Fandom, The Ultimate Dysfunctional Relationship
- Updated: June 29, 2008
He or she could likely articulate the rationale for the related behaviors that accompany this seemingly full-time “occupation.” Perhaps then it’s time for me to schedule a consultation, because lately it’s been painfully clear that being a devoted sports fan of a team – any team, let alone the New York Mets – is borderline insane.
What’s the impetus for all this? Simple. Once a year, for the past six years, I’ve gone to see the Mets away from Shea. Actually, I go with my mother who I can at least partially blame for the psychoses associated with my Mets fandom (we could spend a whole ‘nother post on this mother-son dynamic, but we’ll spare you). In brief, she reads no less than three NY-area papers daily “back to front” (and never really makes it very far forward). She wouldn’t know if a bomb wiped out NYC, but she’ll call me at work to relay a rumor about Endy Chavez. Her radio dial is permanently turned to WFAN, and she talks about Carlos and “Josie” as if they’ve all been her friends for decades. A few years back during our Cincy trip she went up and hugged Cliff Floyd in a Foot Locker like he was a long-lost high school buddy (Uncle Cliff was actually a decent sport about it). OK, you get the point.
Anyway, right now we’re preparing to head to St. Louis for three of the Mets four-game set at Busch. And while I’m excited about checking off another stadium on the list, the time I’m spending waiting at the airport has me seriously questioning the sanity of this entire exercise – of being a fan, of following a team and investing emotional energy into something that never gives back.
For me, the analogy is pretty clear. My association with the Mets is the classic dysfunctional relationship that men and women have engaged in for ages. Think about it. You’ve been going out with someone for a relatively long time. They’ve hurt you time and again, betrayed you, “messed with your head” and abandoned you. Your friends tell you that you’re a moron. They point out the history, previous transgressions repeated patterns of behavior…but, for some reason, you can’t break up with that girl/team.
It’s probably because the girl/team has promised you that they’ll change, promised that they’ve learned their lesson or turned over a new leaf. And while the rational part of your head knows a zebra doesn’t change its stripes (and Aaron Heilman is still going to be Aaron Heilman in the morning), the pure sucker in you keeps coming back for more. As you look back over your agonizing time together, you can’t quite figure out what magnetic force pulled you toward them to begin with. Even when it was good, it was never that good. Plus, if it was you can’t even remember any more.
Instead, it’s now a relationship that perpetuates itself more out of habit than any sort of true love. You look at them (the girl, or say a lineup that includes Fernando Tatis, Endy Chavez, Damion Easley, Trot Nixon and Ramon Castro), and you don’t even find them remotely attractive. In fact, they’re kind of repulsive most of the time. Sure, when they dress up with their full roster of accoutrements they can succeed in turning you on for a fleeting moment, reminding you of the “best of times.” But not frequently, and certainly not enough to justify your sticking around.
So, why the hell do we do it? Why in the f-in world am I sitting in an airport in a marathon “rain delay” trying to get to g-d forsaken O’Hare in order to make it to St. Louis to see this team play on three consecutive nights??!!
The answer is probably perfectly straightforward. I’m sure that same psychologist could help open my eyes once and for all to the masochistic nature of this relationship, and then I can move on. But that appointment’s going to have to wait. I’ve got a plane to St. Louis to catch. The Mets are waiting at the Westin, and then we’re off to Busch Stadium for one last fling. After that, I would swear our relationship is through, but, unfortunately, I know better…