Last year I made the choice to stop drinking alcohol. It wasn’t a situation where I had to stop to save my life. I just didn’t feel the need to drink anymore. I barely eat sugar anymore at this point in my life. I quit smoking 6 years ago after I had some health issues and realized that only smoking when I was drinking wasn’t worth it. Most of the bad habits that can drive others to the brink of madness, and most of my own toxic behaviors from my younger days, I’ve either cut out of my life or have done a lot of work to cut out of my life.
There’s one glaring exception: I can’t stop watching sports. I don’t even know how to begin.
This is a particularly brutal stretch for the teams I root for. Just about all of them are hitting rock bottom one way or another (or in the case of some teams, multiple ways over). I had an otherwise lovely, stress-free Sunday that was demolished by nonstop sports disappointment.
I defend sports on several levels. Sports teach healthy competition. The joyous sports moments of my life are truly some of the most joyful moments of my life in general. Sports are the closest thing in life to a true meritocracy. Most of all sports are a source of fun in a world that produces very little of that. I even get uppity and pissed when my nerdier friends bash sports or refer to it as “sportsball.” As if there’s no toxicity to the cultures behind Harry Potter, Rick and Morty, or whatever pop culture artifact with a deeply passionate fanbase you pull out of a hat.
Sports are also the one area of my life where I regularly encounter right-wing trollery, when I’ve otherwise systematically tried to cut them out of my life. Sports are a driving force behind toxic masculinity, a force of destruction among academic institutions, can tear cities apart, both figuratively and literally, and destroys the bodies and minds of the young men and women who play them, just about all of them for no financial game in return.
All of this is true whether or not my teams do well. It would be hugely hypocritical for the win-loss records of my teams to matter in making a moral judgment on sports, on top of the larger hypocrisy in following sports at all in spite of all their other negatives. But when my teams do lose, it drills the point into my head even deeper: why do I still care?
This blog is not a replacement for therapy but it is (in part) about accountability. The Yankees have done enough to alienate their fanbase multiple times over this season. I will do everything in my power not to watch another baseball game for the rest of 2021. That just leaves me with football, soccer, hockey, basketball, and college basketball. And if the Yankees go on another winning streak and make the playoffs, I will probably break this promise to myself. In fact, I will probably break it by tomorrow afternoon.