Messrs. Goodell, Selig, Stern and Bettman,
Thank you for taking a moment out of your busy money-counting schedules to read this. I'll come right out with it, in case there's another merchandise licensing or network broadcast rights payment you must deposit: I'm quitting sports. It's a matter of self preservation.
An anecdote: At 10:00 pm EST last night, I called on the phone my younger brother Reece, 15. Upon answering, he immediately asked, "Why did you do this to me?"
The phone call took place shortly after the New York Jets fell heartbreakingly short in the AFC Championship Game. My brother was begging to know why I had made molded him into a Jets fan, why I had influenced him from an early age to have such a fervent passion for an often hapless football team. Why had I inflicted such suffering on him?
Half-heartedly, I tried to remind him that the Mets' spring training would soon be underway, and that both our basketball and hockey teams -- the Knicks and Rangers -- were still in the thick of their seasons. The reminders only sunk his spirits more.
I felt guilty about what I had done to him, all those afternoons in our childhood, teaching him the rules and stars of your respective games from the back of overpriced trading cards, or, in a rare lucky event, from the overpriced upper deck seats. I had created an addict, in my own image. And once again, with a Ben Roethelisberger first down pass, our hearts had been broken, our spirits crushed.
Why do we do this? What sense of joy, beyond fleeting adrenaline rushes, does it bring us? Nightly, six months out of the year, I tune into my New York Mets. I gave them an entire summer of my prime college years, working as an intern for hours on end, for nary a penny. In fact, it was an overall loss, given commuting, New York City housing and frequent trips to the far too conveniently placed giftshop in the now defunct Shea Stadium -- which I made sure to remember with a number of commemorative trinkets and ornaments.
The sum total of what I received in exchange: a soul-destroying loss in the National League Championship Series. And a lost opportunity at a girl I had been interested in for three years; she invited me to her apartment, to "console" me, and I sat on her couch and stared blankly into space, gnawing at an apple core. Here's photographic proof: Exhibit A and Exhibit B.
Of course, that loss of self and love was followed by two summers of crushing late season collapses, and two subsequent seasons of misery, so the baseball injuries have only gotten worse.
Johann Santana, the Mets' best pitcher, had surgery on his elbow last year. I check in on his status more than I do my own. And I'm a heart patient.
In the winter, I turn on the Knicks. That team hasn't made the playoffs in ten years. They haven't won a game in their last six contests. They still haven't traded for Carmelo Anthony, though I spend about an hour each day collecting rumors on various websites, crossing my fingers that they may win the right to use my salary, spent on easily-shrunk-in-the-laundry apparel, to give him a $20 million a year contract. God, do I want him to get that contract so bad -- I think about it all the time!
Maybe that's because, like Melo, I went to Syracuse University. He won the National Championship for the then-Orangemen two years before I got there. They missed the NCAA Tournament half the time I was in college, and last year, when they were a top ranked seed, they lost to the out-of-nowhere Butler Bulldogs.
If the Knicks aren't on, I make sure to watch the NHL's Rangers, who have set a new standard for mediocrity that not even my best/least efforts in high school could surpass. In middle school I bottomed out when I lost my favorite Rangers hat somewhere in the halls; I'll never feel as low as I did when I couldn't find the momento my dad had gotten me the night they won the Stanley Cup -- which I wasn't able to attend, which I spent an evening as a seven year old crying about. Crying over a group of strange Canadian mens' professional athletic triumph. That was literally the worst feeling I've ever experienced. I'm sorry, late friends and family.
I'm a film and television writer who doesn't have enough time to enjoy films -- because I'm watching sports. I'm a New York City resident who doesn't have the money to enjoy all that his great city has to offer -- because the tickets to the games cost me so much money. I'm a novelist with no inspiration to novel -- because it's been crushed out of me by another wrenching loss.
This is, I realize, an abusive relationship. Parasitic, even. On a daily basis, I obsess, worry, spend time and money, and alienate potential friends -- badmouthing millions of people at a time from cities throughout the country (the things I've said about Philadelphians would cause great pain to our Founding Fathers) -- and all for what? Nothing.
My teams always lose. And there's no solution. Why don't I try rooting for more successful teams, you ask? Maybe then I'll find out how great victory can feel? First, every win is fleeting -- a nightly victory is eclipsed by a game the next night, and even a championship (I'd imagine) is soon overshadowed by preparing for the next season. Instantly, sports memories become glory days, living in the past.
Second, we're conditioned to love our teams through thick and thin. Jumping to a more successful team, we're taught, is treacherous, and frontrunning short circuits our ability to "appreciate" the march to the championship -- from which we receive no benefit. Except the opportunity to buy commemorative shirts, with cool reflector stickers.
And third, I'd be called a front runner, the worst thing a sports fan can be accused of being.
I realize now that there is no benefit to being a sports fan. It is entirely a sham, an emotional and fiscal pyramid scheme. I'm trading in my jerseys, my hats, my cable package, and my New York Post ink-stained fingers for a gentler, more even keeled existence. Thanks for the memories, sirs. If you want to look back on the good times, I'm selling an exclusive DVD filled with highlights of me watching and inevitably suffering from sports, free with a subscription to Sports Illustrated.
PS. Homerun derbies are still really cool. Also, shootouts, slam dunk contests, NCAA Tournament pools and fantasy football... Ugh. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in 22 days. I just can't pull a Jay Cutler and quit. Damnit.