Monday, March 21, 2011

Confessions of a Fan(atic)

My name is Brent, and I am a fanatic.

A Texas Longhorn sports fanatic, that is. During my one and only visit to Jerusalem, I slipped a note in the Wailing Wall asking for a Longhorn football national championship. That revelation probably just made my brother – who’s a rabbi – cringe, but UT did win it all just two seasons later, so it was well worth any after-life penance I could be facing.

As described here, this devotion was ingrained on my DNA at birth, and it has been a part of who I am my entire life. When the Horns are playing, I’m locked in my own personal torture chamber of stress and anxiety, living and dying with each play, knowing that a loss will bring a swift kick to the stomach and the endless wondering of what might have been.

Needless to say, it’s been a rough 24 hours since Texas’ season-ending, gut-wrenching, Misery-hobbling-scene excruciating, 70-69 defeat in the NCCA tournament last night. I went to bed without eating, and I woke up to a concerned voicemail from my father, checking in on me to see if I was okay. Every national columnist is mocking the team as underachievers, and I can’t listen to talk radio without hearing the words “Texas” and “choke.”

The game itself was a rollercoaster ride, with the Longhorns jumping out early, then falling behind, then grinding back into the lead, only to lose it again in the very end.

I could go on and on about the turnovers and lackadaisical play that led to the first half deficit. I could complain about how the refs swallowed their whistles on the Horns’ game-ending possession. And I could scream and yell about the absolute screw job of a call that changed the course of the crucial final seconds (the picture doesn’t lie…even my two-year-old niece can count to five).

But I’m not going to do that. I’m here, covered in burnt orange blood, my metaphorical wounds still raw, hoping that talking openly about my obsession will help ease the pain.

To be a fan is to be a masochist, a glutton for punishment. We’re hopeless romantics, convinced that this next game, this next season will bring us what we’ve always wanted. We’re full of hope and anticipation at the start, but unlike dating, where everyone can fall in love, only one fan base can actually celebrate a championship each year.

The rest of us are left on the wrong end of the scoreboard, suffering through the agony of defeat.

And dealing with that aftermath is awful. It’s like going through a breakup, when you’ve got nothing but time to worry and wallow. Any mention of the loss makes you feel as if you’re experiencing it all over again. Scrolling the websites and logging onto message boards is like listening to those special songs or looking through old pictures – it’s a detour from having to face reality. You don’t want to let go, so you do anything you can to keep the dream alive, even though it’s already gone.

You analyze everything from every angle, trying to make sense of why it happened. Why did the coach do this? Why did the players do that? Why did the referee bend us over like the Gimp in Pulp Fiction?

But no matter what answers you come up with, and no matter how you cast the blame, in the end, you’re still left with nothing but regret and an offseason full of what-ifs.

Throughout all of these stages, I personally can’t help judging my feelings, questioning why I’m so worked up over something so meaningless. I mean, as sportscaster Jim Rome put it, sports are the world’s toy department, and it’s ridiculous that, armed with my 33 years of wisdom, that I’m unable to keep a better perspective. It’s not war or nuclear disaster…it’s a bunch of kids playing a kid’s game. The health of the planet isn’t in jeopardy, and lives aren’t at stake. It’s the furthest thing from being life or death.

But for some strange, unexplainable reason, it still kind of feels that way.

I guess that’s just part of being deeply invested in something. Because the truth is, regardless of how unimportant they may seem to others, Texas athletics are important to me. And when you devote as much of yourself as I do, you’re bound to get hurt when things don’t go well.

It’s going to take a little time for me to get over what happened in Tulsa. While the loss was devastating in its own right, the collateral damage of it is that I don’t get another week of following my favorite team – of reading articles, of dreaming of the possibilities, of experiencing that sweet pain of watching the Horns in action. And the knife is only going to twist deeper when I see Arizona line up against Duke in a game that Texas woulda/coulda/shoulda been playing.

But that will be a big step in the healing process. Sure, I’ll carry the scars of this loss with me, but I’ll steadily turn the page, and before I know it, I’ll be back in touch with that hope that somehow, someway, someday, the Horns are going to eventually come out on top.

After all, there’s always next year.

About Me

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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?