This article is brought to you by Snarklets, Bracelets & Gifts Hand Stamped with Mantras for Real Life.
I hate sports.
Ok, that isn’t really true. I love sports; however, my athletic prowess lands me decisively in the spectator camp, so in reality, I love watching sports. In particular, I love watching football and hockey. I am 35 years old, and in that time, I have seen my two favorite teams win two Super Bowls and five Stanley Cup Championships. I can say that without a doubt, my life has been measurably better for having experienced those victories.
When you think about it, it’s kind of a silly concept: to say my life has been made better by watching people that I don’t know win a championship playing a game that my greatest contribution to was occasionally making a tasty buffalo chicken dip. The sheer joy that we feel at watching our team win is completely self-manufactured. We create it through emotional investment. We entangle our joy with our favorite team’s performance with the belief that they are representing us. When they win, we win.
There is a flip side to that coin. For us to truly experience the highs that come with victory, our full emotional commitment to our team means that we experience the lows that come with defeat. After all, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The greater joy we take in our team’s victory, the greater the pain we feel at their defeat.
With all of that emotional investment at stake, there is a tendency for us to become more than a little frustrated when it comes to the players on our team not quite meeting our expectations on game day. It all manifests for us in different ways. For me personally, I tend to convey my displeasure at the television set in a variety of colorful and creative phrases that, while they may seem vulgar, are actually meant to be a sort of telepathic speech meant to motivate the team. I mean, I love my team, and I only want to see them succeed.
My pure vitriol is saved for the opposing team. My team may be falling short of my expectations, but they’re still doing everything in their power to provide me with the joy of a victory, but the other guys are actively trying to take that joy away from me. The irrational part of my brain lashes out in a barrage of hyperbolic desire for the worst to happen to the opposing players. I feel my blood pressure rise as a deep hatred grows in my belly. A hatred that materializes in a barrage of profanity-ridden insults that would put the most experienced sailor to shame.
Do I really hope that an asteroid hits Tom Brady’s car on the way to the stadium? No. He’s a man and a father. But between the first and the fourth quarter of a game against my team, he is a villain worthy of all the contempt I can possibly muster.
I have a tendency to be so emotionally wrapped up in a game that its outcome could not only make or break my outlook for the entire day, but for the entire week. Is it healthy? Probably not. Is it rational? Absolutely not.
Something has changed, though. Now, I have children. While three-year-olds listen to very little, they see, hear and perceive everything. We hope that our children pick up our best traits, but unfortunately, they seem to emulate our worst. Now, as fans and as parents, we have to set ourselves to a higher standard. Without the emotional maturity to understand that our reactions the outcome of a game can often be exaggerated and dripping with sarcastic hyperbole, our children may apply similar reactions to similar situations in our life. Nobody wants a call from the gym teacher after their kid said he hoped someone tore their ACL after a disappointing dodgeball loss.
There’s something else at stake. Our negative emotions and reactions while watching sports can destroy our children’s love of a game before it really has time to grow.
I didn’t really start watching football until I was in my early 20’s. When I was a kid, my grandmother loved watching the Steelers play. However, at a time when I could have been watching the games with her and learning to love it, I always found something else to do because I hated hearing her yell at the TV. It actually took my friends taking me to a sports bar and immersing me in the comradery and excitement of a winning season to rekindle my love of sports. Looking back, I’d give anything to be able to sit down and watch a game with my grandmother.
I’m not saying that you back off on your emotional connection to the game. I’m merely suggesting that you find a different way of coping with expressing your emotions during and after the game. Do your best to look at the positives of each game (if you’re from Cleveland, this one might be challenging.) Personally, I try to channel my rage into something productive. When Pittsburgh lost the Super Bowl to Green Bay, I took out my aggression by doing the dishes. I promise you, they were never cleaner.
The cool thing about sports is that if you foster that love for it early, not only do you always have someone to share those championships with, but you also have someone to commiserate with when the season doesn’t go quite the way you hoped. The key is to first build the love of the game and let that emotional investment build slowly overtime until they’re standing alongside you screaming at the TV.
Better still, by the time it happens, they’ll probably even know all the really good swear words.
This article was brought to you by Snarklets, Bracelets & Gifts Hand Stamped with Mantras for Real Life.
Dale was born in Pittsburgh, PA but currently lives outside of Reading, PA. He graduated with a BA in photojournalism from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA in 2007. He has worked as a Marketing Brand Representative in the optical industry for five years. Dale lives in a quiet suburb with his beautiful wife and twin three-year-old boys. He enjoys Pittsburgh sports, comic books and bad action movies from the 80’s and 90’s. Dale also runs a comedic twitter account under the handle @TwinzerDad.