By Peter Lederman
You would have thought with the revival of most professional sports (even in a spectatorless Covid-adapted manner) that I, as a major fan and sports watcher, would have been thrilled and delighted after so many months of nothing. But nah.
I’ve been surprised and puzzled with my lack of enthusiasm, despite enumerable hours of watching, and this has troubled me. So I reviewed what I watched and took a peek into my soul. Professional basketball resumed in a playoff mode and the New York Knicks weren’t included. Baseball, which I usually just watch at the end of the season for the playoffs and World Series, was without the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Bums were my first and then sadly the last team I cared about, having crushed my adolescent soul when they fled Brooklyn. And the U.S. Open tennis tournament was not only without Roger Federer, a modern love of my wife and me, but Rafael Nadal didn’t play and Novak Djokovic was thrown out. We watched, amused and thankful that tennis was on the air. But there was something missing.
I wasn’t going to write this month but tonight my life-long favorite football team, the New York Giants, played their first game of the season on Monday Night Football. The game, at least the first part that I have watched so far was terrible. Delay of game penalties, dropped balls, poor tackling, numerous missed opportunities, no crowd noise, lackadaisical defense, all-in-all hapless: no continuity and no great plays. Man, I loved it. You know why?
Because I am a fan, a giant Giant fan and they were winning. As a fan I care. I care. If my team can play miserably and win ugly that’s just fine by me. If the opposing team gets stuck on the thruway and can’t get to the game and forfeits, I’ll take it. If we win on a bad call by the referee it’s still a win. I think sports need fans, and for me that means loving a team or a player through the lean times and the dry spells and as they said in Brooklyn….to be willing to wait endlessly for next year. Its fandom’s ability to twist your guts that makes it all worthwhile. I’ve seen World Cup soccer games in France, Italy and the United States. In the United States it’s like watching paint dry compared to the ecstasies and gloom that a win or a loss can provoke in other countries where they love the game,but more so their teams.
I recently read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year wherein she recounts her youthful soul-embracing love for the Brooklyn Dodgers. At her first confession she mentions, slipped in amongst her other sins, that she wished that a star pitcher for the dreaded Yankees got injured and couldn’t pitch the next game against her beloved Dodgers. The priest admonished her and spoke of the beauty of competing against the best. She repented, but admitted to herself afterwards that she was having none of it. The whole Yankee team could pull up lame for all she cared. That’s my kinda sports watcher
As an honest postscript I must add that we did enjoy the women’s side of the U.S. Open tennis tournament as Serena Williams lost, and truthfully, rooting for a player you don’t like to lose can provide almost the same thrill as watching your child’s team win.~