Friday, April 22, 2011

My Sports Moment of Clarity

The moment of clarity happened on the night of June 18, 2006.  The Dallas Mavericks had just lost Game 5 of the NBA Fianls 101-100 in Overtime.  The loss dropped them to a 3-games-to-2 deficit after winning the first 2 games in Dallas.  The loss in Game 5 featured ill-timed missed free throws by Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, and what Dallas fans felt was a Secret Service escort for Dwyane Wade, who was not allowed to be touched. 

When the game was over, I was angry.  I was mad at the Mavericks for blowing the opportunity to win the series in Miami.  I was angry at Dirk and Josh for missing the free throws.  I was angry at the NBA for suspending Jerry Stackhouse for Game 5 for what was nothing more than a hard foul on Shaquille O'Neal.  And I was angry at Bennett Salvatore for helping decide the outcome of the game.

My wife was already asleep and even though this was just 5 years ago, civilization had not yet fully moved towards constant connection via text, Twitter, and Facebook.  I had no way to vent my anger.  So I just went to bed.  And I stewed.  My heart was racing, I couldn't sleep, and all I could think about were those $#%@ MISSED FREE THROWS!  That's when the moment of clarity hit.  I then became angry at myself for allowing all of these external factors that I had no control over consume my emotions so much that I couldn't sleep.  Why did I allow that to happen? 

When I considered that question I realized I didn't have an answer.  As great of a guy as Dirk seems to be, if he and I shared an elevator he wouldn't know me from Adam.  None of the Dallas players that I rooted for were even from Dallas.  They wore a shirt during games that had D-A-L-L-A-S stitched on the front, and since Dallas is the closest big city to where I grew up, I wanted them to win.  And I wanted them to win so badly, I was allowing losses to raise my blood pressure?

It was right then that I had had enough.  Yes I would still root hard for the teams I liked, but I wouldn't let losses get me down.  The only problem?  Would this outlook keep me from enjoying sports the same way that I used to?  You see, when we get down to it, as sports fans we identify ourselves in our teams' defeats as much as in our teams' success.  It's a matter of pride. 

"Yeah, the Rangers never win, but I've been with them through the bad years.  I know what it's like to be a real fan."

What if I lost so much pride in my losing teams that I not only started to stop caring as much about them, what if I stopped caring at all?  Sports has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Would I stop watching Sportscenter?  Would MLB's Opening Day stop being a big deal?  Would I find anything to fill the void?

The result has been somewhere in the middle.  And it started immediately.  Two days after Game 5, I was at a meaningless Rangers game during Game 6 of the NBA Finals.  I got home in time to watch the 4th quarter of Miami's 4th win.  I was disappointed, but I went to bed and slept comfortably. 

When the Rangers lost the World Series last year, I wished the result had been different, but I realized that this was a team that overcame their manager's cocaine admission, the team's bankruptcy, and having Scott Feldman and Rich Harden as their Opening Day #1 and #2 starter.

When I used to suffer through a weekend full of chokes by the Aggies and Cowboys, it would bum me out until about Thursday.  Now, I'll just go throw baseballs to my son in the backyard.  I get more enjoyment out of that than an Aggies win anyway. 

The reason that June 18, 2006 came to mind was that those old emotions stirred up again last night after the Mavericks lost Game 3 of the first round to the Portland Trailblazers.  It was a winnable game that featured way too much J.J. Barea and too many #%$@^ missed free throws.  I realized that the blood pressure was starting to rise.  But this time I was able to calm myself down and get some sleep.  After all, Barea seems like a good dude.  He just sucked last night, that's all. 

So while I still care (a lot) about my teams, I don't care as much.  But I've determined that's ok.  Because even though the team with D-A-L-L-A-S stitched in the front of their jersey lost last night, I'm still sitting next to my 3-year old son who couldn't care less about the Mavericks.  And hopefully as he gets older I can teach him that while it is a lot of fun to root for sports and our favorite teams, you can't let it get control of you. 

Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go take on that 3-year old in a game of Washers.


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