Thursday, October 30, 2014

Confessions of a Fair Weather Fan

We won!!!! As that high fly ball descended so sweetly into Pablo Sandoval’s glove, I erupted with the hundred of thousands other Giants fans into the thrilling explosion of victory. We did it!!! 2010, 2012, 2014— World Series Champions!

But some pronoun clarification is in order. Any of the players might say, “What do you mean by ‘we?’ I didn’t see you out in the field. All you did was click the remote or walk to the neighborhood bar and order a beer.” Good point! Why should I take any credit it for it?

But the human imagination is so constructed that I— and my fellow fans— put myself into that game and felt the agony and ecstasy of every one of those thousands of pitches spread over the 20 plus fair-weather-fan games that I sat down to watch. I not only entered the body of each player, but I also became the ball itself, hurtling toward the plate seeking the sweet thud of the catcher’s mitt and the umpire’s “Striiiiiiike!” or searching for the crack of the bat and the ball finding the hole in the infield. It was exhilarating and it was exhausting. It was art, the “willing suspension of disbelief” that I was just watching some guys running around in a field and who cares? The deeper I allowed myself to enter the game, to commit my nervous system to each moment, the higher the exultation and the deeper the disappointment came. That’s the life of the sports fan and the reason why otherwise reasonable human beings would spend $7,000 for a World Series seat.

Truth be told, I watched the first six innings alone in my house and then went to a meeting with four other men and watched the gratifying finale. But not wholly gratifying without being at Yancey’s Bar with hundreds of others or down in the Civic Center with thousands. And five minutes later, we were discussing propositions for the upcoming elections while fireworks exploded outside. I should have just left and joined the throngs, it felt a little like sex without orgasm, missing the sensation of being a tiny molecule in the collective uproar.

These are moments that don’t come often and deserve large groups for company. Like Obama’s two election victories or the other two Giant’s victories or other events when hopes and dreams throw themselves into the stream of time and people work and pray for a defined moment of election returns or the end of the 9th inning. I get it. It’s an investment that gives big returns when the dream comes true, big let-downs when it doesn’t and so you risk your heart knowing either can happen rather than blow it off with an apathetic, “Doesn’t affect me one way or another.” Of course, in the long run, it doesn't. But life is just a bit more exciting when you commit yourself as if it does.

But it is exhausting. Having invested some 80 plus hours as a sports fan, I’m more than ready to get back to life’s more normal pace and reclaim my time. It’s fun feeling like a winner vicariously through the efforts of others— and I did grow to admire Madison Bumgarner’s remarkable cool, Pablo Sandoval’s thrilling last game, Hunter Pence’s Wild-Man quality and more— but now it’s time to remind us all to be our own heroes in whatever field we play. In the daily round, there are no waving orange scarves thunderously cheering as we correct homework assignments or weed the garden or organize a well-run meeting. It’s just meeting the details of the dream that shapes our life with all the qualities of a major league ballplayer in the World Series. In my field of teaching, there are the endless thrilling little victories and painful defeats and when we’re in the zone and teach some remarkable classes, no ticker-tape parade or million dollar contract await us. There’s the World Series and then there’s life and there’s room for both. On with the game!

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