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Such an isolating feeling…

November 7, 2019, 11:24 AM

Let me be the first to say that I am glad that the baseball season is finally over.  For those not familiar, the Major League Baseball team that is based in Washington, the Nationals, made it to the World Series, and ultimately managed to prevail, with the franchise’s winning the first World Series title in its history, both as the Nationals, as well as the Expos before that.

I don’t know how you’re “supposed to” feel about when the team that’s based in your city is in the championship round, but I felt a bit alienated.  I don’t pay much attention to professional sports, other than what I pick up at work (let’s just say that I am well aware of the RedskinsCowboys rivalry).  It just doesn’t interest me.  When everyone around me was celebrating the team’s making the World Series and then winning it, I felt bad because I couldn’t muster up the joy myself.  It made me feel very isolated, with everyone around me wrapped up in baseball fever, and my feeling incapable of sharing in the hubris.

It really came to the forefront for me when we were all given World Series hats at work, and encouraged, though not required, to wear in place of our our standard uniform hats if we so desired.  I was asked to put it on to verify that it fit when it was given to me.  It really brought that feeling of emptiness that I felt for professional sports to a head, and that made me feel guilty because I felt nothing over the success of the local professional team while everyone around me was overjoyed.  I never did wear the hat beyond the fit test, and after the period that it was authorized for wear expired, I gave it to Elyse.  I didn’t want it, but it made her happy.  So that’s a win, I suppose.  I also suppose that the hat was a moot point to begin with, considering that I haven’t worn a hat to work in more than a year.

I don’t know what you would call this feeling of loneliness when it comes to all of this.  I wonder if it stems from my being more than a little jaded when it comes to professional sports.  I’ve read enough about the history of various sports teams and such to know that these teams are interested in making huge profits over all else.  A team might be in Washington today, but if another city makes them a better deal then… “Bye, Felicia,” as the saying goes.  You know how sports teams love corporate welfare.  DC almost lost the then-Expos because they weren’t necessarily willing to give the team all of the corporate welfare that it asked for.  The DC council eventually relented, and gave them everything that they wanted.  I just think about how many roads that they could have resurfaced with that money if they had made baseball pay their own way.  In any case, DC should know all about team relocations, because no fewer than three of the Washington DC professional teams were relocations from other cities.  The Wizards came from Chicago via Baltimore, the Redskins came from Boston, and the Nationals came from Montreal.  Plus let us not forget that Washington’s two previous baseball teams left for greener pastures, becoming the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers, respectively.  In other words, there is no loyalty to Washington in sports by the teams, especially if another city offers a better deal.  This isn’t unique to Washington, nor is it limited to franchises.  Players also will swap teams if they get a better deal somewhere else.  Case in point: Bryce Harper, who left the Nationals after the 2018 season and joined the Phillies.

This lack of loyalty on the part of the teams and players is also why I find the idea of people’s taking their sports so seriously to be so strange.  People devote so much effort and money to loyalty to “their” team, going so far as to refer to a win by said team by saying that “we” won, rather than saying, more accurately, that “they”, as in an entity other than themselves, won.  I hate to be the wet blanket and tell people that they have nothing to do with the team’s performance, so I just cringe silently whenever I hear it.  Sports fans’ role is just to keep the team profitable by buying tickets to games, and to buy lots and lots of merchandise.  It reminds me of a “Buy Me That!” special on HBO from the nineties, where the host was talking about fan clubs for various entities.  There, the host spoke about all of the crap that one would have to buy to be part of the “fan club”, and how it doesn’t really get you anything special, leaving you feeling a bit empty in the end.  The same thing goes for professional sports.  People buy into and give their loyalty to an organization that does not reciprocate.

Likewise, I’ve seen too many people conflate an athletic team with the entity that hosts it.  That starts early, with even elementary schools’ having mascots despite having no team.  We were the Grimes Grizzlies in elementary school, for no good reason.  I was delighted that we had no mascot in middle school.  That happened because at that time, students from my middle school went to two different high schools, each with their own mascots, and therefore one could not get behind either one officially.  Their mascot was technically a lion, but it had been largely dropped during the time I was a student there.  And then my high school was all about being the Cougars, with the mascot painted all over the place, and it was made pretty clear through various actions that school pride meant supporting the athletic program.  College was similar, that school pride meant “Dukes”, and intertwining the athletic mascot with the institution itself pretty thoroughly.  It’s not surprising with that sort of upbringing that people conflate their professional sports teams with their city, and really buy into it.

In the end, I suppose that we need to recognize our professional sports teams for what they are, i.e. businesses providing entertainment, and not take them so seriously.