Sports

World Series Preview

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2013, such a magical ride for the Red Sox

Sports is not real life.

Or rather, watching sports and rooting for your favorite team and linking your happiness or sadness to the outcome of a game that you are just a spectator to is not “real life”.  Win or lose, you’ll still get up in the morning, get dressed, go into work, and deal with things that would be happening if that game never took place.  If your team celebrates a championship or laments a failed playoff run, you will not be shaking champagne with them or patting anyone on the back in consolation in the locker room.

I’ve known this since I was young, and I am even more acutely aware of it now that I’m older.

So why do I still take sports so seriously?  Why do I get so elated when my teams win, and descend into depression when they lose?  Why did I get so upset a couple of weeks ago when the Red Sox lost to the Indians in the playoffs?

I’m sure it is tied into simple Freudian-type analysis.  For most of us, our lives are devoid of the opportunity of glory of the larger than life variety.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  While rarely epic, we still have the opportunity on a daily basis to make our significant others, family members, friends, co-workers, or even strangers happy.  We should always have that as a goal, and when it happens should celebrate it as a great day.  I surely do.

Glory should never be a pre-requisite of satisfaction, and such a concept is so far removed from our everyday lives we don’t even consciously seek it.  But the Epic Moment, the (as Lloyd Dobbler once said), “Dare-to-be-Great-Situation”, is something we still crave on a deeper atavistic level.

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“I am looking for a dare to be great situation.”

If you’re lucky, you might get one in your life.  Or if you’re blessed by the gods of chance, maybe two or three.  But most of us will never experience something that fits the “according to Hoyle” definition of a Heroic Moment.

So for me, and millions of others whether they realize it or not, that is an allure of sports…the chance to witness and vicariously have a “Dare-to-be-Great” situation where you have ultimate victory.   And “sports” is actually not the apt word for this.  I can watch Tiger Woods playing golf and root for him, but at the end of the day I don’t really care if he wins or loses. The New England Revolution is the pro soccer team of the area where I come from, and while I hope they do well I have never followed them.  Rooting for Team USA during the Olympics is fun and there’s national pride to give a tendril of emotional attachment, but those games/matches will never have the same meaning as ones by the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics.

For the wins or the magic moments of a sporting game to mean anything to me, there must be a deep emotional attachment to the team and to the players.

This feeling cannot be faked.  It cannot be manufactured after following a team for a few games or even a few seasons.  You earn emotional attachment by investing your heart and soul into years and decades of following and rooting for the success of a team in which you have zero control over.

And if you’re lucky, well actually let’s just say “really f’n lucky”, you’ll get to see your team win a World Series, an NBA Championship, a Stanley Cup, or a Superbowl.  And if you are “off-the-charts-stupid-lucky”, there will be amazing moments during that championship run that bring your team back from sure defeat.  Walk-off homeruns, epic 4th quarter comebacks, three goal deficits erased against your rival, and maybe even an interception on the goal-line to get your team the Lombardi Trophy.

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I still cannot believe that this is my photo, that I was at this game!

 

I’ve got to witness all of that and more in the last 15 years, and I am extremely grateful for this amazing luck.   Four Superbowl victories (the last one I witnessed in person), three World Series titles, one Stanley Cup, and one NBA Finals victory.  There has been Tom Brady and Big Papi and Paul Pierce and Zdeno Chara and a host of other legendary Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins that I have been lucky enough to have on my side.

As we head into the World Series, I wish the fans of both the Cubs and the Indians the best of luck.  Chicago hasn’t even been to the Series since 1945, and it’s 108 years since they won it all!  Cleveland made it to Game 7 of the Championship in 1997 (their last appearance), only to lose in the 9th inning to a then five-year-old franchise when they could not close it out.  Their last title was 68 years ago!

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Although I have no deep emotional attachment to the Cubs, I do feel a kindred spirit with their fans and I love their ballpark

I’ve been to Wrigley Field and still have that Cubs fishing hat I got there decades ago.  I’ll be rooting for them, but at the end of the day with no true emotional attachment I am hoping for a competitive and fun World Series.  But no matter what happens it’s nice to know that one team will make a long-suffering fan base collectively experience that Dare-to-be-Great-Situation, that ultimate feeling of victory.

 

 

 

 

Sports · Uncategorized

The Dude vs. The NFL – A Look Back into the Archives

I’ve been in a writing funk recently, so I’m going back to my old (and original) blog from 2007 for some material.  I feel this entry is an apt one to repost, since my favorite football team played on Thursday and today I was left adrift with NFL games I truly didn’t want to watch.  But this Sunday, unlike my choices from 9 years ago, I decided to read a book instead of subjecting myself to the shitty games that were broadcast here in Honolulu.

But fun to look back at a Sunday almost a decade ago . . .

Thursday, December 13, 2007


 

This year The Patriots have played many games out of the normal Sunday afternoon schedule. And while it’s great to see your team compete on National TV, it presents challenges. If you’re married or in a serious relationship, there probably isn’t much of a problem. You clean your garage, you cut the hedges, you go to the multiplex to that romantic comedy with your special lady friend, or you spend a little more quality time with your children.

But if you’re single and live in a studio apartment. . . .

My God, it really forces you to take ugly looks at yourself.

