This was quite a week for sports fans in New York and Philadelphia. We lost. We really lost.
On Thursday, our incredibly competent Yankees were outdone by an upstart Detroit Tiger team. No World Series this year. The Philadelphia Phillies may have the fire power, but they lost the next day to a less talented St. Louis Cardinals, who can't believe that they are in the mix after the Atlanta Braves fell apart late in the season. Then there's football. The Eagles and Michael Vick -- the "dream team" -- lose to the up and coming Buffalo Bills and the Giants are upset by the Seattle Seahawks. And -- break my heart -- the Jets achingly lose to the dreaded New England Patriots. It's been a bad week. I am a New York fan and I am strangely happy. Even if I were a Philadelphia fan, I would feel the same way. Why?
While I love being a sports fan, I also love to be free of it. Every year when one of my teams is eliminated from the hunt, I sigh -- feel empty for a moment -- and then ready myself to move on. After all, I do have a life to live and the drama of sports is just form of pleasure, isn't it?
Do you have a preoccupation that just pulls you in when you know that you have better things to do? Maybe it is the ice cream in the freezer, with its empty calories or surfing the net aimlessly when work needs to be done. I really enjoy time with my friends, my kids and my wife. And, when we are all gathered around the TV watching sports, it feels like the biggest win/win. But a bigger win/win is the freedom of my team losing. Weird but true, because, even if one of my teams wins it all, there is still a strange letdown afterwards. And it feels biological. I am like an addicted person who has gone through withdrawal and seen the light. Maybe the Giants and Jets and Mets and Yankees (or pick the team in your neck of the woods) will just continue to lose. I don't want to be a "big" fan -- except, maybe, to the game of life.
There, I feel better.
So, what's with this worldwide preoccupation with our sports and hometown teams? Millions love sports. Some are willing to fight for their team. Most of us give up time and energy that we can spend elsewhere. While, my wife is supportive, I couldn't blame another woman for giving her husband a hard time for his Sunday fix. That being said, I might want to point out that a recent article in Houston talked about how marriages that share a passion for football actually do better than those that don't -- it's the shared experience, the socializing, and the passion that helps them stay together.
We bond over sports. We feel connection to the world through our teams, almost by proxy. When all is said and done, our collective love of sports probably borders on the line between passion and addiction. Watching sports is a passion because it brings us together and gives us something to enjoy.
A preoccupation with sports is an addiction because some of us can't get enough of it. We neglect almost every other interest for something that is really external to our being. While we are talking about a relatively healthy affliction, the thrill of a game probably touches the same biochemistry of other addictions. There is the anticipation of the game, the rush of the beginning, the tension of what is happening and the elation of the win or the emptiness of the defeat. Is this an emotional form of gambling? I could make the case.
But now with all these losses I am relieved. Empty, distraught and irritable, but relieved. I don't have to think about the Yankees anymore, and I'm beginning to let go of the Jets and Giants -- at least until Thursday.
There is so much pleasure in life... everyday. So, I just reinvest in my simple life -- and I am free.
So, wouldn't it be better to just give up on this project?
Probably -- but hope beckons every year and I seem to need my fix.
Follow Mark Banschick, MD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarkBanschickMD