I spend a good chunk of my day reading about sports, probably 2-3 hours worth. (If this sounds like a waste of my abundant free time, understand that I am really only maintaining the level I established while in banking. An unnamed TARP recipient bank once banned ESPN.com and there were heated protests that led to shirts becoming untucked. The ban lasted less than 24 hours.) And I mean reading about sports – SO has such a convoluted DVR schedule that I’m pretty limited in my ability to watch sports. That’s kind of a good thing since watching the 49ers offense makes me want to rinse my eyes out with bleach. To put it mildly, I’m suffering through a fandom dry spell that would evoke pity from longtime Red Sox fans, circa 2003, or even sad-sack Cubs fans.
Sports knowledge is still an important currency, sort of a universal language that allows me to intelligently discuss baseball with northeastern academic types (ie ivy league nerds), SEC football with rednecks, the NFL with pretty much anybody, and the WNBA with people from Seattle. The meteoric rise of fantasy football is a bit of a landmine in such conversations, because one never knows when a stranger is going to spend 20 minutes discussing his brilliant waiver wire pickup of Seneca Wallace. (I hate fantasy and have only played it one season, my running back got hurt or something so I picked up and started Tim Biakabutuka. He ran for like 180 yards and 3 touchdowns – numbers that are eerily close to his career totals. I retired from that stupid game on the spot – something I should’ve done in craps after winning $10k and before losing $11k the next weekend.) Despite the perk of being able to have a quasi-discussion with the mouthiest of mouth-breathers, I have grown tired of the downside of being a sports fan.
Fan of what, you may ask? (Or “who”? ”Whom”?) I have often been subjected to criticism for my rooting interests: 49ers, Braves, Razorbacks, Midshipmen. (Not so much the latter two, but the former two.) ”Why are you a 49ers fan?” I’ve been derisively asked no less than 43,000 times. Because I’m a motherf@&king contrarion, and everyone else in my hometown cheered for the Cowboys, that’s why. So f@ck off. I also rooted for some other distant squads – pennants (how quaint) for the Niners, Saints, Patriots and Seahawks adorned my bedroom walls. I would buy 3-4 NFL preview mags and memorize everything about every team, developing a fondness for some up-and-comers. True story: before the 1981 season I would simulate a 49ers/Bengals super bowl on Coleco Electronic Quarterback – given that the Niners were turribull the season before, it was Nostradamusesque. (I also gave the dude who worked the counter at QuikTrip a heads-up to lay the point and take the Niners in the actual game – he looked the other way on some Icee refills as a way of saying thanks.)
Anyway, as recently as the last time I was in Cancun, a couple of Raider fans of an older vintage attempted to give me sh$t about being a bandwagon fan, trying to bewilder me with a “Who was the 49ers quarterback before Joe Montana?” curveball. That’s a hanging curve for somebody who remembers the minor Deberg/Montana quarterback controversy. (Editor’s Note: I am old.) Similarly, I recall the non-glory years of the Braves (chosen due to the fact you could watch about 161 of their games on WTBS – The Super Station) of Murphy, Hubbard, Horner, Chamblis, Washington, enough to expertly defend my fanhood. People who still question my motives can feel free to bring it.
Why do people sneer at my teams? Because of the ridiculous success they experienced, and the packed-like-the-train-on-Slumdog bandwagons they inspired. Five super bowl wins in 14 years, 14 straight division titles for the Braves (alas, only one World Series title, thanks to lack of a decent closer and Jim “F*cking “Leyritz (now a Yankee pariah following a fatal drunk-driving accident)), a “Forty Minutes of Hell” NCAA hoops title, a perfect season and Rose Bowl berth on the horizon for Navy and Heisman candidate Ricky Dobbs. (Oops, that last part is wrong. I culled that from si.com without double-checking; turns out Navy decided to have three turnovers at the Maryland 1 yard line and lost the season opener. I’m guessing the Rose Bowl is unlikely for Navy with two losses.) As the evidence suggests, I’ve experienced a decent amount of sporting highs, and I pretty much understand the accusations of bandwagoneering. At least I’m not also a Lakers fan, right? I am considering adopting the OKC Thunder as my NBA team because it’s the home of my favorite NBA player: Russell Westbrook – dude appears to have some kind of real-life turbo boost feature.
