“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 dictionary.com, 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.