As usual – for me, anyway – the night provides perspective. I woke up this morning still stewing about the Cubs’ loss yesterday, and I do still think it was a particularly terrible loss. But thankfully, sleep somehow ear weevil’d in some other thoughts, too.
Full disclosure: I’d headed to the community pool with the family yesterday in the 7th inning, computer in tow, so that I could quickly take in the final two innings while they swam, do the EBS, and then enjoy the evening. Not only did the game ruin that plan with its timing – requiring a slow top and bottom of the 9th, and then a slow top and bottom of the 10th ate up much of the family time – but it also ruined that plan with the misery it inflicted upon me. I suppose that part was my fault.
That is to say, I probably reacted even more strongly to the loss because of the circumstances that surrounded it. You had a great matchup for the Cubs against the worst team in baseball (to be followed by the Cubs facing two MUCH better pitchers), you had the Cubs failing to score much (AGAIN), you had the Cubs leading late and blowing it despite chances to win. And you had all of that while I sat on a picnic table watching the kids and wife splash around, periodically asking me when I would be joining them. That really sucked.
But I woke up this morning with a pretty clear thought: this is what I signed up for.
Not as a writer, mind you, but as a fan. The very act of deciding to care this much about a sports team commits you to these horrible moments. We do it, of course, because the value – the fun of the wins, the socialization, the reflected glow, the distraction – exceeds the cost. But there is a cost.
If there weren’t a cost – an investment of yourself – then the value of what we get back in return from our fandom would be pretty insignificant. Similarly, if the Cubs won every game they should win, the excitement of watching the games would be pretty insignificant, too.
For several years now, I could have watched a game like yesterday’s in late July, shook my head at the ridiculousness, and then wondered if Jason Motte’s blown save would negatively impact his trade value. I would have been numb to the outcome of the game. The Cubs may have ruined my evening yesterday, but that’s a small price to pay for a season that’s a hell of a lot better than the five that came before it.
So, I keep reminding myself: watching the Cubs compete for a playoff spot is what I wanted for this season. Competing for a playoff spot means exciting stretches and maddening stretches. And when a game like yesterday’s happens, and I forcibly choke back the childish screams of rage pushing to escape my throat (or, sometimes, fail to choke them back), I have to remember that what’s really happening is I’m loving it all. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right then.
The highs and lows. The joy and rage. Some meaning at the end of it. That’s why we watch.
And now you’ll excuse me if I take a few moments to hug my kids, and thank my wife for accepting and understanding the blubbering pile of fandom she married.