Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fascinating Fantasies of a Female Football Fan

I guess the first thing I should clarify is that this post really doesn't detail any of my fantasies (you can all breathe that sigh of relief now!), and referring to this exploration of my fandom as 'fascinating' is pretty grandiose. Honestly, I'm not sure that even 'of mild interest' would be an accurate assessment. But, as you'll probably discover if you stick with this blog, I'm excessively fond of alliteration...hence the title ;)

Okay, so on select Sundays of every year, you can find me curled up on the corner of my sofa in a fetal position. I'm too distraught to formulate coherent sentences, but occasionally a plaintive moan escapes my lips (when said lips aren't busily wrapped around something chocolate and fattening, that is). It's not because I dread returning to work the next day, though I most assuredly do. It's not because I've just gone through a particularly heart-wrenching guy-related drama, though certainly with my tumultuous romantic history, that can never be ruled out as a possibility. No, the key to why I've temporarily morphed into an immobile mute on these special Sundays can be found on your TV or on any one of a zillion sports-centric websites.

I'm a football fan, and unlike many members of the team I root for (you know, the guys who actually PLAY the game rather than sitting on their well-exercised butts watching it), I do not lose with grace. When my team loses, *I* lose a little something as well. I lose the hope that I'll be able to vicariously revel in their triumphs. I lose the satisfaction of knowing that this team---'my' team---is worth the emotional and financial investment I've made in them. I lose my voice after hours of futile screaming at the TV. (Because, clearly, the team would be far better off if they followed my ill-informed, somewhat hysterical ideas of how to proceed in any given situation). I lose...well, okay, by some measures of clinical assessment, you could argue that I lose a tiny bit of my sanity as well.

Is this a measured, logical or even remotely rational response to watching a group of people I don't know throw and kick a strangely shaped ball around a little less skillfully than another group of people I don't know? To quote my beloved Emerson Cod of the dearly lamented show Pushing Daisies: "Hell, no!" As other people afflicted with the chronic disease of fandom can attest to, however, a fan in the throes of a heartbreaking defeat loses all perspective. One disappointing game---perhaps even one disappointing PLAY of one game--confirms all our worst fears that the team we've invested our hopes in were unworthy of our optimism, our support and the $25 we spent on the grossly overpriced snacks they serve at the stadium.

As I've mentioned, fandom is a chronic condition. Once you've contracted this disease, you're never truly cured. Your emotions will forever be at the mercy of these athletes who are paid obscene amounts of money to...well, to play games. And, in between playing those games, they're sometimes paid even more obscene amounts of money to sell us sneakers and hair growth products and even underwear. (Don't ask...if you don't know the commercials to which I'm referring, consider yourself fortunate!)

Why do we willingly ride the emotional roller coaster of fandom when we could devote our free time to far more soothing, less blood-pressure-elevating activities? Well, partially because most of us harbor a stronger streak of masochism than we're willing to admit ;) But there are also the undeniable joys of being a fan, some of which can compensate for the heartbreak. There's the constant excitement, the far from constant but richly savored moments of triumph, and, perhaps most importantly, the eternal hope. Our teams, just like our lives, may always be just on the verge of getting better.

Oh, and those $10 hot pretzels really ARE awfully delicious ;)


  1. You truly are a terrific writer! I can't stand football and have never had any interest in watching any sport. However, reading this post makes me want to become a sports fan ... that is something I never thought I'd say! I'm very impressed...

  2. I will second that you are a terrific writer! I'm so glad you started a blog. This one was great. I never got into football, but a few years back, I was very much in the NBA, particularly the Pacers. I would sit at the edge of my seat, close my eyes, cheer, be sad, etc. I read every article written about the team. I talked to people about basketball, much to their lack of interest. I used aspects as a metaphor for life, and I bored people with this observation. This was for two years in my late 20s. And, then, one year I was too afraid to watch it. I was busy that year with something (can't remember now) and was afraid that if I watched a game, I would be sucked in again. And, I didn't think I could bear the emotional energy. Basically, i got lazy. And, to this day, I have yet to watch NBA games like I once did during that two year window. Even though I never got into football, I imagine it is the same type of thing. My obsessive personality probably could not handle it.

    Keep writing Marla! I love it. Marla, does yoru day job involve a lot of writing?

  3. I once read that the central reason that people become involved in sports in the modern era (i.e., when it’s no longer necessary to help us get ready for when the invaders come) is that it’s the only realm in our lives where all the rules are explained to us before we begin. It was referring to participating in sports, but I think the notion still holds for watching sports. I think it’s also why we get so crazed when refs or umpires make seemingly arbitrary calls – it totally unhinges our expectations of the game and the experience. I hope it’s something like that, cuz the $10 pretzels suck.

  4. Great post! Can't wait to read more!

  5. DR, what a brilliant comment...alas, a far more insightful theory than anything I could have come up with! I totally agree that refs blowing a call violates our sense of fairness and justice. Objectively, I know there are about 10 million things worth getting more riled up about, but nothing elevates my blood pressure quite like an unfairly played/arbitrated game!
    Yes, as you can imagine, it was lots of fun to play board games with me as a child---I was quite the gracious loser ;)

    Megha, you are so very right about the weird amount of emotional energy fandom requires!

    Thanks again for the comments---I'm not an articulate enough writer to express how much I value your support!