There are certain things in life we can eventually outgrow. Things like an appetite for strained squash, or a fascination with strangers’ eyeglasses, or our affinity for wearing Underoos. Me, I’d always hoped I would outgrow my chicken legs, but unfortunately, a scrawny lower body was tattooed on my DNA, sentencing me to a lifetime of extra-saggy shorts and the concealment of fully bloused out jeans.
But what about being a sports fan? Is that something we can – or, more to the point, should – outgrow?
To be a fan is, in a lot of ways, to be a child. Your welfare and wellbeing, your very existence, is entirely dependent on the actions of others. There’s a lot of screaming and pouting when things don’t go your way. You have no perspective, viewing the world through your own, single-minded prism. And what you obsess over, what sets off tantrums and leads to stomping feet and streaming tears, is typically nothing more than a meaningless playground game.
When you’re a kid, though, there’s no harm in getting worked up and crying over such inconsequential matters. In fact, it’s a necessity, a means to mature and develop, and it’d be detrimental in the long run to bypass these growing pains. But at some point, don’t you have to take that next step in the maturation process and shift your energy towards bigger and better things?
I bring this up because I recently celebrated—or, more accurately, was unable to deny the occurrence of—my 35th birthday, and as with any life cycle event, it triggered one of those big-picture, self evaluation montages, like something you’d see in a movie. (Had there been a beach nearby, I would’ve undoubtedly gone there to stare out into the ocean, the fork-in-the-road moments of my past flashing on screen as Colin Hay’s "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin" played over the top of them.) And what became evident was that, while my age continues to change, I really haven’t. My patterns, my priorities, and above all else, my experience of life, they’re all essentially the same as they’ve always been. In too many ways, I’m like a 15-year-old hiding in a 35-year-old’s body (minus the legs), and I’m almost certain that’s not how it’s supposed to be.
This whole dynamic was never more on display than it was last month when the Texas Longhorns played their annual holy war against hated rival Oklahoma. An obsessively irrational UT fan since birth, watching the Horns is typically a hurt-so-good experience for me: I’m miserable throughout, yet I wouldn’t miss it for the world. But looking back, this was one game during which I would’ve happily spent the entire day atoning for all of my sins. Ugly from the opening kick, it got progressively worse and worse, my soul getting sadistically shanked with each passing Sooner touchdown.
Throughout the devastation, I was commiserating long distance with my cousin, Andrew, who’s as insane about UT sports as I am. But unlike me, Andrew is much more of an adult, with real, meaningful commitments and responsibilities—a wife, a successful career, and two young children at home. And as halftime mercifully approached, with the Longhorns buried beneath a seemingly insurmountable deficit, he decided to tap out.
“I’ve got more important things to do,” he said.
Which, in turn, made me ask myself, “Shouldn’t I?”