Friday, January 25, 2013

Sports Fandom

It's not secret that I love sports. Quite a bit.  Both playing and watching. (I'm a lot better at watching, though.) It's even been documented on national TV:

(Images courtesy of Scotty McKell and Regan Fackrell)

My fandom in sports is wide and varied. In baseball it's all about the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees. In the NBA it's the Jazz and nothing but (there is little on TV that makes my heart hurt more than the Gatorade commercial of Jordan's flu game. I hate it. So much). I'll admit that I'm not the biggest fan of the NFL, but I often play fantasy football, and like most Mormon kids that were raised in the 90s there's a special place in my heart for the 49ers. But while I love all sports and specifically the teams mentioned, BYU sports teams will always have first place in my heart. This is evidenced by the fact that I probably blog about BYU sports more than any other topic. For proof of this see Delusions of Stardom, Round 2, Day or Night; Rain or Snow, The Holy War, Ruminations on the Brandon Davies Debacle, and On Last Night's Game. And those are just the ones that I've posted. A recurrent theme throughout these posts is my tendency to attach my emotional well-being to my teams' performance and my struggle to not allow such attachment. (Kenneth Burke calls this behavior "identification by inaccuracy" but that's beside the point.) Sometimes I feel like I'm on top of the problem and sometimes I'm definitely not.

This brings us to last night.

See last night BYU played Gonzaga in basketball. Gonzaga is currently ranked #10 in the nation and are a very good team. BYU is a solid team, but, and it kills me to write this, not spectacular. They beat the teams they're supposed to and lose to the teams their supposed to. I know this. I get it. It's not like I'm deluded into thinking that we have the best team in the history of ever. Yes, I imagine I do have the blue goggles on to a fair degree, but that doesn't mean I can't or won't see reality. Now, with that in mind, let me tell you that during the first half of the game last night I was angrier and more upset than I've been in a long time. Naturally I was hoping for a win, but I would have settled for, and frankly was expecting, a competitive loss. But during the last 7-8 minutes of the first half BYU just fell apart. It was ugly, and I was mad. The worst part was I didn't even know what I was mad at. I wasn't really mad at the team, because they were clearly doing all they could. I wasn't mad at the coaches, because I felt like they were making the right calls and shots just weren't falling. I wasn't mad at the refs because they weren't really missing that many calls. And I wasn't mad at Gonzaga for being good, because that's just ridiculous. See I knew that my anger was unjustified and unfounded, and that just made me madder.

--Real quick I need to qualify what I mean when I say I'm mad. When I say I was mad, what I really mean is that I was stressed and frustrated. When that happens I express these feelings by loudly saying things like "I'm so angry" and "This is so frustrating." When it gets really bad I pull things out of my pockets and throw them on the ground. If applicable, I might take off an article of clothing and with exaggerated drama throw it onto the nearest chair or couch. That's really the extent of it. Nothing too crazy or scary or anything like that.--

As the first half ended, I knew I needed to cool off. So I grabbed my coat and walked out the door. Ben and Melinda and Smed, with whom I was watching the game, looked at me kinda funny as I left, but I didn't care. I walked out into the icy, smoggy air and headed towards campus. As I walked, the most excruciating plays from the first half replayed in my mind and rather than calming down I was getting more frustrated. I walked through the grounds surrounding the Smith Fieldhouse and the RB - my old stomping grounds from my time on the grounds crew - and eventually ended up in a gym in the RB with a basketball in my hands and a hoop in front of me. I shot around for a couple minutes, honestly amazed at how often I was making it, until a dude came in and told me I had to leave. I looked blankly at the dude, said, "K," turned back to the basket and shot once more (I missed badly), and walked away without another word. I felt kinda bad for being a jerk, but I was still too upset to really care too much.

Usually physical activity is enough for me to get my mind right, but last night it just wasn't doing it. I decided this would require something more...transcendent. So I went up to the second floor of the RB, pulled out my iPod and opened up my Gospel Library app. Mosiah 4 was queued up from the last time I'd read the scriptures on my iPod, so rather than searching out a set of scriptures calculated to soothe my soul, I just read from there.

It may sound kinda corny, but within moments of starting to read I felt better. I calmed down, and I was able to put what was happening with the game into proper perspective. As I was reading and recognizing that I was feeling better, I started to worry that it was just a temporary fix and that as soon as I got back to Smed's apartment to watch the rest of the game (of course I was going to watch the rest of the game; how could you even question that?), all that anxiety would just come back. Not long after worrying about that, I read verse 13:

"And ye will not have mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due." (emphasis added)

As I read that I realized that the last part about rendering to every man according to that which is his due was the key. My problem was that I was focusing on everything that was going wrong (in my mind) with the game, and in doing so I wasn't allowing myself to recognize how good Gonzaga really is. I wasn't rendering to them the respect and admiration that was their due. As I thought about that for a little bit, I realized that while I still think his face looks like it was the model for the artists of Easter Island, Kelly Olynyk is a great player. Elias Harris is no slouch himself. John Stockton's kid looks like a little weasel, and something about him kinda bugs me, but again, he's a good player. That doesn't mean I like Gonzaga as a fan. I don't. It doesn't mean I didn't still want BYU to win. I did. And it doesn't mean I won't cheer loudly against Gonzaga when they come to Provo. I will. It just means that I was able to respectfully acknowledge their skills and effort and not get offended by it.

Having calmed down and had my mind set right, I went back to Smed's and was able watch the rest of the game more calmly. I still hoped and was pulling for a win, and I was still disappointed with the 20 point loss, but I feel like I made some major strides.

Here's hoping this time they stick.