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Category: Sports

Rooting Posture II
My team won it all, but I can’t celebrate.

Let me be clear: the San Francisco Giants are World Champions. The building they play in is the most beautiful in baseball, if not in all of sport. They have the best manager in Bruce Bochy, and though the awards have not yet been passed out this year, they have Buster Posey, the most valuable player in the National League.

Why, then, do I feel this unease? Their victory this year was, in many ways, more heroic than the title they won in 2010. Their best player, All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera, was taken away from them in midseason for using performance-enhancing drugs, and yet they persevered. They made two historic comebacks in the post-season, then swept Detroit’s team of behemoths in the World Series. Their efforts, at times, seemed to be touched by the baseball gods and their quest marked by destiny.

They did all this with a gutty, team-first approach that should be the ideal of any baseball fan. Their courage and selflessness was a complete ratification of my rooting philosophy over the entire season. They have done everything I could have asked for and more. And yet, something is missing.

2010 was an experience unprecedented in my rooting career. The most hoped-for outcome — an outcome that had never come to pass in 52 years — was finally a reality. Giants fans, including me, were over the moon with elation, delivered at last to redemption.

2012 is not like that. The Giants have won, capturing the one goal in sports that I value most as a fan, but I am not over the moon. I feel good, but not fulfilled in the way I was in 2010. I have told myself that it’s only natural that the first title is the sweetest, but I do not find that explanation satisfying. If I am a true fan, then each World Series should bring the same degree of elation, the same glow of all-men-are-brothers beneficence.

The problem, I know, is with me. I am jaded, apparently; bored with winning. Here, in the middle of a glorious win, I have lapsed into a loser mentality. This is not a happy realization. As a true fan, I believe, it is part of my duty to think and act as if I were a member of the team. What good can I be to my team in this state? How can they depend on me when the 2013 season begins?

Nor do I see an easy solution. I have lost my way somehow, wandered away from the true path that was once the foundation of my rooting posture. I have fallen from grace, and I cannot see a way back.

My goal is to find that path again before pitchers and catchers report in early February. It will be a long winter, I predict, a time of deep introspection and of questioning my most sacred rooting fundamentals. No, it will not be easy, but one simple truth will sustain me.

The San Francisco Giants are World Champions.
Rooting Posture
“Root, root, root for the home team
If they don’t win, it’s a shame…”

The Philadelphia Phillies are a fine team. They have a proud tradition, and their rivalry with my San Francisco Giants is spirited without being unfriendly. My problem is with their fans.

Phillies fans, like fans from many East Coast cities, often get credit for being “knowledgeable.” That is code, of course, for “abusive.” They regularly booed the greatest player in Philly history, hometown boy and first ballot Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. That is only the most famous example of their scoliotic rooting posture.

As a sports fan, there’s not a whole lot you can do to affect the outcome on the field. Scream, cheer, stamp your feet, boo, pray. You want to think it will help your team, but it would be hard to prove that any of that makes a difference. Very rarely do players pay attention to anyone in the stands; they are rightly focused on the ball, their own execution, and the actions of other players.

If you are at home, your connection to the action is even more remote, and your participation in the web of causality even more imaginary. Often, no one can see you, much less hear your shouts and moans. It would only be natural to feel that your rooting counts for nothing and that you are powerless to help your team.

I reject this notion of helplessness. In doing so, I rely on no less an authority than the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. For our purposes, that principle holds that mere observation of phenomena, no matter from what distance, can affect it.

On a quantum level we are not only at the game, but we are actively participating in it in a meaningful way just by paying attention to it. In fact, we are members of the quantum team we root for.

I’ll admit that, under the Heisenberg Principle, we are also members of the other team, a face in the crowd at the game, part of the umpiring crew, and also intimately connected to every blade of grass on the field. Even so, I think we are bound to have the greatest effect on the things we pay the closest attention to: the play on the field, and particularly, the thoughts and actions of our (quantum) teammates.

It is important, therefore, for us to be good teammates by adopting an appropriate rooting posture — a positive one. A team riven by backbiting, finger pointing, and dissension is not a team but a collection of losers. I’m talking to you, Phillies fans.

But no hard feelings, Phillies — whatever your quantum status. Bottom line, it’s hard to bear ill will against a team that the Giants regularly thump with such gusto in the playoffs.
My Olympics
Later this summer in London, proud Olympic champions will hold up their medals for the world to see. Parents will beam; whole countries will celebrate the achievements of their sons and daughters. People everywhere will rejoice in the fellowship and unity found in the simple purity of sport.

Sadly, I will not be joining them. Not because I begrudge them their pride and feelings of brotherhood, but because the modern Olympic Games have abandoned that purity of sport in favor of a misguided notion of inclusion. Pastimes that have no business being on the same level as, for instance, the hundred-yard dash, have been elevated to that status simply because somebody somewhere likes to play them. Does anyone really believe that the ropes, hoops, and ribbons of rhythmic gymnastics belong on the same podium with javelins and shot puts?

Synchronized swimming, diving, boxing, gymnastics: none of these would be included in My Olympics. Why? Because, to win these competitions, a judge must vote for you. How did voting get to be a part of sport? Give me a measurement, a clocking, a score fairly earned by the athlete; save the secret ballots for Homecoming Queen.

I take my inspiration from the original Greek games. There were very few events then, and for the most part, the scoring was straightforward. Fastest, highest, farthest, strongest: these simple achievements won the day. Let us return to those times, at least for the Olympics.

Any event using complicated equipment of any kind will be looked upon with suspicion at My Olympics. Shooting in any form is banned outright, and I got your Second Amendment right here, pal. Furthermore, fencing, archery, biking, tennis, and croquet will lead the list of sports which will have to prove that their gear doesn’t play too large a part in the outcome. No sport is exempt from scrutiny. The pole vault, for instance, and all ball-related games will be closely examined for compliance. As always, purity of sport will be the standard for all determinations.

And no animals, please. All equestrian events and the modern pentathlon are out. Here, the ancient Greeks were not entirely without fault themselves. In a moment of weakness, they added chariot racing, and it all but killed the original Games. This is supposed to be about humans; Old Paint is welcome to try out for the Kentucky Derby.

There will be no winter games in My Olympics. I’m sorry, but it’s just all too strange: the subjective scoring, the rifles, the puffy clothing, the cold, the high death rate. There has never been skiing in Greece, not even on Mt. Olympus, so let’s save ourselves the anguish of pretending we care about the luge.

Finally, there will be no clothes in My Olympics. All athletes compete in the buff, the way the Greeks did. The Greeks also rubbed themselves down with olive oil, but I will not require that. Canola is fine, and so is corn oil, although most fragrant oils would be banned. They might add an unseemly dimension to some events.

For those athletes who would miss out on a chance to win gold because of these strictures, please find your sports immortality elsewhere. There are other venues for you to prove yourself to your family and your nation. You are certainly welcome to attend as a spectator — just as I would welcome people without any athletic ability at all. But leave your hoops and ribbons at home; your sport just isn’t pure enough for My Olympics.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon