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A Fan for All Seasons

Blog by Edward Sherman

A wise man once asked the rhetorical question, “Why are sports so important?” And his answer: “Because they are so unimportant”. Never were truer words spoken. It is why so many find the escape into the world of sports to be such a comfort – a time to leave behind the worries and stresses of the real world, of the things that can truly affect us.

I’m a lucky guy, lucky enough to live in a city that has a team for each of the major sports: Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey. (My apologies to Soccer or “Futbol”. A fine sport, probably the most popular in the world, but this is America we’re talking about). *And currently, as I am writing, it’s hockey that consumes me; a beautiful game full of grace, speed and power; a fluid ballet of men in constant motion, bonded together as one unit with a single goal (pun intended) in mind. And last night was no exception, a thoroughly enjoyable affair, a tight back and forth contest, typical of the National Hockey League. It was a great way to cap off my evening – even though a late missed call by an official probably cost us the win (and me a friendly side wager). That aside, the point is how much pleasure I derived from watching the game itself – though, to be honest, I did have a little trouble sleeping afterwards (I tried Melatonin to no avail). And, as for the officials, that “human element” can actually add to the game, giving it a certain dramatic uncertainty – a kind of courtroom drama element that keeps one emotionally engaged, especially when the games have playoff implications (or monetary ones). And those verdicts can bring great releases of those emotions. (I need to explain that to my neighbor, who left a note under my door to please keep the noise down – I did feel bad about that as they have children… And apparently, I yelled some rather unflattering things about Canadians, which I also feel bad about). But the human element is part of the game – Of course, we lost in the playoffs last year because of the “human element” and then the so-called “experts” went on to claim my team choked. Because of that, I couldn’t watch the sports channel for weeks. But I digress…

I am fortunate; when one season ends (no matter how or why) I am able to move on to the next which, after hockey, is baseball, our national pastime. I like the pastoral pace. It may seem slow to the kids today but, once you’re plugged into the nuances of the game and can appreciate the game within the game, it allows you to see the strategy involved, and you find yourself managing along with the team’s real manager, like playing chess alongside a master. Very cerebral. For instance, one fateful October we were up, 1-0, in a must win playoff game, needing only one more out, but our pitcher was tiring. He walked the next batter, the potential tying run. Our manager was left with a big decision, leave him in or take him out? Personally I thought, “LEAVE HIM IN! FOR GOD’S SAKE, LEAVE HIM IN!” Of course, no one really cared what I thought. The question was, what would the real manager do, a baseball “lifer”, the years in the sport chiseled into his stoic, sun-baked face? The baseball world awaited his decision (As did a few people I knew outside the baseball world who also used bats on occasion in their line of work). And..? He decided to take him out. And..? The other team came back, tied the game, and won it in extra innings. Of course, in no way am I suggesting I could have done a better job, and that his move was what the less enlightened fan might call, “boneheaded”. No, the point was how much fun I had playing along. You can get very involved. (That was what I wrote by way of apology to my neighbor who, it was becoming increasingly clear, was not a sports fan… Also, I apparently yelled some rather unflattering things about Mexicans, which I regret). It was an exciting game nonetheless, although I recall having a little trouble sleeping that night (I tried Ambien to no avail). We went on to lose the series and I had to hear how my team choked. I couldn’t watch the sports channel for weeks. But, again, I digress…

When the baseball season comes to a close football is already in full swing. And in America football is king. Each game is an event, each team plays only once a week, and each regular season has only sixteen games – as opposed to the one hundred and sixty-two of baseball and the eighty-two of both basketball and hockey. The math alone tells you that each football game has the impact of ten baseball games or five basketball or hockey games. So you listen to sports talk radio all week, especially if you’re playing a rival, and plan your Sunday around the game – or if it’s a really big game it might take place on a Sunday, Monday or even Thursday night. It’s even more exciting when that happens. Of course, the last time we were on at night we got knocked out of playoff contention – an easy field goal was somehow shanked. (Frankly, I thought the official froze our kicker by not putting down the ball in a timely manner. Hmmm…?). Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night – a mixture of Melatonin and Ambien was of no help. And of course, I had to hear how my team choked and then I couldn’t watch the sports channel for weeks. Anywho…

Finally, there’s basketball. The speed and athleticism are almost otherworldly; the dunks are spectacular; the passing can be Globetrotter-like, and the shooting is better than it’s ever been. And with the advent of the three-point shot no lead is safe… as I learned during the playoffs. Frankly, I didn’t understand some of the moves our coach made (Was he trying to lose the game? Hmmm..?) And as for the officiating… I guess the less said the better (But I could swear I saw one of them look in the stands and touch the side of his nose after a particularly bad call). On a whim, I decided to watch some of last season’s playoffs at a local Tavern while wearing a fake beard and moustache. Sometimes one just wants to be alone amongst a crowd, especially when that crowd contains someone with a heavy Russian accent that keeps asking about you. But that’s neither here nor there…

The point is how much sports can enrich one’s life (maybe not monetarily). They can make us better people. It is a fact that during especially big games crime is at a low in the participating towns or cities. People volunteer more; getting through to the suicide hotline is never easier. And despite our differences, even my neighbors showed great compassion when they thought they heard weeping after my team was recently eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. I assured them that it was my dog baying at the moon and not me. True, I didn’t have a dog at the time. But I didn’t want to concern them. So, out of consideration, I bought one the next day and taught him how to bay at the moon. But most of all, sports are important because they are so unimportant. I doubt there are many other events that can unite a city more. It can bring people closer – sometimes within the reach of one another’s fists. And that’s the point. We rant, we cheer, and we get frustrated and exhilarated. And the next morning the sun still rises. Nothing has really changed. Nothing ever changes. Goddamn it! I watch, we lose, I can’t sleep. My teams choke and I can’t watch the goddamn sports channel for weeks. And now I find myself being evicted, wearing a wire and sleeping with a gun under my pillow (which has actually helped). But I do love my sports. God help me I love them so. I am a fan for all seasons.

THE END

*Written during the brutal end of the hockey season

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