by Matt Rowan
Me last Sunday (a living room like any other, but with an overlarge man-child pulling his hair and yelling at his television):
The game looks over, for the most part. It’s over more from the standpoint that Jay Cutler — the much maligned and at times apoplectic but undoubtedly talented Bears’ QB — is completely off the rails. I read on Facebook someone mentioning the “return of 2011 Jay Cutler,” which for at least this game, seems fair. I’m no good when it comes to losing. I want to lash out. I pick fights on Facebook with my Packers fan relatives. Satisfaction is unreachable.
What is it about sports that appeals to this base part of our brain? I’m sure there are studies. I’m sure people have links they could share that would explain to me what’s up. What’s going on, lizard brain? Why you so reactionary? Why you feel the need to post status updates like the following:
I think there were maybe ten updates like this one on Sunday, all told. Some ludicrous number. As I say, when watching my team lose I want to lash out like a wounded animal. Less logical than a professional athlete whose livelihood and entire self-image are essentially defined by his or her successes in a given sport and, perhaps, for a given team, is the logic of a fan. Logic is the wrong word, though. Instead it’s that we’re ruled by our passions. Sports are when I’m at my most stupid (politics are when I’m at my second most stupid).
It’s the lousy inflaming of our passions the spectacle of sports evoke, the “Two Minutes Hate” when we abandon being a normal, likeable human for the primitive, obnoxious (and occasionally dangerous) mob mentality. It’s easy to see in these moments how fascism works, more or less. How easy it is to really dig in and manipulate the people to worship the spectacle of something. I don’t want this to sound like a screed against sports. I think they do a lot of good, but I’ve always been a terrible spectator (taking the sports spectacles way too personally), and I suspect there are others out there like me.
Feel free to share your stories. It struck me particularly keenly that I was way too invested in my Chicago sports fandom when I’d go on expletive-laced rants and ravings after every White Sox loss in 2006 (they played 162 games), a season in which they came just shy of returning to the postseason to defend their title. That was the year Detroit began its renewed competency at baseball, losing to an 83-win St. Louis Cardinals team in the World Series. Again, Detroit played the sports spoiler in my life as a Chicago fan and, again, Detroit’s sports happiness was spoiled. Or something, I’m not sure.
It’s funny how we all have our nemeses, sports wise. Mine tend to come from New York / New England. But I’m no fan of teams from the Midwest, either. I have my own list of “greatest rivals” — which in some ways mirrors Chicago teams’ established rivalries and in some ways have come about from my own dislike of certain players and / or franchises (interestingly, these latter personal assemblages often evolves into established rivalries, because we sports fans tend to be a hive-minded people). They are as follows: The White Sox v. Twins and Indians and Cubs and Red Sox and Yankees, The Bulls v. Heat and Celtics, The Blackhawks v. Canucks and Redwings and Bruins and Predators, The Bears v. Packers and Lions and Patriots. If you’re interested in this sort of thing you might have noticed some omissions, say Knicks or Pacers or Colts. Weirdly, I’ve always sort of been a fan of the Colts and Pacers. It goes against logic, but I really got into three-point shooting as a kid and Reggie Miller was the king. I’ve always been a Peyton Manning fan (HE WAS FUNNY ON SNL) and the Knicks have just started to be competitive again, so we’ll see what happens this year now that Rose is back. Things could be rekindled. YOU HEAR ME, SAL PANE? (Side note: there’s ONE Canadian team up there, because go to hell Roberto Luongo and the Brothers Sedin.)
The point is, this is all a bunch of capricious bs. Who cares? Why have I spent time even bothering to cultivate these imagined enemies who’ve done nothing wrong but be very competitive and play against the team I root for? So is my point. So is this cognitive dissonance I live with (might think of it more as brief moments of barbarism amid general lucidity and non-asshat-ery.)
Let the meltdowns continue!