Sunday, November 22, 2015

What It's Like To Be A Philly Fan These Days

In my social feed today, a colleague asked if there was a town in America with a more dysfunc- tional group of sports teams than Philly right now. There was also the fun point of how none of the town's teams -- Eagles, Sixers and Flyers -- have won a game at home in the month of November. And how they feel bad for me, and so on.

Which is, of course, mostly horse exhaust, because it's not as if I'm living and dying with all of these losses, or that anyone really has their viewing compromised by the happiness or misery of anyone else. I don't watch soccer on ice -- err, hockey -- because I just fell out of the league decades ago and life is too short for the sports I watch, let alone adding others to the mix. The Sixers losing games is frustrating because I believe in what GM Sam Hinkie has been trying to do, and just feel like he's been snakebit on health and draft picks. The team more or less pledged eternal loyalty to Andrew Wiggins, only to see Joel Embiid get hurt before the draft, more or less forcing the hands of the teams above them. But there's no need to recreate all of that here.

Rather, I wanted to talk about what it's actually like to watch sports now, especially on NFL days, and the best word is numb. I don't root against the Eagles, but I don't really root for them, either. I don't get very excited when good things happen, and I don't get very angry when bad things happen, either. I know that I'm wasting my life on a pointless exercise, but I have fantasy teams and picks against the spread and the eternal idiot child hope that somehow things will all turn around and amazing things might happen, because the NFL seems more and more like an exercise in coin flipping every week, and hey, maybe a couple of billion flips will go my way.

In today's game, I had Doug Martin and the Eagle defense in fantssy, mostly because I was thinking there would be a dead cat bounce after last week's Dolphin mess, and the only option for Martin was the wildly disappointing Jeremy Hill. When it became obvious that the defense was a terrible play, I was just more annoyed with myself for making the mistake in the first place, and for the Eagles when they kept tackling Martin at the end of his long runs before he could get in the end zone. You are mostly just waiting for it to be over, and watching out of habit, and wishing that you never acquired this habit in the first place.

Two points about that last note, both personal.

First, at the very end of my first marriage, I remember standing in front of my weeping and inconsolable spouse. So much had been said and done, so little was good, and the details of all of that don't need to be discussed here. It was a weekend day in August, and as I considered the disaster that was my life right then and right there, the thought ran through my head... "I don't want to spend Christmas like this."

And if you don't want to spend Christmas like that... well, why would you want to spend Thanksgiving, really?

And if not Thanksgiving, well, Halloween is supposed to be fun, isn't it?

And if not those three holidays, well, goddammit, it's supposed to be nice on Tuesday. Really no reason why Tuesday should have to be miserable, should it? I'm ready to stand my ground for freaking Tuesday,

And in that moment, I knew the relationship was over, and felt very free. I said something I had never said before -- that I thought she should go -- and the line was crossed. There was much hell to go through after that, and I don't want to trivialize the transition, but at some level, defending the right of Tuesday not to also suck was transformative.

I'm not saying that I'm about to stop watching sports, or the Eagles. I think we'd probably need something really tone deaf from Eagle ownership, like many more years of Chump Kelly running roughshod over sanity, to get there.

But on the other hand? I really don't want to spend my Thanksgiving watching this team. If you catch my drift.

Second... when I was a very small child, I dreaded Eagle games. My older brother would yell and curse at the screen, and scream at the refs, and in general make the game miserable to be around. Not watching hardly seemed like an option, but not being like him was required. So for a brief period of time, I considered just being a fan of another franchise, which was much harder to do back in those pre-Internet, pre-cable TV, with only one night game a week that I wasn't allowed to stay up late to watch anyway schedules.

The teams that were highest in my consideration set?

Green Bay, for the history and uniforms, and San Francisco, because that West Coast offense thing looked really cool.

I didn't wind up going through with it, but I really wish I had.

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