Saturday the Middlebury basketball team certainly acted with confidence, maturity and grace.
Guess who was the angry one: me.
I don’t know enough about basketball to say one way or the other, but I was convinced that the game was being called unfairly. The number of fouls was about even, but our guys were getting pummeled! Their team was packed with bad sports. Too many elbows were being thrown. The fans of the opposing team were obnoxious and mean-spirited. And unoriginal! “Airball”? That’s it? Their coach was yapping too much to the refs. Their gym was awkwardly shaped and ugly. And echo-y. I could not stand the college, the town, the facility or anyone in it.
For most of the game I had a headache and for the last ten minutes I had shaky hands and flushed cheeks. All the way home I was thinking about things that might have happened differently and feeling frustrated about the end of the game. And I wanted our team to go back and win, on their court. By a lot. And I still had that headache.
Today, with a little perspective, I understand that both teams played very well. Middlebury lost (in my opinion) because of bad timing. Twenty seconds more or less and who knows what may have happened. I can see clearly that fans at Middlebury home games may seem just as frustrating. Their gym was fine – it’s just a gym. And I have reminded myself that it was a game, that it’s just a game, and you win some, you lose some.
I suppose I have also learned a lesson in crazy sports behavior. I’m still a long way from it, but I can see more clearly where the face-painting, nail-biting, jersey-wearing, tail-gating, cool-aid-drinking sports culture comes from. The word “fan” comes from the word “fanatic” after all. Def: A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause. Extreme and unreasoning? Check. That’s me. What a surprise.