The Patriots beat The Steelers last Sunday, and it was their first normally scheduled game in the last month. The previous three contests were all played at night, and it’s made Sunday afternoons extremely taxing. Take for example December 2nd. Living in San Francisco, the only game on my TV set was the 49ers and the Carolina Panthers. I didn’t want to watch even a second of it, but for some reason I switched the channel to Fox. I guess my brain waves have been wired to pant like a Pavlovian Dog for QB sneaks and shotgun formations and safety blitzes.

But I regreted my decision quickly. Only three minutes into the game the announcers (guys I’ve never even heard of . . . the Z team of Fox) have referred to Vinny Testerverde as “The Old Guy” at least 12 times. They even put it on their graphics as San Francisco’s key to the game: “Don’t Let The Old Guy Beat You”.

And here are the highlights of the first quarter:

*San Francisco calls a timeout before they punt.
*The timeout seems to be a genius move when Carolina muffs the punt and the 49ers look like they recover the ball. On the field the officials first signal SF ball and then give it back to the Panthers.
*It looks like the officials blew the call, but The 49ers coach, Mike Nolan, doesn’t challenge.
*Vinny, aka “The Old Guy”, has 1st and goal from the 3 but cannot score.
*It’s week 13 and the Panthers have yet to win a game at home.

I check ESPN hoping they’re showing The World Series of Poker. Instead it’s The Great Lakes Classic, a bowling event. Walter Ray Williams needs two strikes AND two pins to beat the immortal Mike Scroggins. This is tense. First strike wipes out all the pins quickly. His next strike is more dramatic, with the last pin wobbling before it falls. He only needs two more . . . and gets the win when he knocks down seven.

This is what happens when you live in a city with two bad NFL teams.

I shudder knowing the game after this will be the 3-8 Raiders. But I switch back to the “football” game. Here are some more stellar statistics:

*With 10:07 left in the half Carolina has used all their timeouts.
*Testerverde throws a TD, and it’s the Panthers first TD at home in something like 80 quarters.
*The 49ers somehow convert a 3rd down and keep a drive alive. Of course they end up punting four plays later, but damn they must have felt good about getting 10 yards in a series.

Back to bowling.

It’s now the women’s championship. It’s Carolyn Dorin-Ballard vs. Diandra Asbaty. Dorin-Ballard has a lunch lady vibe about her. She could easily be a tough aunt from your Dad’s side of the family that nobody fucks with. Asbady is actually cute, a red head with a nice smile who seems as if she enjoys drinking beer and, well . . . bowling. Both of these women have their names on the back of their shirts. Not printed, like a football player, but their signatures embodied into the material. When I notice this I flip back to the other game.

Trent Dilfer, who for some reason is the starting QB for San Francisco, gets sacked. It is only the 11th sack of the season for The Panthers. Dilfer then throws an INT which is returned for a touchdown. It’s 17-0 Carolina.

Could professional women’s bowling be better?

Yes. Yes it is.

Asbaty makes two strikes in a row. While I’m trying to figure out how old she is (my guess is 29), the announcers say she “has finally figured out the lane”. Figured out she was throwing a ball at ten pins from the same distance as every bowler does in the world? Is there a sand trap that creeped up without us noticing?

Then the announcer says that Asbaty wanted him to give a “shot out” to her grandmother.

Okay . . . switching to the football game Dilfer gets sacked again (The Panthers now have 12 on the season . . . my God- this is exciting). But I somehow pry my vision from the intense action and glance at the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen. The Dolphins lead the Jets 13-10. For a few seconds I ponder whether I’d rather be in Miami watching their winless club duel the hapless NY Jets. It’s a tough choice- their shit sandwich to the one that is now on Fox? There is no way to answer that question except to watch some bowling.

It’s too bad I’m not watching The Dude, Walter, and Donnie advance to next Round Robin.

Instead we’re now in the last frame of The Great Lakes Classic Championship. Asbaty needs a mark to win. They flash a graphic that says she was part of a NCAA Championship team from Nebraska in 1999 & 2001. That would put her at about 27 or 28 (I was close). I wonder how it would feel to date a professional bowler. Would she talk about 7-10 splits while in bed? Does she have a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be bowling”? Could she drink me under the table?

And then Asbaty rolls . . . she gets a nine. I was hoping for somebody to yell “OVER THE LINE” and pull out their “piece” on the lanes. Mark it an 8! Am I the only one that cares about the rules?!!

No such luck. This is not The Big Lebowski come to life. One more pin and Asbaty is the winner. She gets it and is all tears. And then a guy rushes up and hugs her, who The announcers say is her husband. The dream is over.

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With the “NFL Game” Dilfer has just thrown an interception with 1:24 left in the half. But Carolina doesn’t have any timeouts, and the “Old Guy” has to rush. The second quarter comes to an end after Vinny throws a ball that is astutely described by JC Pearson as being “way underthrown”.

It’s getting close to noon and I have yet to step outside. I would like to have the last hour and half back in my life, but I’ll simply have to use it as a good life lesson. I get outside for a walk and some lunch, and when I return I see the San Francisco 49ers were somehow worse than the Carolina Panthers today. Next time I will show more fortitude: when The Patriots are not playing on a Sunday morning/afternoon I will immediately leave the apartment.