::Literate Blather::
Monday, February 04, 2008
Misplaced Passion: The Day After
Tears were flooding the crooked streets of Boston yesterday. “I'm totally shocked. I'm completely shocked. I have no words,” a young man wailed to the Boston Globe. Other people experienced emotional breakdowns in taverns and barrooms and had to be consoled by friends.

In New York City, however, euphoria whipped through the streets like a hurricane wind. Gleeful citizens hugged and cheered. There was an extra bounce in their step. A columnist for the New York Daily News called it one of the biggest stories of the year.

What happened?

The New York Giants football team defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

That’s all. Two cities are in an uproar over a game – a game in which the fans don’t play or participate in (other than spectators) and the result of which has no concrete affect on their everyday lives. Do we really get excited by Giants Quarterback Eli Manning winning the MVP trophy and a new car? Isn’t he already a multi-millionaire?

“Fans become passionate about their team and try to find personal satisfaction in their team's wins,” Allyce Najimy, senior associate director at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University in Boston, told National Geographic.

It is amazing how we let the real be overtaken by the imagined. Being a fan of a baseball or football team is generally an accident of geography (or family heritage). Fans have no financial stake in the teams and in an age of free agency don’t have long to identify with players who are mercenaries in every sense of the word. Local fans end up rooting for laundry as players switch alliances multiple times through their careers.

“Our sports heroes are our warriors,” Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology at Arizona State, said about sports fans in the New York Times. “This is not some light diversion to be enjoyed for its inherent grace and harmony. The self is centrally involved in the outcome of the event. Whoever you root for represents you.”

A scary thought, but this is what happened after the favored Patriots unexpectedly fell to the Giants. Fans from Boston took an enormous hit to their own self worth and their regional pride. In New York, fans are ecstatic as if they – not quarterback Eli Manning – somehow moved the New York Giants down the field and scored the winning touchdown.

As an avid sports fan (and die-hard Patriots loyalist), I experienced this disappointment first hand. I went through all the emotional anguish by last night’s Super Bowl loss – the fist-gripped stomach, the dizziness, and the disbelief.

And afterwards, as I reflected on the silliness of it, I wondered why I couldn’t be so passionate about real things in my life. Voting for the right candidate can actually make a difference in my life. Getting involved in my local schools can show real benefits. Spending more time with my parents and my wife and daughters. I know logically that the Patriots winning the Super Bowl will not make my life better or change it in anyway.

Why get so emotional (or concerned) about something I can't control the outcome of? I’m not involved in the game – I’m merely a passive observer. So why get worked up about the pretend rather than the real?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our unbridled passion for watching sports on television was duplicated in other areas of our lives? Think of the possibilities:

  • Polling stations across the country would run out ballots as voters crowded into schools, town halls, and municipal buildings to cast their votes for the next president of the United States
  • Protesters would fill the streets to vocalize their discontent with the war in Iraq
  • National Guard headquarters would be packed with citizens as soldiers returning from months of grueling warfare overseas were greeted with ticker tape and celebratory champagne
  • Fed up with mediocre education, parents flock to school committee meetings to demand accountability from school administrators and push for new programs and better funding
  • Inner city and rural poor ban together to protest the band-aid programs to battle poverty and demand real action to eliminate penury in the United States.

I know I'm right, but then again I know this is all bullshit and I’m just trying to rationalize it away because the goddamn Patriots fucking choked on a chicken bone.

Read something real funny: our interview with the Ironic Times

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Blogger Dave Zeltserman said...

I went through that same rationalization--must be one of the grief steps we go through in sports. I think the reason we get so emotionally involved in this stuff is partly all the time we invest during a season watching these games and reading about them and partly it becomes a communal experience--we're rooting with our friends, co-workers and neighbors all for the same cause. Yesterday's game was particularly hard because it was built up to be history--seeing something done that we were told would never be done. In the end the pressure got to the Pats--either the pressure of making history or all the Spygate stuff dug out at the last minute. In anycase, instead of being labeled the greatest team of all-time, we're now stuck with the Patsies of old--the greatest joke of all time.

Blogger GFS3 said...
Thanks Dave. Now I want to kill myself.

But I think you're right. The Pats played "not to lose" rather than to win. They were tight. The pressure -- the incredible weight -- of 19-0 cracked their backs.

Blogger SQT said...
That game broke my heart, no way around it. Was it life-altering, heck no! But still. I wanted the Pats to win.

Blogger Viking said...
I blame the O-line.

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