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TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
2003-10-14 13:42
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Yesterday, Edward Cossette wrote an insightful post about his disenchantment with baseball after Saturday's game.


All day yesterday I was telling people that something "broke" inside me after Saturday's disaster at Fenway, but now I realize that is the wrong metaphor. It isn't that something inside me broke but rather that I was awakened to or otherwise forced to acknowledge how I, as a fan, as a Red Sox fan in particular, need to better scrutinize my own relationship with the game of the baseball.

And under the light of scrutiny I realize I need to drop baseball down a few notches on my priority list. It is just a game. And I don't want to fall down the slippery slope of believing "I live for this," when it's the other way around: "It lives for me."

David Pinto responded to Cossette's post, and made a good point:


I would suggest what is really bothering people like Edward is that there was a shift of virtue from the Red Sox to the Yankees Saturday. It's been going on for a while, but Saturday the fault line moved. When it was Nettles and Jackson and Rivers against Lynn and Fisk and Lee, it was easy to see the Yankees as the evil team that deserved to be vanquished by the Red Sox. But on Saturday, it was Pedro and Manny who caused the trouble. Here they were in game the Red Sox had to win, and their antics came close to having them thrown out. Up until Zimmer charged Pedro, the Yankees did nothing wrong. Someone watching a baseball game for the first time would come away from Saturday thinking the Red Sox are a bunch of evil jerks and the Yankees were just defending themselves.

And that I think is what's bothering Edward. Red Sox fans no longer have the high ground; they are no longer the nice losers who are worth rooting for. Their stars are jerks, and the team they hate is in control. People who have based the allegiance on the virtuousness of the Sox have a lot to think about today. I'm not surprised they don't want to watch the game.

I think Pinto only addresses part of what is upsetting Cossette. He is right on about the Red Sox losing some of their underdog appeal, but I think what Edward is talking about goes deeper than storylines and morals. What he's talking about is our ability to lose our mental health to these games, contests which we have no control over.

I know that I am guilty of this all the time. It has become a constant struggle for me. A few weeks ago, one of my oldest friends in the world asked me after a Yankee loss: "Why do you take it so hard? Why do you let it effect your life so much?"

The answer is that I allow my narcissism, my own sense of grandiosity, to get in the way of my enjoyment of the game. Meaning that if the Yankees win, I feel good, validated, or like a winner, and if they lose, I feel like a loser. The world is black-and-white, and I'm either a somebody or a nobody. As if I have anything to do with how they do. I know this is a simplification, but it's something that is very real for me.

For instance, how many times do fans believe that if they wear their lucky hat, or sit in a certain position on the couch, it will actually effect the outcome of a game? All the time. Superstitions are the birthright of every sports fan---we all know how superstitious the players are, right? All we want to do is identify with them. But even though our little routines are innocent enough, that doesn't mask the fact that they dellude us into thinking we can actually have an impact on a game. Perhaps it's just a way for us to feel closer to the action, but it also skews our sense of reality too.

It's this personalization which is unhealthy, and I think that is at the core of what bothers Edward so much. Sure, it doesn't help that his team displayed qualities that he rejected, but I think his dependency on the team's fate to feel good about himself is what is wearing him down.

I'm projecting, of course. What I should say is that I'm allowing my dependency on the Yankees' fate to wear me down. It's been like this every since I can remember. I can state honestly that I've been distracted at work for weeks and have lost plenty of sleep, obsessing about the games. And the funny part is that I feel like I cope much better now than I ever did before.

You know what makes this mishigoss easier to take? Being able to write about baseball every day. It's the best therapy a fan could ask for as far as I'm concerned (and I know I'm not alone here judging by the boom of baseball blogs that have sprung up over the past two seasons). Edward will bounce back--his enthusiasm and optimism and love for the game won't allow him to slink away---but I empathize with his need for distance, relief and clarity. Even in the eye of this Yankee-Red Sox storm.

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