Caring A Lot About Sports: Terrible Thing To Do?
I am not a member of this year’s Chicago Blackhawks team, hard as that may be for many (or all?) of you to believe. Honestly, I can count on two hands my attempts at ice skating. My attempts didn’t go well! Still, here I am, obsessing about the Hawks and their wins and losses, and wishing that I could be less obsessive. As I gird myself for the respective possibilities of a game 4 win or loss, I can’t help but dig a little deeper into my experience as a sports fan and how weird that experience is — when you do dig a little deeper and really think about it.
I could get into details of the Hawks and their playoff history under Coach Quenneville:
Yes, the Hawks are down 2–1 in a tightly contested Stanley Cup Final series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’ve been down 2–1 in postseasons before. They were down 2–1 (and 3–2) to Anaheim in the Western Conference Final. They were down 2–1 to the Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. They were down 3–1 to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013 Semi-Conference Finals. They were tied 2–2 with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. I know with the Blackhawks a series isn’t over until it’s over. That’s not what I’m talking about. That is irrelevant here.
And not because those numbers are irrelevant to the Blackhawks and their potential to win or lose this series. No, irrelevant because I shouldn’t care about what happens, regardless. I should be able to keep things in proportion. Not much will change for me regardless of the Hawks winning or losing, save the fleeting vicarious pride I’ve taken in their previous playoff successes.
I’m talking about the fact that, even if the Hawks don’t pull out another comeback in a long line of comebacks, I need to be ok. I’m talking about the fact that, for some reason, I care about this team in a deeply personal way, for reasons that are largely inexplicable to me. Again, the only connection I have to the Hawks is a general, shared geography — which is true of most people who care about a professional sports team, if there’s even that tenuous connection. Yet my mood still seems to ebb and flow this time of year by their successes and failures, neither of which I have any control over. You did not want to know me in the immediate aftermath of the Hawks’ painful game seven loss to the LA Kings in last year’s playoffs. It was ugly. My energy was frenetic.
So what the hell? Why invest yourself so completely in something that you have so little control over and such a high probability of being disappointed by? I honestly don’t know. I imagine it has something to do with all sorts of cultural norms, for instance the idea that — at least traditionally — one space it was ok for men to exhibit their emotions was through the trials and tribulations of athletic competition (whether as participant or spectator) and particularly the proxy of a favorite team (and men don’t think the patriarchy hurts them, too, ha! hahaha! HA!).
I’m still puzzling through the ways getting so invested in a sports team makes me feel, trying to get a grip on it, and reminding myself that the things that really matter have nothing to do with my beloved Blackhawks, no matter how much I belove them. Stay tuned. I’ll try not to let myself get too morose in the coming games, no matter their outcomes.
Go Hawks! (And go me not being crazy in my fandom!)