I am a sports fan, but by the local standards I am not a very good one, which is to say this is a bad morning for me but it is not the worst morning of my entire life. That’s how a hard-core (aka a New England) sports fan would feel, even when presented with ample evidence that there were plenty of days that were worse.
I’m something of a fair weather fan, and not ashamed to admit it. This is not the same thing as being a front-runner. A front-runner will follow whichever team is playing well consistently. (Example: imagine a Boston native following the Yankees because the Yankees win a lot. Now imagine that fan jumping to Boston after Boston beat the Yankees in the 2004 playoffs. Now imagine that fan choking on bile while you watched. Isn’t this fun?) A fair-weather fan doesn’t switch allegiances; he or she just stops paying attention to that sport.
This is the mind’s natural defense
Here is what did me in: Carl Yastrzemski. In 1978 the Red Sox blew a huge lead in the pennant race over New York, with the teams ending the regular season tied. They played a one-game playoff to decide who would move on, and in that game… um, lots of things happened that I won’t get into here except to say the name Bucky Dent is a curse word in five states even today. What I remember very distinctly is that the Red Sox had an opportunity to win this game on one swing from their hall of fame left fielder, Yastrzemski. In my mind this was the narrative this game was supposed to have: aging slugger rescues season with one last mighty wallop.
He popped out to the third baseman.
I was ten at the time. I cried for about an hour, and then I stopped following baseball for the next eight years. Perhaps not coincidentally, I also became a screenwriter and a novelist: if the world wasn’t going to give me the narrative I wanted I was going to write my own.
I was barely paying attention to football this year. I had a book launch in October, I’m in the middle of a multiple screenplay project, I’ve got two other finished novels to edit and a new novel to begin. I’m promoting constantly, giving the occasional interview, trolling for reviews, and issuing press releases.
I am busy, in other words. But somehow this team managed to pull me in. Possibly it was because they traded Randy Moss, who always seemed to bring out the worst in them. Maybe it was just that they seemed so effortlessly good at what they were doing. Or it could be because this wasn’t even supposed to be their year. Whatever; I started following football more closely, started devoting my time to watching and reading about the Patriots again, began weighing postseason match-ups and so on.
In other words, I handed responsibility for my future happiness over to 50+ total strangers. Again. And in a game in which those total strangers were playing the largest collection of loudmouthed, arrogant pricks in professional sports, a team they demolished the last time they faced each other, they lost.
And I’m nearly tempted to click over to a sports site and figure out how this happened, but that will just make me more aggravated. Better to just spend an hour crying in my room and then emerge pretending the sport doesn’t exist.
Maybe not for eight years this time. We’ll see.