Last Saturday, I experienced one of the five worst feelings I’ve ever felt in my life.
No, my dog didn’t die. No, my girlfriend didn’t break up with me. No, I didn’t just realize that I don’t actually have a girlfriend. No, my friends, what I felt was significantly worse than that. I felt sports guilt.
Now, you may be mockingly asking “Sports guilt? What is that?”
Well, sports guilt is the worst sports-related feeling that anyone can feel. Yeah, even worse than that time you got pegged in a sensitive place by the flame-throwing southpaw from your high school baseball team.
You see, sports guilt is when you’ve either:
1. Missed a game when you could have watched your team and they ended up underperforming orlosing
2. Didn’t immediately feel bad about missing the game when the game was still going on, and in fact, even tried to rationalize your lack of bad feelings until you found out the heart-wrenching results of your team’s game.
And which one was I feeling this weekend? Not to go all SAT on you, but I was feeling 3), the worst possible combination of this sports guilt. Here are the basic details:
This weekend, my Florida Gators took on the hated Tennessee Vols. I’m no John Gaddis, but the Cliff’s Notes version of the history between these two, is basically that during the offseason, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating. Except he didn’t cheat. In fact, Kiffin was formally reprimanded by the Southeastern Conference’s commissioner and forced to apologize. Kiffin also boldly said that he would be “singing Rocky Top all night long” after beating the Gators this year. Oh by the way, he said all this before even coaching a single game.
Understandably, the preseason No. 1 Gators were miffed and some predicted a 30-point beatdown in Saturday’s game. Instead, Florida only won the game by 10 and played sloppily enough to the point where national pundits began to question their “stuff.”
So where do I come in on all this? Well, instead of eagerly watching this game and screaming obscenities at the screen for three hours, I was on a bus back from Georgetown, fresh from watching the Yale Bulldogs’ season-opening victimization of the Hoyas’ sorry attempt at a football team. Far from being guilty that I wasn’t watching the Gators game, I was actually still giddy about our win and even told myself that Yale was the wife of my sports fandom, the Angelina Jolie to my Brad Pitt — whereas the Gators were just a passing fancy, the high-class prostitute Ashley Dupré to my Eliot Spitzer.
So what was the big deal? I’ll tell you the big deal: the Gators are my team!
They’ve been my team every since I started liking football and, coming from backwoods Florida, they were the only team that existed before I came to Yale. When I was picking colleges, I narrowed my schools down to Florida and Yale and seriously considered the Gators just for the 1 in 25 chance of scoring season tickets.
To give you even more background: when I was first applying to Yale, the Florida Gators made an unexpected run to the national championship and were heavy underdogs to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Urkel had a better chance of scoring a girl than the Gators winning.
But I remember making a pact with the fates that night: If the Gators manage to somehow pull this one out of their moneymakers, I would get into Yale. If they didn’t, well … your friendly neighborhood John Song wouldn’t be around to dispense advice no more. Colon, left parenthesis.
See, that’s what being a sports fan is all about. Your very fabric, your being, your raison d’être — it’s all inexorably tied to your team. That faith in your team also means that their actions on the field seem to be directly related to what you do. If I wasn’t suiting up to my lucky five pairs of underwear at the same time (I call it the chastity belt), if my eyeballs weren’t glued to the TV screen even through all the horrible and inexplicable Geico commercial with that peculiar dancing lizard (seriously, Geico?), then my team wouldn’t win. I had to be willing my team to victory, and somehow, thousands of miles away, they would feel my hopes and dreams and rain fury upon their opponents.
So, in the hours after I found out that my Gators had performed disappointingly, I couldn’t help but blame myself for not watching the game and willing them into defenestrating the Vols. Yet even as all that sports guilt was raining down on me, I felt a tinge of pride — pride that I went to Washington, D.C., to watch my Angelina Jolie pull off a blockbuster win.
In a twisted way, I think I preferred watching Yale football to my Gators. Sure, Ivy League football is, for lack of a better comparison, Ivy League football. But there’s something about rooting for your own team, rooting for your alma mater. Maybe, just maybe, my Gators will be joined my Bulldogs.
And maybe this is how all relationships begin — intense guilt, followed by reconciliation with your feelings. You know what, I think I’m becoming a sports polygamist.
John Song is a junior in Berkeley College.