I can’t go to the Game this year.
Unlike in years past, when I claimed I had a good reason but actually just had no interest in standing around and watching mediocre football being played in the bitter cold, this year I really, truly, for serious, ain’t-a-damn-thing-I-can-do-about-it can’t make it to the Game.
And I am sincerely disappointed.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I am disappointed … but just in a slightly sarcastic way.
Before you get your jockstrap all in a twist, writing me off as some irrelevant, out of touch, chakra massaging, wild-haired, crunchy, veggie thespian swathed in an inexplicable excess of ethnic clothing — let it be known: I have not always been apathetic to organized sports.
In 1987, as a tiny tot of four, I could recite the New York Mets batting order on command — complete with players’ field positions. (If you can tell me the ’87 Order (without cheating!), there is a distinct possibility that you are destined to be the father of my babies.)
It was not just the Amazin’ Mets — though Lenny Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry and the rest of the ’87 lineup will always hold a special place in my heart as my first, great sports love affair. Coached by my father and older brother, I became versed in baseball, basketball, football and yes — even ice hockey.
Then in 1994, something went terribly wrong. An incident in New York sports, a sort of trauma that thrust me from the warm embrace of fanaticism into the cold, desolate world of disinterest.
1994. New York Knicks. Clank. Rattle. Clank. Clank. Clank. Rattle. Clank …
That is the sound of John Starks going 0-for-11 from three-point range in Game 7 against the Houston Rockets. The sound of a team clanking their way out of what would have been their first NBA championship since 1973. The sound of a 10-year-old girl’s heart breaking and, with it, her naive, romantic notions of hope, loyalty and the supposed positives of interdependence.
That night Starks went 2-for-18 from the field … the Rockets took the Knicks in a 90-84 victory … and I learned some the most important lessons for life:
1. (Unless you are a Red Sox fan) Rooting for losers sucks.
Why? Because they lost. Therefore it follows that, in the not so abstract sense, there is a team out there that has proven itself to be faster, stronger and flat out better.
Oh, and look! Those people who actually earned my respect happen to be clutching a huge, shiny championship trophy. Yeah, it’s always such a toss up for me — a celebratory shower of champagne at center court or crying under the cover of a sweaty towel on the bench.
But! I know. I know. There is quite a bit one can learn from losing. And do you know what the main moral is? Don’t do it … because losing is lame!
Larger Lesson: The value of the above lesson reaches far beyond organized sports. It goes for standard investment in the stock market, last year’s election and my (and most probably your) last relationship.
2. Yelling at little men over whom you possess no control is less than useful.
Why? This was one of the greatest lessons that I could have learned at the tender age of 10. They can’t hear you! Jump. Scream. Pray. Stand on your head. Hold your breath. Cry. Shit ain’t gonna make a difference. It is futile. Unless you are on the field or in the stands, you might as well just sit down and shut the hell up.
But! The power of positive thinking works, right? Wrong. It is like those people who send “healing energy” when I am holed up in bed with some mutant strain of bronchitis. But really? F– your positive vibes, f– them right in the ear. What I need is some tea and chicken noodle soup, not your purple aura well wishes. And, seriously; If sports fanatics put half as much passion into trying to get laid as they do shouting at a digitally telecast, inorganic optical illusions, we would have far fewer folks shoving their fists through walls.
Larger Lesson: This little nugget of wisdom goes for Little Men everywhere — because unfortunately they will not always be contained to the television screen. Ever been a counselor at a summer camp? Sat in a Sexy Bio section? Thought about spawning little male babies in your likeness? These uncontrollable creatures are everywhere … so save your breath.
3. Loyalty, like monogamy, is unrealistic (and perhaps even unnatural)
Why? People are bound to let you down. It is a fact. So just save everyone the drama and lower your expectations. Spread the love around. Hitching your happiness to one team is too much pressure. Nobody is perfect! Teams are bound to stumble, falter and sometimes fall flat on their asses. What did we (and by “we,” I mean our parents) learn from the bursting of the tech-bubble? Diversify — it’s the key to survival and success.
But! The bonds that are formed during trying times create a deep connection that fair-weather fans will never understand. Bullshit! I am not promoting complete and total abandonment. I am just saying that it is a whole lot easier to weather disappointment when you have alternative sources of affirmation.
Larger Lesson: Personal investment portfolios, our reliance on non-renewable sources of energy, love … it is always a good idea to keep your options open. Do not think of it with a puritanical sense of disloyalty, but rather as doing something nice for someone else. Cut your team (or lover) some slack. They should feel free to mess up, because not everything is riding them on them. You have substitutes on standby.
From a historical perspective, I am going to say that the dialectical construction of just one enemy-other has proven to be a pretty poor choice. Be it race, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation, one should always beware of prepackaged, institutionalized rivalries based on arbitrarily defined differences.
And lastly: All individuals who have been involved in some sort of alternative (possibly personally destructive) relationship with me should take issue with John Starks. I blame him for destroying my faith in people’s ability to perform under pressure — and my broader ability to trust and love.
Jana Sikdar will be living it up Caribbean-style while we’re freezing at The Game.