To my imaginary shrink: Thanks for not charging me
My first memory is of blowing out the candles on my third birthday cake. My first two recurring series of memories are of: 1) wearing lots of plaid flannel, and 2) telling my entire family, who loved the Philadelphia Phillies, that I was a Padres fan. I loved the name, maybe because it was Spanish and I was practicing to become a stuffy Romance-language aficionado in later years.
But that phase ended fast, and I sprouted during some of the Phillies' crappiest years, though Mike Schmidt and Juan Samuel were fun to watch and Steve Jeltz was fun to make fun of.
When I hit my stride as a baseball-obsessed awkwardness poster boy at age 7, a late-30s Mike Schmidt was winning the Most Valuable Player award for a brilliant offensive season (for a team that finished in second place by 20 games, but never mind that). It was also around that time in the mid-80s that Schmidt hit his 500th home run, which was once an elite-pantheon total. I started to pick up the way that one great player could sucker you into rooting for a team forever, hoping he'd be reincarnated each generation and give the team a fighting chance.
A half-hour ago, a handful of people saw the Phillies' season effectively end with a rain-delayed loss to a last-place team unburdened by possibilities. It's the third time in four seasons that the Phillies have very nearly reached the postseason, but it remains a goal that's eluded them since 1993.
I'm just rambling in writing because it's part of the healing process. I have a problem. I grew up watching sports success come so rarely that when a good team finally comes along, I become way too wrapped up in it.
When Maryland football seemed on the verge of escaping mediocrity my junior year, I attended a game with one of my best friends, a far more even-tempered cat. Maryland's pep band kept playing loudly when Maryland was on offense, and this drove me crazy because I figured it would screw up the signal-calling at the line. It kept happening and I went totally on tilt, swearing at my own team's pep band. I don't even have to close my eyes to picture the hurt, confused and angry looks on some of their faces and the startled, embarrassed look of my friend. I wrote the band director an apologetic letter after the game, but the damage was done in my head. I didn't think I was capable of such ridiculous behavior. I was That Guy who people roll their eyes at until they clap slowly and grin when the bouncer hauls him off into the alley.
Ever since then, I've thought about that day whenever I'm faced with bitter sports-related disappointment, and I keep in mind that it's sports, for crying out loud. It's dudes who don't know me playing a game without me. At some point, it's OK not to give a rat's ass which of them are good at it and which are bad on a given day.
Oh yeah, the Terps lost to frigging Duke football that day, on their way to a 5-6 season that ended when a guy I went to high school with threw a TD pass for the Cavs at the end of the last game, knocking Maryland out of a bowl berth.
The fact that I still remember all that and can't remember the final play of Maryland's national championship game tells you something about the sports-fan psychosis.
What in the world was the point of all this? Who cares. Wait 'til next year.