A few weeks ago Deadspin published a piece on this video montage of distraught Toronto fans following the Leafs’ wrenching playoff hockey exit. The loss, both the game and the series, seemed so cruel that Tom Ley captioned it — seemingly perfectly and appropriately — with, “Man, sports are just the fucking worst, aren’t they?” Barry Petchesky, in a separate piece titled “This is How Hockey Hurts You,” opened with the line, “Why would you ever raise your kid to be a Leafs fan?”
As a Sharks fan who just watched my own team lose a heart-palpitating playoff series that they probably didn’t entirely deserve to lose (although the teams were so even I’m not sure they deserved to win, either), I agree, sports can just be terrible.
But there is, of course, a reason we stick around, and it’s not just the vague optimism that next year will be better, although it often feels that way. (“What right have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”) Continue reading →
“I am not wishing him too much good,” said Marianne at last with a sigh, “when I wish his secret reflections may be no more unpleasant than my own. He will suffer enough for them.”
“Do you compare your conduct with his?”
“No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.”
This is my favorite line of dialogue between the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, in Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. Marianne, the emotional one, suffers disappointment and heartbreak loudly, weeps following a breakup because she feels it must be so, and ultimately drives herself nearly to death in mourning for her lost romance; Elinor, the sensible one, suffers equal heartbreak but always make the effort to govern her emotions, and Marianne comes to realize her conduct is an inspiration. It also ought, I propose, to be an inspiration to sports fans everywhere.
Jane Austen, to paraphrase Jonah Lehrer, was a neuroscientist. Elinor Dashwood anticipates the discoveries of neuroscience by a good two centuries. Continue reading →
From the point of view of a non-sports-fan, March Madness looks like the month when many people actually go mad. Fans parade by in crazy hats and face paint. You go to a nice cafe for lunch and some other diner screams “Go Orange!” for Syracuse University—and instead of getting escorted from the premises is joined by a dozen other fans who look up and chant in unison, “Go Orange!” Strangers on the street ask what you think about something called Florida Gulf Coast University. As the comedian Michael Ian Black wrote last week on Twitter, March Madness “is the time of year when I don’t understand anything that’s happening in my country.”
March Madness is fun even for the casual fan, of course, because of its action and drama and the chance of winning big in the office betting pool. But for the team fanatic, there is more: a very real and emotionally satisfying relationship.
Most interesting natural things have fins, most interesting human things occur in sports, and I enjoy reducing either or both of them to their underlying irreducible complexity. Equivocation, to quote the great explainer Joel Achenbach, will not be considered a moral failing. Also featuring occasional smatterings about nature, hiking and writing of the non-poetical variety. New posts as required by advances in fish research.
"I'd never thought of my sports fandom in a psychological sense, but fortunately, Eric Simons has. His book is smart and well-researched, but it's also funny and warm-hearted. Every sports fan will see a lot of him or herself in these pages."
--Will Leitch, author of Are We Winning? and God Save The Fan
"An intriguing ride through 'all the wondrous quirks and oddities in human nature.'"