Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Benefits of Rooting For a Crummy Baseball Team

This has not been a good season for my Chicago White Sox, who have stumbled down into the cellar of the American League Central, the least fearsome division in baseball.  A combination of an aging core and mediocre performances has them losing game after game in a seemingly unending parade of futility.  This year I decided to take on the Mets as my other rooting interest, since I have decided to permanently settle in the tri-state area.  They are a franchise in disarray with a batting order full of guys who should be playing in AAA ball, not in the majors.

I still watch my teams' games, despite the fact that I usually see them lose, often in excruciating fashion.  The Mets lost a 19 inning game awhile back, and the White Sox just lost four in a row at home to the Cubs, giving Chicago bragging rights to the North Siders.  My only consolation is that the Astros and Marlins are worse, so at least my teams won't be the absolute rock bottom in either of their respective leagues.

That's cold comfort, of course, but I've found there are some benefits to rooting for a bad baseball team.  Paradoxically, it makes fandom less stressful.  Last year, when the White Sox slowly deflated at the end of the season and fell out of the first place position they held since spring, each loss was a fresh dagger to the heart.  Now when they blow a few games it's irritating but not stress-inducing.  There's nothing worse than a pennant race for the cardiac health of a baseball fan, and with both of my teams already out of contention, this season will prove to at least be more heart healthy than the last.

The other major benefit to rooting for a bad team is less tangible, but very important.  By yoking oneself to a gang of cellar dwellers, you get practice in learning how to lose.  This is a crucial skill, because most people's lives have more losses than they do wins.  Baseball gives particularly intense training, because unlike other sports, it happens every day during the season, and so like life, goes on without a break.  Each day when you pull for the likes of the Mets or White Sox, you wake up knowing that it is very likely that at least one thing in your life won't go the way you want it to that day.

But that's life, isn't it?  Every day has the potential to bring something new and crummy.  An unexpected bill will come in the mail, a family member will get ill, you'll break a dish, the cat will puke on the floor, you'll get passed over for promotion and so on and so on until the day you die.  In life, you have to relish in the small moments of relief, like the dollar bill found in the street, your subway train arriving ahead of schedule, hitting all of the green lights, your favorite song coming on the radio, and your shitty baseball team somehow winning against a better squad.  That's life, too.

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