FRONDORF: Abbreviated grieving, and lack of fandom, at Yale

I waited all year for this. More than a year, actually. Two seasons, 324 games. Two years after my hometown Cincinnati Reds got swept in horrendous fashion by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 NLDS, the Redlegs finally had another chance. And two Sunday nights ago, they were up two games to none against the San Francisco Giants.

But by last Wednesday, the series was all tied up. The Giants led 6–4 in the ninth. The Reds had runners on first and second, one out. It was supposed to be the moment — Cincinnati’s moment. Jay Bruce was in the middle of the one of toughest at-bats I’d ever seen against Giants closer Sergio Romo. But Bruce flew out. Next up, veteran Scott Rolen. Down 1–2 in the count, he swung right over a slider that hung in the strike zone. It was all over. The Giants had come back from a two-game deficit, becoming the first National League team to ever do so in the current Division Series format. The Reds had lost three straight, at home, to let the series out of their grasp.

I stood up, turned off the TV, slung my backpack over my shoulder and walked out the door headed to section for Intro to Film Studies. One of the biggest baseball meltdowns I had ever seen — my biggest sports moment of the year — and I casually went to section.

The weird thing was, I wasn’t overcome with emotion, almost like I had expected it to end up like this. After section, I went to dinner, then to a meeting, and finally sat down and watched the vice presidential debate — laughing like it was a sitcom and yelling at the screen like Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan were the Reds and Giants. And I didn’t really think about the Reds at all. There was one silent, forlorn, movie-style nod after dinner to the Reds pennant hanging in my room, and that was about it.

Laying in bed that I night, I asked myself, “Shouldn’t I feel worse? Shouldn’t this affect me more? My team was finally in the playoffs, finally getting national coverage, finally got off to a great start, and this is what happened? Shouldn’t I be throwing a Bill Simmons-esque temper tantrum right now?”

If I were at home, there probably would have been a more dramatic display. Back in early 2010, the Cincinnati Bengals took on the New York Jets in a wild card playoff game. I had the flu at the time, and when the I knew the Bengals were going to lose with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, I promptly got up, went to my room, slammed my bedroom door, and went to bed — and it wasn’t even 9 p.m. Silver lining: I probably needed the rest. (Watching the Cincinnati Bearcats collapse in the 2010 Sugar Bowl with my friends was a totally different story — one of Tebow-bashing, BCS-hating, and generally indiscriminate screaming and deferring of blame.)

Here at Yale, there was no time to mourn. Maybe I’ve just grown up, but a part of me almost wishes I hadn’t gotten over it. If I don’t feel anything, what’s the point? But caring too much means falling behind. Immediately after the loss, a polite beep from my phone reminded me it was time for section — “no time to pout,” it said. Then, as I mentioned, I had notifications alerting me to dinner with a friend, then meetings, then homework. It’s hard to be a national sports fan at Yale. I had to practically shift my schedule around and “pencil in” time so I could watch all of the Reds NLDS games.

Granted, I do plenty of sports-related activities here at Yale. I write this column, I help to edit the sports page, I broadcast games for WYBC, I have a talk show. When it comes to sports at Yale, anyone would think my sports quota is super-saturated. But I’m almost more concerned with the work and caring about national storylines, than the ups and downs of my teams. I love doing what I do — but somehow I’ve lost track of what got me into sports in the first place. At first, I learned to love sports cheering for Bearcats basketball during March Madness. Now, watching them in March is too nerve-wracking — my expectations are just waiting to be shattered.

My ennui isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the Reds’ recent loss has just motivated a little existentialism and healthy reflection.

It doesn’t make it right, however, that no one else seems to care either. People tell me, “Yeah, I’m a Yankees fan. How are they doing this year?” Wait, what? You may have grown up in New York, but you are certainly not a current Yankees fan. The same goes for, “I just haven’t been able to watch any of the Patriots games this year.” That’s perfectly okay — you have other priorities, and very few people care as much as I do (or as much as I thought I did) about their team. But you’re not really a fan of [team] or [sport] if you’re not keeping up at all.

Yeah, I have a double standard. I’m allowing myself an abbreviated grieving period because I think I’m just so gosh darn busy, but everyone else better get on my level and start watching some games. Yet the lack of cheering at Yale is palpable — yes, not everyone likes sports, especially at a place like Yale where everyone has such a diverse mix of passions, but there is an odd vilification and debasing of sports fandom and the few people who do care.

Well, in the last 1000 words, I somehow went from blaming myself for being indifferent to criticizing the student body for doing the same. See what a disastrous loss can do to you? Maybe I should just go back to moping.

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