The Passion of the Sports Fan

The 2016 MLB regular season ends in less than 2 weeks.  But the previous 2 weeks has been a roller coaster for San Francisco Giants fans.  A winning streak would follow a losing streak, some easy victories would precede a few heart-breaking losses.  And the last 2 nights have been especially emotional for myself and the rest of the hardcore Giants community.

Monday night was a 2-1 Giants loss to their primary rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  This loss was exceptionally traumatic (at least, for the Giants fans) because the Dodgers scored their 2 runs in the 9th inning, clutching victory from the jaws of defeat.  This contest (in Los Angeles) also featured a confrontation between Giants fan favorite Madison Bumgarner and the controversial Dodger player Yasiel Puig.  While no punches were thrown, this was just another chapter in the growing book of animosity between these two athletes.

The following night was a 2-0 Giants win against the same Dodgers.  Prior to the game, Puig sent an autographed shirt to Bumgarner (either to make light of the incident or to incite him further).  Somehow, the Giants were able to hold onto a late-inning lead despite an utter lack of confidence from the manager and the fans (based on some terrible performances over the last 2 months).

Normally, I wouldn’t write about the Giants, but this has created a problem:  I haven’t slept much the last 2 nights, thinking about this team.  Based on my Twitter feed, several other Giants fans are probably in the same boat.  We are upset because our expectations are for this team to win the World Series.  But if the Giants don’t get their act together, they won’t even make the playoffs, breaking their Even Year Streak.

Why do we care so much?  I care because sports is a great distraction from the agonies of real life.  Sports are the greatest form of reality television, completely unscripted, full of drama and tons of twists and turns (both during an individual contest and throughout the season).  I also have a nice community of Giants fans that I follow on Twitter, some I know in real life, most that I only interact with virtually.  These aren’t your ordinary game watchers.  We obsess over the smallest details, complain about the opposing team and the umpires, and like and re-tweet each other’s smart and witty remarks!  I especially do this when I attend games at AT&T Park, where I’m not distracted by my computer or video games or even my cats.

The craziest part is how my mood is affected by the outcome of one a game.  Sports fans can definitely relate, but this effect is difficult to explain to those who don’t enjoy sports.  When my team wins, I’m on top of the world.  I will read all the articles online about the latest victory, watch replays of the best plays (maybe even entire games), perhaps even do a little (virtual) trash talking with fans of our rivals.

But when my team loses, it’s a complete 180.  I avoid watching any game highlights, adjust my car radio away from the sports stations, and humbly accept the insults from opposing fans.  Baseball is a little easier than the other sports to deal with defeat, as there is usually a game the next day (or at worst, 2 days later).  Basketball games can be spaced 3-4 days apart, and football 1-2 weeks.

In the past, my wife (who is also a passionate Giants fan) & I would be unintentionally be mean to each other after a loss.  We weren’t mad at each other, but at our team for not performing well.  But we took our feelings out on each other.  Eventually, we came up with this motto:

“No matter what happens at the Giants game, we love each other.”

Yes, this is super cheesy.  But the motto keeps us grounded, reminding us that our marriage is more important that sports.  (I can only speak for us.  But I can’t speak for all ravenous sports fans!).

After one really troubling loss a week ago (one which I attended the game live in San Francisco), I couldn’t go home right away.  After exiting the ballpark, my wife & I didn’t immediately walk to our car; instead, we took a detour to one of our favorite restaurants.  I abruptly walked past the stunned hostess (this particular establishment is a fine-dining destination and does not cater to the sports fan) and walked straight to the bar upstairs to order cocktails and an appetizer.  (Don’t worry; we only had 1 drink each!)  Not until I had calmed down from my libation, talking out my feelings from the evening’s game, was I ready to drive home.

Hence, sleep is tough to come by towards the end of the season.  The Giants are on the verge of the playoffs (as of this moment), but there are no guarantees.  I have tickets to 2 remaining regular season games, so I hope I can bring good luck to the team.  Otherwise, my seat at the bar will be waiting!

My hope is that the Giants will right the ship, eek into the playoffs, and pull out their Even Year magic to win their 4th World Series in 7 years.  Is it likely?  Probably not.  But logic isn’t a trademark of the passionate sports fan.  We dream for the championship parade at the end of the season.  It’s been 2 years; I’m ready for another one!


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