Shakespeare said “past is prologue” – so I’d like a little shot of prologue, please. Sh-t, I’d settle for some epilogue, even – right now it’s basically all epitaph. (Sort through those metaphors and get back to me.) I spent the entire NFL offseason pondering the draft, free agency, etc – the Niners were destined (for like the 7th straight year) to make “the leap” this year after another 8-8 season. I decided adding some beef on the O-line was the way to go, and the front office obliged adding a tackle and a guard with their two first round picks. Every expert on ESPN picked them to win their division (no need for “tallest midgest” or “least promiscous slut” commentary). Considering that linebacker Patrick Willis and tight end Vernon Davis are physical freaks and near the top of the class for their respective positions, and the talent all over the rest of the roster, I was pumped for the season to begin, even going to a bar to watch the opener – which started with the defense picking off a pass on the first play. Nice start!
Fourteen days later, the season was basically over. The 49ers were crushed in Kansas City, where it appeared that the defense knew exactly what plays were coming. 49ers coach Mike Singletary, who constantly appears to be working a sudoku puzzle that someone is describing to him over the phone, is overmatched in every phase of the game , frequently choosing to burn all timeouts within 2-3 minutes of the start of the game, to increase the degree of difficulty. Weird vibes surround the team: backup running back Glenn Coffee quit the team before the start of his SECOND season to be a preacher or because he was too religious or some sh*t. Last week he was arrested for driving around with a loaded/cocked handgun – I guess he didn’t think God had his back 24/7 or something. Every fumble, tipped pass, etc bounces directly to the other time, resulting in immediate touchdowns 93% of the time. Every promising offensive series leaves you wondering which ingenius form the turnover will take. Last week against Atlanta, Nate Clements (at one point, the highest paid defensive player in the NFL) decided that he’d like to run back a potentially game-clinching interception for a touchdown (through heavy traffic) in a one point game. In the process of the brilliant play, (which would have resulted in an 8 point lead and given Atlanta the ball back with plenty of time to tie the score, whereas just falling down would’ve made it damn near impossible to lose) he was stripped from behind (the second straight year that’s happened against Atlanta – good job coaches!), Atlanta got the ball back, drove the length of the field and won on the last play. Brutal.
The scrappy Braves have been a better story, edging into the playoffs despite season-ending injuries to several of their best players. Those injuries have inserted 30 year-old rookie second baseman Brooks Conrad into the starting lineup, despite the fact that he’s made errors in something like 19 straight games. The series with the Giants featured a compelling matchup of the two leading Rookie of The Year candidates: Braves right fielder (and wpz favorite) Jason Heyward and Giants douchebag catcher Buster Posey (he looks, acts and has the name of either a douchebag or a 1920′s actor). Heyward is batting a robust .000 and looks completely outmatched; the ‘bag is batting .500 and has been critical in both Giants’ wins. (This sentence was written Sunday, so I’m not changing it to reflect that JHey got a couple hits in the finale – the f*cker still struck out in the only at-bat I watched.)
Sunday, I leapt, catlike, onto the treadmill at the gym just in time to see playoff good luck charm (and former Razorback) Eric Hinske smack an unlikely two run homer; suddenly, the Braves looked to be in good shape to make it to Philly to be crushed by the Phillies. Ominously, the Braves’ dugout was rocking like they’d just won the World Series, despite the fact that they had to get three more outs and had just lost their closer to injury. Conrad’s body language and facial expression shouted “please, please, please don’t f*cking hit it to me, I’ve got two errors already, please, God, I’m beggin you…” Guess what? The same God that doesn’t have Glen Coffee’s back apparently doesn’t care much care for Conrad, either. The grounder Buckners under his glove, between his legs and the winning run scores. Conrad’s efforts at second are starting to make my failed third grade stint as a starting third baseman seem pretty respectable. (It was one of the few times I really tried to MAXIMIZE my potentialz: running sprints in the offseason to improve my stamina, whipping a golf ball against the garage door to improve my reflexes, fielding instincts and the likelihood that I’d get beaten with a broom for breaking windows. I earned the nod as starting 3B; in the first inning, a hot shot grounder took a slightly odd bounce and hit my left wrist going about 312 mph. I went numb on my left side and soon lost interest in the sport – it turns out the risk of injury playing foosball and eating Funyuns is slight.)
And those are just a couple of examples, I could add the Hogs sh-tting the bed in the second half against Bama (Ryan Mallett always sucks whenever I’m watching), Federer blowing it against Djokerivicks in the U.S. Open and the Capitals choking so bad after having such a great regular season. Jk – I don’t know sh-t about hockey, other than it sucks. So, to tie this treatise together, let’s go back to the subject at hand: why do I f@&#ing hate sports? Because my teams suck, choosing to lose in only the most excrutiating manners. This allows people to make fun of me. I don’t enjoy being made fun of – I’ve found I’m much better at dishing it out, than taking it. So f@&# sports. I guess I’ll finally have to learn me some religion. Or politics.