Sports Depression

“Why do I care so much,” my friend asked no one in particular?  He uttered this as the final moments of the NFC Championship game ticked away. The score read Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 and the heavily favored Philadelphia Eagles 10. This was far from the only excruciating loss that Philadelphia sports fans have suffered through.  While other cities have felt disappointment from their sports teams, it feels as if we have gone through more. Hence, the term sports depression (I am not sure if I made it up. If so, please feel free to quote me.) is particularly appropriate for my Philadelphia sports brethren.

Did you know fan is short for fanatic?  According to, the definition of fanatic is a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.  While the site does not note sports as one of the examples, I certainly would. Sports fans are certainly enthused when it comes to their teams.  Do you remember the Seinfeld episode when Putty paints his face red and green in a show of support for his team, the New Jersey Devils? His screaming of the word devil nearly scares a priest to death.  Funny episode, by the way. However, the face painting does not surprise me. We sports fans can be crazy.

The Phillies signing of Cliff Lee, to join their other three highly skilled pitchers, during the off season was the biggest baseball story of the time. Everyone was convinced that this made the Phillies the team to beat, and the analysts and prognosticators made them the odds on favorite.  They had a great regular season and set the team record for wins. Now after one round of the playoffs, it’s over. They lost a best of five series to the Cardinals. On top of that, you have the Eagles whose dream team is causing nightmares for anyone who roots for them.  So, do you blame me for being sports depressed?

I have gone through this before. One of the first times was when the Flyers lost to the Oilers in the 1987 Stanley Cup. Now, it was hardly a surprise as the Oilers were heavy favorites. However, the Flyers were gritty and talented as well. They came back from three games to one and took a 1-0 lead before losing game seven, 3-1 with the last goal being an empty net. I watched the game with a couple of friends, and I think if they had not been there, I may have cried.  I had watched nearly every game that season, had attended some games, and wore my Ron Sutter jersey throughout the season. I remember telling people that this loss was the saddest day of my childhood other than when I had a family member pass.  A couple of years ago after a particularly bad stretch of teams losing, I actually swore off sports. I stopped listening to sports radio, reading the sports page, and following the results. I went cold turkey. I did! Well, some time later, I started listening to sports talk radio but it was only a little bit, or so I told myself. I checked the scores, but I told myself I didn’t care. One thing led to another, and I came nearly all the way back. 

Now as I’ve gotten older, sports are less a priority in my life. I rarely have time to watch a full game, only get to attend a game once a year, listen to sports talk radio sporadically (depending on the time of the year), and spend less time studying the sports page. I have a full life, damn it!  Yet, I still care. I know there will be a new champion next year, I know in the scheme of things it is meaningless, and I know they don’t care about me. I know all this. I get it. I am a rational being. I’m not crazy, well except when it comes to sports. I am a fanatic you know.


“I have really sad news,” my wife said to me over the phone as I was in the middle of my dinner. She went on to tell me about the passing of our brother-in-law’s brother.  I buzzed her with questions, “Was he sick? You never said he was sick! What happened?“  She had no answers.

My friends and I are at an age when it is not, unfortunately, uncommon to be losing parents. While this is sad and hurtful, it is understandable. The older generation passes and the next generation moves on.  However, to hear of someone passing in our generation or G-d forbid the next one is leaves one shaking his head wondering why is this happening. 

I did not know him, Bruce and had only met him a few times over the nearly 11 years or so that I have known my wife.  We did not have much reason to come in contact.  However, I did know about snippets of his life: served in the Israeli Army, loved knaidelach (you try spelling a Yiddish word), worked in emergency services.  There is something else I know: he leaves behind two children, ages 7 & 9 and his own parents are alive and well.   How many times has it been said, “There is nothing worse than having your children pass before you.”  These good people are experiencing that feeling and it will be with them for the rest of their lives.

Shortly after my wife called me and I digested the news, I called my brother-in-law.  I had to. I wanted to. There was agony in his voice. He was writing the eulogy to be delivered at his little brother’s funeral the next day.  Upon returning home from work the next day, my wife described the tears our nieces and nephews shed as they saw their uncle being buried.  This terrible phone call and scene were made even more difficult because I did not share the personal sense of loss that loved ones of mine shared.   My sadness is for them. I am outside the circle.  However, rather than wanting to join them, my concern is how do I perform my role as comforter.  I’ll visit with them, listen to some stories, look at pictures, or just sit with them.  I don’t know if this will help them release some of the grief, but I know that knowing someone cares and wants to share your grief can be comforting and meaningful.

Stir Crazy

We had to get outside today. My family and I had spent much of the last few days indoors. Our only time outside was walking from our home to the synagogue and vice versa.  Bad weather rubbed out any opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. So, today with the weather sunny and in the 60’s, it seemed like a sign.  After all, the kids had to be a bit stir crazy – didn’t they?

My wife and I decided on hiking.  After some research, my wife found a hiking spot that also had a playground that sounded nice and was convenient.   With the plan set, I went upstairs and told the children to get ready. The television went off after only one command – a sign that they were anxious to go.  So, we were off.

After a slight mix up (the park was simply not where the Mapquest directions said it was. This was not a sign to get a GPS.  It really wasn’t our fault. Really.) locating the park, we got there.  It was not like I had pictured.  Rolling hills, leafy trees, and quiet shaded areas – no, no, and no. The only hiking area was a paved path around a lake with a fountain in the center.  Well, no need to be a spoilsport. The boys were happy to be there – or at least out of the car and that was why we came in the first place. They scampered on to the path and quickly found the playground area ¾ of the way around the circle. I found a bench, and it seemed we were on our way to a lengthy pleasant afternoon.

After taking turns pushing the boys in the swings – will they ever be content to just pump, I was anxious to do some more walking.   After some convincing, the boys acquiesced till we passed a tire swing. They pleaded, “Please push us. Come on!”  They squealed in delight as the tire rotated rapidly leaving me feeling a bit sick just watching. After fifteen minutes, the boys were finally ready to get off the tire.  However, my older boy went right to the bench and laid face down complaining that he felt sick and the younger boy drunkenly walked off unable to stay in a straight line while repeating, “My tummy hurts.” 

After one more circle around the lake, we got back in the car. A lengthy stay – not quite – as we were there for barely an hour.  It was a quiet car ride home as both boys fell asleep quickly. Maybe, I was  more stir crazy than them .