For most of my life, I have been an avid sports fan. I have followed my favorite sports teams with a passion that at times has deviated into obsession.
But no more. After this past week, I have decided I am no longer going to care about sports.
That may be an overstatement. I am still going to follow my teams and I will root for them to win. But I am no longer making a strong emotional investment in the outcome. I’ve suffered too much from doing that.
How did it come to this?
Most of the damage was done last Sunday when I woke up thinking “This could be the greatest sports day of my life.”
Both of my kickball teams had their playoffs that day. With both teams undefeated, I figured my chances at capturing a championship were high. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles would be taking on the San Francisco 49ers, which seemed like a great opportunity to end their two game losing streak. And that evening, the Philadelphia Phillies were playing game two of the NLDS, looking to put a 2-0 stranglehold on the series.
It could have been a glorious day. Instead, it was a disaster.
First of all, the weather wasn’t especially nice. Down on the National Mall where the kickball playoffs were held, it was unseasonably cold. The grass was met and muddy from all of the recent rain, and it was not an especially pleasant place to be.
Sadly, my personal play matched the conditions. I played quite poorly, and it took a monumental comeback by my teammates just to advance to the finals. In the championship game, we were matched against the same team that had beaten us in last season’s title game. But we had reason to hope that the result would be different this time. We seemed to have a stronger team this season, and we had actually played and beaten them the week before.
But it might have been too much to beat that team two weeks in a row. They are an excellent team that played at a high level that we were simply unable to match. And so we were denied a championship yet again.
After playing for about three hours in the cold and sporadically misting rain, I was about ready to go inside. But I still had my second team’s playoffs to get through.
This team also made it to the championship game. But once again, we fell short, and had to watch yet another team hoist the championship trophy. Remarkably, I’ve now played in four straight kickball championship games, and my team has managed to lose them all. Very discouraging.
I had been getting updates on the Eagles throughout the day, and most reports were positive, so at least I had that going for me. But after the second championship game had ended, I was given a final score. Apparently, the Eagles managed to blow a 20 point lead and lose the game. The team had fallen to 1-3 and the season seemed to already be on the brink of disaster.
I headed home feeling quite despondent.
At least, I still had the Phillies to look forward to. They could partially redeem the day with a win over the Cardinals that night.
I had confidence that the Phillies would prevail. After all, this was probably the most talented Phillies team ever. They had won 102 games and were the clear favorite to win the World Series. With star pitcher Cliff Lee on the mound, they seemed to have an excellent chance at victory.
The game started off well with the Phillies getting off to a 4-0 lead. But Lee couldn’t hold the lead, and the Phillies couldn’t score any further, eventually dropping the game by a 5-4 score.
Even worse, the game stretched well into the night as the Cardinals made a seemingly endless string of pitching changes. It’s bad enough watching your team lose. It’s even worse when you’re tired on a Sunday night, and the opposing manager seems determined to have the game last as long as possible.
So after beginning the day with hopes of glory, it turned out to be possibly the worst sports day of my life.
I was beaten down, but I still held on to some hope.
After all, the Phillies’ loss only meant that the series was even. They were still in good shape. And sure enough, they won their next game on Tuesday. This meant that they only had to win one of the next two games, and they appeared to have the superior starting pitcher in both games.
But after getting off to another early lead in Wednesday’s game, they soon fell behind and couldn’t respond. The best of five series was now tied 2-2 with a decisive game five on Friday.
Despite the season now coming down to one final game, there was still reason for me to be optimistic. The Phillies would be at home, and they had their best pitcher Roy Halladay starting. Halladay is considered by many to be the best pitcher in baseball. Surely he wouldn’t let the team lose. He would find some way to drag the Phillies to victory.
As it turned out, Halladay did his part. He let up a first inning run, but kept the Cardinals scoreless for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter was even better, shutting the Phillies out. And with the 1-0 defeat, the Phillies had been eliminated from the playoffs.
Yes, the “greatest team in Phillies” history couldn’t even make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Another sports related disappointment in a life that has been full of them.
Coincidentally, Friday night was Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. It seemed like as good a time as any to make a huge personal change.
I decided that I was tired of year after year of disappointment. I was tired of being emotionally crushed by my sports teams failures. The great moments were too infrequent, and the bad times far outweighed the good.
Up until now, despite all the defeats, I have maintained optimism when it comes to sports. After each season ends in defeat, I have always felt that next year would bring renewed hope.
But now I wonder why I should look forward to next year when it is only going to bring me more disappointment.
So I’ve decided to make sports much less of a priority in my life. For instance, I’m no longer going to base my Sundays around watching the Eagles game. And I certainly won’t let the result determine my mood anymore.
I think I’m also done with captaining my recreational teams. I’ve spent way too much time and energy towards preparing for games and worrying about the outcome. Especially since I allow myself to get frustrated by people who make the games much less of a priority than I do.
I mean I can’t say that people are wrong for making kickball a minor consideration in their lives. I mean, this is a social sports league that we’re supposed to be playing for fun. So they’ve probably got the right attitude about things.
But on the other hand, I’m no longer going to spend my time making lineups or figuring out ways for the team to win when nobody else seems to care. If people don’t show up because they don’t feel like it, or if they play poorly because of a hangover…it isn’t my concern anymore.
Of course, it’s one thing to say that I had a new outlook on things. But would that all go out the window the next time one of my teams was involved in a big game?
Sunday was my first test. Instead of staying home to watch the Eagles game, Mrs. Cutter, the Cutlet, and I went to a pumpkin festival where we saw animals, ate caramel apples, picked pumpkins, and had a splendid time.
I won’t pretend like I went cold turkey as I did record the game. But when we returned home, I maintained a level head while watching the Eagles find new ways to lose a game.
Mrs. Cutter was amazed. In past years, I would have been screaming at the TV about how poorly the Eagles were playing. But I watched the game with a detached calm. And when they made another incredible mistake at the end of the game to seal defeat, I was actually able to laugh it off.
For the first time in a long while, I was actually in a good mood on a Sunday night after an Eagles loss.
It’s a good feeling, and I’m going to try to keep it when dealing with sports that I actually play myself. I’ll try to focus more on having fun, and not worrying as much about whether or not we win. After all, what does it matter if my softball or kickball teams lose? I’ve lost many times before, and I’ll surely lose again. And life will go on.
So here’s to a new year and a new outlook!