The Boston Red Sox, my favorite baseball team, won the World Series Monday night and to be honest, I did not care. Still don’t. I watched the games half-heartedly and played video games between pitches. Winning my game of FIFA meant more to me than a group of 25 people I have never met winning their baseball game 2,000 miles away.
It was not always this way. From my Maryland home, I used to read Red Sox message boards, follow every game online and count down the days until they were next on national television. In 2004, I remember being so nervous that it hurt. Seriously, it physically pained me to watch those American League Championship Series games against the Yankees. When the Red Sox won, I was overjoyed – equally happy to watch the Yankees lose in heartbreaking fashion as I was that the Red Sox finally beat them.
Now, it is not the same. When the Red Sox were down three games to one against the Indians, I was less than upset. No matter what happened, I knew the win could not satisfy me as much as the 2004 title did. And maybe that’s the problem: I’ve become satisfied. That first World Series in 86 years did not whet my appetite for more. It quenched it.
Does this make me a bad fan? Probably. But I cannot force myself to care about something I don’t, and pretending to care defeats the purpose. My roommate, a diehard New York Mets fan, says it makes him sick to watch me not care. The night of the series-clinching victory, I went to the library before it started, telling him to “call me if the Red Sox win the World Series.” I was kidding (I watched the last three innings), but it still infuriated him. He does not think I deserve it – and he’s right. If teams rewarded individual fans for their devotion, the Mets wouldn’t have collapsed like they did. But they don’t.
He reminds me of myself pre-2004, days I look back on without nostalgia, spending hundreds of hours worrying about something he has absolutely no control over, just like I used to do. Watching your boys win after following them all year may make it better, but the aggregate pain of losing most years outweighs the momentary elation of victory – and it’s not even close. The hours spent obsessively following a team can be put to much, much better use, like FIFA.
I have a feeling that one day, when the Red Sox haven’t been to the playoffs in 10 years and the Yankees have re-established a dynasty, I will look back on this time in my sports-fan life and wonder what I was thinking. But, for now, it is hard to take a step back and keep things in perspective. All I know is that my favorite baseball team has won two of the last four World Series and that this February my favorite football team, the New England Patriots, will win its fourth Super Bowl since 2001.
There’s a saying football coaches like to tell players who make fools of themselves during touchdown celebrations: “Act like you have been there before.” It is easy to get excited the first time, but it becomes progressively more difficult every time one of your teams wins its respective championship within a short period of time.
When the Yankees won four of five championships from 1996-2000, I kept hearing about how winning “doesn’t get old.” Now, I know the people who said that were just too embarrassed to admit it. When Terry Francona, the Red Sox’s manager, says that winning “doesn’t get old” while celebrating with a champagne shower, I believe him because he actually had a say in the outcome. I don’t, and I never will.
Two days from now, the Boston Celtics will start their most anticipated season of my lifetime. Last year, when the Celtics were the second-worst team in the league, I followed them incessantly, scouring each box score to see which of the team’s promising young players played well. This year, I’ll get to watch three bona fide stars wear Celtic green on national television and will live and die with every playoff game (should they get that far). If they manage to make the NBA Finals, I will once again be so nervous it hurts. Why? Because they haven’t been there before. More important, neither have I.