Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The unbearable heaviness of fandom

With specific reference in this case to the Boston Red Sox. Baseball has an aesthetic quality. Just as chess masters can see elegance in a position that tells them it is strong even without close analysis, connoisseurs of baseball can perceive elegance in a team's play that speaks to its prospects. The analogy isn't perfect because there is a random element in baseball, so you need to look at several games before that spiritual sensibility can emerge. We can now proclaim that the Red Sox are a putrid, stinking, excrescence. Yesterday, while Phil Humber was completing the 21st perfect game in major league history on the west coast, the Sox were blowing a 9-0 lead, in Fenway Park, to the New York Yankees, in the nationally televised game of the week. This was just the latest in an unrelieved series of atrocious debacles dating back to the last month of last season. The players have no respect for new manager Bobby Valentine, whose mind is on vacation while his mouth is working overtime at his regular radio show, in New York City, with the New York Yankees play-by-play man. Really. Oh yeah, Valentine, in addition to being manager of the Boston Red Sox and a radio commentator for Yankees fans, is Director of Public Safety for the City of Stamford, Connecticut. Truly. But here's the thing about fandom. The fans have nothing to do with anything that happens. They wear lucky shirts or turn their hats around or leave the room when there's a critical moment on TV because they think they're bad luck or whatever, but really folks, it's not about you. At all. The emotional investment of sports fans in the fate of their team is difficult to explain. Red Sox fans, who are nearly suicidal right now, were euphoric a few years back, but their lives have actually been unaffected by the team's fate. I'm old enough now to have figured this out. (I didn't drop that pass, Wes Welker did. Not my problem.) But many people never do. It's a mystery.


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