Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Fan Out of Control

Perhaps it is a reflection of the stress in my life. Perhaps it is too many decades of watching games go in so many different directions. Perhaps it is just another moment to reflect and figure out how to find the center of gravity again. But the fact remains that this Fan is out of control and it has become impossible to watch a game. Lord knows the wife is fed up with the bad behavior and she is right. It's humbling and it needs to stop.

Sporting events are just that. They are entertainment that alter little in the circling of this planet and the plight of the people spinning around on this earthly ship. They don't affect global hunger or the nuclear threat. They don't stop terrorists from altering thousands of lives. They are a diversion that allow us fans to forget about all of that for a few hours. These events are just another set of competitors in a two-thousand year old evolution of competitions from the original Olympics to now. But when a Fan loses all rational perspective and control in his behavior watching those events to the point where there is actual fear in watching them, something has gone terribly wrong.

Last night was the straw that broke the camel's back. The Fan's behavior was so erratic and so over-the-top emotional, so disturbing for the woman in my life that it just has to end. To her, I apologize. She doesn't need that nor does she deserve it. And while she stayed up until well past one to watch the end results, the Fan took a PM version of a famous pain reliever and went to bed well before the drama was finished.

It happened this way. First, there is no denying in this space that the Yankees have been as big a part of my life as the Beatles, family and God. Many times, the order of those parts of my life have been a bit out of proper order, but they have been the revolving uber-themes of my existence. As a blogger, I try mightily to keep this space neutral. I attempt to cover all of Major League Baseball without my true love affair for this one team that is five decades old to predominate. But the fact remains that I have lived and died with the Yankees since I was a little kid and the team was horrible. I have lived through the early Steinbrenner saga and the Billy Martin fiascoes and the two championships in the 70s and the long drought that followed. I suffered along with Don Mattingly who played brilliantly all those years without a championship. I sorrowed for Dave Winfield who couldn't put any kind of post-season heroics on the field during his Yankee years. And I certainly gloried through 1996-2000.

And then 2001 happened and that sickening feeling that this Fan can still recognize as Rivera tried to get the force on a bunt and threw errantly followed by that horribly lucky, broken bat plop of Luis Gonzalez whose probably performance-enhanced abilities just allowed him to get the ball to the back edge of the infield behind Jeter. It was the beginning of where the Fan is now.

It was quickly followed by the Yankees signing just about every past-their-prime, thirty-five year old free agent that hit the market. Which allowed another sickening loss to the Marlins in the World Series and was followed by the awful events of the 2004 series against the Red Sox and then the quick exits in 2005 through 2007.

This Fan saw the reputation of Jeter thrown through the mud. He can't field you know. He was finished you know. Alex Rodriguez was a post-season flop. There was scandal and overblown hype at everything A-Rod and Clemens did. There was disgrace and this Fan was defeated and disillusioned.

And then improbably, the Yankees put it all together this year. The Red Sox stumbled which I never saw coming. The Yankees put together 103 wins and seemed to have fun doing it. The Yankees had fun? Who saw that coming? They laughed? They joked around? They did pies in the face? Huh? Jeter restored his reputation. He worked hard in the off-season on his lateral movement and became decent in the field again. He had his best year at the plate since 2005. He was back on top of his game.

And then the Yankees beat the Twins three straight. A-Rod was the hero. Say what? But the pressure built inside me. I can't watch. The desire to see Jeter, Mo and Jorge win one more title is so strong that it tilted my universe. But I did watch as Sabathia dismantled the Angels and the Angels stumbled around. The game was never in doubt and it was okay. The Fan was okay. Until last night. And I lost it.

It started by watching A. J. Burnett. Golly, the guy kills me. Watching him time after time getting two strikes and then try to get cute and throw four straight balls or hit some guy in the foot. He's terrible to watch and it was insufferable. So I went downstairs in my stressed out state and played Hearts while the wife sat up there alone keeping vigil. The fact that she has become such an avid Yankee fan is my fault. And she is much more loyal now than me. Because she can watch and root and hope for the best while I cringe and grovel and spit epitaphs.

Finally, the Fan thought it was safe to go back up and watch a little. I came just in time to watch Joba shut the door on Vlad with the bases loaded. Okay. I can do this. The Yankees get a base runner on a Swisher single. Gardner pinch runs. I know he's going to steal second and set up a rally. But he doesn't steal. He just stands there allowing himself to be doubled up. Why did he pinch run then? I started shouting at the television. The good wife tries a few soothing words. They fall deaf on the floor.

Then Hughes comes in for the Yankees, gets an out and then a base runner. A double-play ball is hit to Jeter, my redeemed hero who had hit a homer earlier. Okay, there it is! We're okay! Except that Jeter blew it and got no outs. The Fan totally lost it. And I mean lost it.

The slippers got thrown. The shouting started. The storming around the room. Finally, out of cowardice or just plain stress reduction, the Fan gave the wife a meaningless kiss and stormed off to bed. The wife looked pissed and there was guilt and self-loathing. But I was beyond redemption and the seething emotions carried me to my bed where I reclined in a heap of frustration and despair. What the hell, William? What has happened to you?

And as such, this Fan missed Mariano Rivera and another big-time performance: 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. I missed A-Rod's clutch homer in the 11th to tie the game back up. I missed the 13th inning where the Angels imploded like I expected the Yankees to do. I missed the celebration that my good wife got to watch because I made her a fan and she is the good kind of fan. All of this I missed because I have lost control of my emotions and it is brutal.

I just want this too badly and it has to stop. Perspective is needed and win or lose, I need to get back to simply rooting for my favorite team. If they win, then it will be unbelievable. If they lose, then it's just a game. Life will go on. Lord help me, I need to get this back in order. It's embarrassing and a bit scary to be living like this. It seems like a form of madness. Again, if you read this, my dear beloved wife, I'm sorry.

And I apologize to my faithful readers too. You didn't need this piece. But I needed to write it.

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