Personal Foul-lacy: Deconstructing My Obsession With Sports

Last night, at approximately 11:32ish eastern time, I began my long trek back to Tuscaloosa from Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. For those of you who don’t know, that is the residence of my beloved Yellow Jacket football team, who, on this particular night, were playing host to their hated rivals from the northeastern portion of the state. I hesitate to speak their name. Makes me feel nauseous.

I don’t remember much of my drive, really. Probably passed a few signs, maybe some trees, and, judging by the fact that my car is still relatively intact, I did not hit a deer. Wouldn’t have mattered much. I might not have even noticed, because I was in a state of mind that can only be described as comatose. All I really know is that there was a point during my journey west when I honestly thought, “Maybe I should introduce my car to that guardrail over there.”

Because, you see, I had just spent three-plus hours of my life watching my beloved Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fall short against the hated school that shall not be named and I had very little motivation to do much of anything, except, of course, experiment with gravity to see how long it would take my car to hit the water below after flying off a bridge on 1-20. Well, that might be a little extreme, but it gives you a picture.

As you might think, such a state of mind might be reason to give you pause. It certainly gave me pause. I remember saying to myself, in so many words, “This train of thought is quite alarming.” And it was! So I decided it was time to have a “come to Jesus” with… myself. For cryin’ out loud, enough is enough. I needed to get a hold of myself. I wanted to get to the bottom of this. I wanted to deconstruct why my behavior is often so negatively dictated by the outcome of athletic competition. Or, put simply, I wanted to figure out why sports can ruin my freakin’ life.

So I tried to go back to the source. Georgia Tech vs. (vomit in my mouth) Georgia. I, one of the few Yellow Jacket supporters in my neck of the woods growing up. My friends predominantly Mutts. Every time Tech loses, I hear about it again and again and again. And that confounded woofing they do, which is apparently a high level of communication for them. Sickening. All of this equating to a hatred of the enemy far surpassing my disdain for Nickelback.

But, that only addresses one particular instance: the Tech/UGA(ly) rivalry. The real question is why am I obsessed with all sports and, in particular, winning them or supporting someone who wins them? And, for that, I have to own up to the fact that I am a competitive son-of-a-gun.

I hate being competitive. People always say that I am and I hate it.

“Watch out for James,” they say. “He gets ticked when he loses, and he associates ticks with dogs, and he hates the Georgia Bulldogs.”

Or, “James equates losing with rabies, which he associates with dogs, and he hates the Georgia Bulldogs.”

And even, “If you want to have a pleasant afternoon, you better let James beat you at Boggle, because he hates losing at Boggle, because you can’t spell Georgia Bulldogs without Boggle and he hates to lose to the Georgia Bulldogs.”

But, unfortunately, they’re right. I’m competitive. Always have been. Hate to lose. Hate it with a passion. I’ve tried to control it. Even thought about seeing His Holiness about it (and not just anyone, but the Dalai Lama… there’s a movie quote here, fyi). It’s kind of like Bruce Banner and how he treats the Hulk within. I get all sweaty and start thinking, “You better control this.” But then somebody will talk smack or say something obnoxious about the superiority of SEC football and I start ripping off my shirt and turning green (metaphorically speaking, I think).

When I get right down to it, though, I don’t think it’s all about winning, but rather it’s about beating my chest and proclaiming myself king of the mountain or king of the lanes (another movie quote, fyi) at the end of the day. I want my team to win not because I value the guys/gals on said team or because I believe said athletes adhere to a higher set of moral principles, but because I want to shove it in my neighbor’s face that you’ve got nothing on me. Nothing.

And, the really disgusting part about this is that it reeks of insecurity, like I feel like I always have something to prove and I don’t want people to catch me on the defensive. Crap.

I wonder if I’m alone on this. I don’t think I am, especially after I read the message boards that litter the internet. People obsessing about the decisions 17- and 18-year-olds are making about college. Die-hards ranting about the fact that a 21-year-old quarterback isn’t cuttin’ it. Old men with weathered hands hacking away at their keyboards so they can call for a coach’s head. People losing all sense of dignity on either side of the coin, win or lose.

Do these people really care about the players or coaches? Do they really love the sport? Or are they like me, in it for themselves? In it for victory and for harnessing our inner King Kong?

Unfortunately, it all too often takes something dramatic to uncover these personal fallacies. It takes something major to offer “perspective,” to remind us that we’re falling victim to an idolatrous lie. Maybe it’s somebody finding out they have breast cancer. Maybe it’s someone losing their job. Or maybe it’s the death of a newborn child that rattles us out of our rabid mindset.

Which really is a shame. That we have to lose something of ourselves to remind us of how selfish we all can be. That, more often than not, it’s about us and us alone. That it is possible for us to rejoice when others are victorious. That we can and should have more sympathy for those on the losing side. And that we do buy into the lie that our world only has the time and the space for “winners” and that “losers” should observe from afar.

Of course, this isn’t really a post about sports, is it?

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~ by presbytide on November 29, 2009.

One Response to “Personal Foul-lacy: Deconstructing My Obsession With Sports”

  1. I just want you to know that you are not alone in this sports comma called love! I was in the same state as I read your post I replaced GT for UK and GA for UT… It was a rough weekend, and I have to say that I walked away crying and quite stunned with no words to describe the empty feeling of another year down to that aweful orange and T we call tennessee… hope all is well other wise

    r

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