Tom Trudeau ’09: Remind me: why do we care, again?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Really quick, what time is the Sox game on Wednesday?

During the Yankees run of six World Series births and four wins in eight seasons, I marveled at the disdain other baseball fans had for the Bombers. I sometimes wondered if Red Sox fans actually hated the Yankees more than they loved the Sox. I felt bad for them, until I became one of them. Not a Yankee hater, of course, but certainly a hater in general.

I’d like to think I’ve matured since my days of anti-Boston outbursts as a high school student, impulsively chanting “19-18” on the streets of Boston to complete strangers wearing New England sports hats. Maybe I have, but as a sports fan, I’ve regressed. I spend more time rooting against USC football, Duke basketball, the Patriots, Celtics and Sox than I ever did in high school. I don’t know why I’m compelled to tell 5-year-olds wearing Red Sox hats that they’re making a lifelong mistake, but I often do. My anti-Boston outbursts have sadly returned (18-1*, anyone?), although I have that under more control than I did in my younger days.

So why do I care about sports to the point that I’m legitimately upset when teams that I don’t even root for succeed? Or rather, why do we care so much? I know for a fact that I’m not the only one. In fact, I have proof. In addition to a life of anti-Yankee fan anecdotes (I was refused mail my first day at Brown because of my Yankee hat. Not “Ha ha, just kidding” but, “Seriously, you’re not getting your mail.”) I also received a couple dozen text messages and e-mails ranging from happy to joyful within ten minutes of Jed Lowrie grounding out to end the Sox’ repeat bid on Sunday night. For example, “Is my new Facebook status obnoxious enough? I want to try to stick the knife all the way through the heart and then twist it and stab it from the other side.” And if you think this potentially irrational passion for (technically) meaningless games is confined to men, then you’ll be surprised to know that last gem was from a woman.

I’ve asked around and tried to read up on this very question as much as I can, and it’s been very difficult to come up with a consensus. If you read on the Internet about people trying to explain why they love sports, they’ll no doubt reference the bonding experience that comes with watching a game with your family, friends, or even strangers. But if we love sports just to be in a group, then how do you explain the army of sports fans like myself that usually watch and read about sports alone? Some people reference the great respect they have for the athletes they are watching. Indeed, most sports fans at some point have played the game(s) they love (although I question whether NHL fans have ever laced up the skates), so we know and respect just how difficult it is to be that good at something. But respect seems like a questionable explanation when some of the most egotistical, selfish, idiotic and despicable people in the public eye are professional athletes. Besides, plenty of people are horrible painters and respect talented artists, but you don’t see tens of millions of people flocking to The Metropolitan Museum of Art every Sunday.

Ross Trudeau ’06 offered this explanation (he’s an English major, so don’t feel bad if you don’t know some of the big words or small, difficult words): “Of course I’m aware of the inherent contradiction that baseball represents in my life. It’s frivolous entertainment. And yet it rules my emotions on a day-to-day basis to a degree that makes girlfriends scratch their heads (at best). I think about it the way I think about religion. I’m an atheist, and to this day haven’t been able to satisfactorily answer the obvious questions about what my purpose is, or what the meaning of life is. It’s hard to square a logical answer to that question with a belief that we’re here ostensibly by accident. And yet I continue to work hard for little money at an inner city public school. In both cases we partition our beliefs extremely well. Our convictions are highly insular in this way.”

Personally, I like what my friend from Toledo, Ohio, said to me this past weekend: “It doesn’t matter if it’s technically pointless. Life’s not fun if you don’t care.”

And it’s a lot more fun when the Sox suck, Pats suck and Celtics (in that way that people used to say the Yankees sucked when they clearly didn’t suck) suck.Tom Trudeau ’09 wants Boston fans to keep in mind that at least they won the Superbowl … oh wait.

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