May 9, 2010

To be a fan, it helps to be a little crazy

I think at some point most of us have enjoyed a version of this cozy small-talk scenario with our wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend:

I think at some point most of us have enjoyed a version of this cozy small-talk scenario with our wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend:

Significant other: "Will you still love me when I'm old?"

You: "Yes."

Significant other: "Would you still love me if I was blind?

You: "Of course."

Significant other: "Would you still love me if I quit my job, stopped taking showers, gained 300 pounds, became an angry drunk who watched "Comedy Central Roasts William Shatner" 18 hours a day and maimed two people for blocking the aisle in Walmart?"

You:"... yeah?"

Significant other: "And would you still think I'm sexy?"

You: "Um...."

Significant other: "I knew it! You've never loved me! You think I'm ugly and crazy! Why are we even together!"

You: (where's that remote....)

Soon sanity is restored, and you count your blessings that your significant other was just having an odd, quite possibly drug-induced moment and isn't actually a crazed drunken homicidal maniac, because it would really stink to have to deal with that. And if your mate really was that extreme, nobody would blame you for extricating yourself from that relationship.

But what if your favorite team has become the sports version of intolerable? What if it's barely competitive and hasn't had a chance to win a championship in decades? Is it all right to leave that relationship?

Maybe it is, but I'm glad people don't.

I appreciate guys like Rany Jazayerli, a Royals fan despite all reason (see story, Page 1D). A guy who watches and winces... and hopes. Fans who are passionate and intelligent, but at the end of the day are still able to retain innocent faithfulness.

Fans who appreciate the beauty of the sport and the skill involved, but who also have a special link to a team.

There's something to be said for loyalty. Sure, you can argue that loyalty should be a two-way street, and that when your favorite team doesn't give you an entertaining product that it's violating the sacred trust between team and fan. I get it. It's a little weird, that sacred trust business, but still, I get it.

I just don't want to hear it.

If your "favorite" team is some club you latched onto in your teens because they were on television a lot, fine. Change. But if your favorite team is a team you were born into, a team that you've been watching since your parents took you to your first game when you were 3 weeks old... well then, sorry, you can't leave. If you divorce that team, you're just a mean, rotten person. You can't pick a new favorite team. This is yours. Stick with it.

Being a long-suffering fan isn't life-ruining. If your team loses a game, it loses a game. Your life hasn't been irrevocably altered. You can still enjoy dinner, go for a walk, go to a movie, play with the kids, read a book, enjoy the sound of the birds in the trees, marvel at the beautiful Kansas sky, and maybe shoot your neighbor's dog with a BB gun if that's your idea of fun.

(Editor's note: Never shoot your neighbor's dog, not even with lightweight ammunition, no matter how annoying and yippy the little dog is. Not even if it's wearing a Royals jersey).

This doesn't mean you have to love everything about your team.

It's OK to be frustrated. It's OK to be annoyed by the player who never comes through in the clutch. It's OK to be angry when the team's management never seems to make a sensible decision. It's even OK to pull back, spend a little less time watching games and maybe do something else once in awhile (and darn you for being so well-rounded and making the rest of us feel bad).

But you can't pick a new team. It ain't right.

And besides, what happens if you disavow any allegiance to the Royals, and then two years from now everything breaks right for the franchise? What if Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are productive members of the lineup, and Mike Montgomery, Aaron Crow and Tim Melville are legitimate big-league pitchers, and maybe the Royals have traded one of their six first basemen/DH types for more help? What if they're actually winning games when Zack Greinke pitches? What if something really crazy happens, like they start catching pop-ups? What're you gonna do then? Rejoin Royals fandom?

I guess you could. But you won't feel right. And that'd be a shame. Sports should make you feel good. Even when it makes you feel bad.

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