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Malee: Time to reevaluate what it means to be a sports fan



The other day, I clicked “unfollow” on @BleedCubbieBlue, a Twitter account that had occupied precious space on my timeline for longer that I cared to remember.

On the surface, this seems like the most innocuous of revelations, something that should never be shared with anyone except myself and myself @@not a typo, but if it’s too cute, you can get rid of [email protected]@. But for me, the end result was indicative of an ongoing process that might actually redefine my identity as a sports fan.

Because, you see, this wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill “you kind of annoy me” unfollow; when I unceremoniously wiped the account from the ever-expanding matrix that is my Tweetdeck account, it was because I truly didn’t care about what it told me anymore.

This is important, because — as the namesake suggests — @BleedCubbieBlue is the Twitter handle for a popular Chicago Cubs blog that I used to frequent with the fervor of a spurned lover. If the website kept track of all the clicks that came from my computer (which, for all I know, it did) — the number would probably number in the thousands. I am not proud of this.

But it’s the truth — or at least, it was the truth before my obsessive clicking abruptly came to an end sometime within the last couple of years. I can’t remember exactly when, but it was around when I stopped caring about the Cubs or baseball in general. What was once my passion — and, indeed, the first team I truly loved to an unhealthy extent — had faded quickly into the backdrop of my life. At some point, I decided that hanging on through the horrendous losing streaks and albatross contracts just wasn’t worth it. If this attitude removed my namesake as a Cubs “fan” or, even worse, brought the term “fair weather” into my lexicon — well, so be it. At a certain point, it just wasn’t worth it anymore. @@http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/7980518/theo-epste[email protected]@ @@http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/3993/[email protected]@

Even after that emotional swing, @BleedCubbieBlue remained for some time as the last bastion of my fandom, providing occasional (and agonizing) reminders that the team I once worshipped did, in fact, still exist. That is, until this past weekend, when I cut off all ties for good.

It probably should have been more emotional, or as wrenching as a Twitter “breakup” can be. But I felt oddly at ease as I disconnected from the Cubs universe, mostly because it was part of a broader identity swing that could put me in a distinct minority within the sports world. An increasing abhorrence toward professional football pushed me closer, and Derrick Rose’s crushing ACL tear practically shoved me off the cliff.

I am no longer a sports fanatic.

That’s what “fan” is short for, after all. To identify as such is to imply undying (and at times unhealthy) devotion to a specific team. The vast majority of sports watchers are full of this passion — be it toward the Portland Trail Blazers or the New York Yankees. This sense of community, and the regionalism that often goes hand-in-hand with it (“My city is better than yours!”), is what defines many people and keeps disgusting amounts of cash flowing through the doors of owner’s boxes and ESPN.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. One could argue, quite convincingly, that sports aren’t fun if you’re not emotionally attached to them, if you can’t experience the ecstasy of a long-awaited championship or drown your sorrows at the post-loss group therapy sessions held at local sports bars. Sports are for the soulful, not the soulless, they’d say.

Maybe. But oftentimes being a fan of a specific team feels like having a second soul, one that sits on your shoulder and ceaselessly pokes you in the neck with a thumb tack. It is, for most, akin to a romantic relationship, only one with a 29/30 chance of failure every year. Given those odds, would you go on that date? You’d be better off trolling the recesses of Match.com.

Because, make no mistake, the worst sports losses — the championship-on-the-line, last second buzzer-beater types — can be just as psychologically devastating as a breakup. I took a long, pained (and yes, melodramatic) walk last year when LeBron James single-handedly eviscerated the Bulls’ championship dreams. The entire city of Vancouver rioted last year after a Stanley Cup loss. This stuff is real, no matter how crazy it seems. @@http://bleacherreport.com/articles/696155-nb[email protected]@ @@http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/16/[email protected]@

Studies have shown that there are psychological benefits to fandom — a sense of community, the feeling of escape after a long day. But I’d argue that the negative effects far outweigh the positive. Think about how you felt when the Ducks lost the national championship in 2010, or when Chip Kelly nearly left the program just a few months ago. Is it really worth it? @@http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/13/health/side-effects-sports-fan/[email protected]@

Maybe I’m missing out, maybe this mixture of love and loss is what sports are all about. Maybe the Cubs will go and win it all next year (spoiler: they won’t).

All I know is that I feel a renewed sense of freedom, and if nothing else, living in Eugene has given me a new appreciation for the term “fair weather.”


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