Aaron Leibowitz | The Fan
My worst nightmare
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 01:09
It’s the year 2026, and the Mets are one strike away from winning the World Series. Derek Jeter, now 52 and in the prime of his career, is in the batter’s box, as forty-thousand fans await the pitch with bated breath. Matt Harvey kicks and delivers — swung on and missed! Mets win!
Around the stadium, fans rejoice. Some have been watching since 1962, loving the Mets through their few ups and many downs, growing old with them. Others think back to the team’s last championship 40 years ago, and it still feels like yesterday. The rest are experiencing the euphoria for the first time.
And then there’s me. I’m sitting in the press box, where the noise is muffled by a glass window separating me from the crowd. Outside, the Mets are celebrating a World Series victory. Inside, I don’t care.
Now, hopefully you are looking at the title of this column and thinking: This is your worst nightmare? In which you cover sports for a living and the Mets win the World Series within the next 15 years? There are starving children in Africa and Cavaliers fans in Cleveland! Get a grip!
To which I’d reply: You’re right. My lack of perspective is mind-boggling. I should be doing something to help all those Cavs fans.
Still, I can’t get that scene out of my head.
When I was 12, I gave up the dream of playing professional sports and replaced it with the dream of writing about them. What could be better than getting paid to watch baseball? What’s more fun than that?
And yet, for me, sports is not just about “appreciating” the game or detachedly acknowledging its beauty. That’s part of it. For me, though, it’s also about maintaining loyalty to certain teams and all the emotional baggage that comes with it.
It’s about screaming with pure joy in a room full of Patriots fans after the Giants win the Super Bowl, hugging my dad after Johan Santana throws a no-hitter and crying when the Mets lose Game 7 of the NLCS.
Many people grow out of their fanatical rooting tendencies. My dad cares less about the Mets than I do, and my grandpa cares less than my dad does (although he still watches every single game on TiVo).
But caring about sports is part of who I am, and I don’t want to grow out of it.
As Bill Simmons wrote this past June in a piece called “The Consequences of Caring,” “I stopped crying about sports a long time ago. I never stopped caring.”
Simmons, for one, gets the best of both worlds. He writes about sports for a living, but he’s not a “sports journalist,” per se. He gets to maintain his die-hard fandom and earn a paycheck doing it.
Talk to normal sports journalists, though, and most will tell you that their childhood loyalties all but melted away once it became a job. “Things changed once I realized that athletes are just regular guys trying to earn a living,” they’ll say. And besides, it’s silly and immature to get so worked up over who wins and loses a game. (Not to mention the value of journalistic objectivity.)
Maybe, if I’m lucky enough to ever get inside a press box, it will give me some much-needed perspective. After all, my teams have caused me just as much pain as they have happiness.
Still, the thought of not caring about something into which I’ve invested countless hours of my life — it’s pretty scary. When the Mets win the World Series, I hope I’m on the right side of the glass.
Aaron Leibowitz is a junior who is majoring in American studies. He can be reached at Aaron.Leibowitz@tufts.edu.