How can you tell if you’re a fan, or addicted to a team?

The fans of Penn State football were heavily invested in their team during a bowl game in 2016. Like most fans – and half of them in every game – they were disappoitned.
The fans of Penn State football were heavily invested in their team during a bowl game in 2016. Like most fans – and half of them in every game – they were disappoitned. adrey@centredaily.com

Addiction comes in many forms. I have one not related to drugs or alcohol, but to baseball. And I’m trying to kick the habit.

Even in the middle of the football season, I still can’t help thinking about baseball – which ended for me not on Oct. 28, with the last out of the World Series, but early in October. For me and other fans of the Chicago Cubs, it was over on Oct. 2, when the Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs.

Strangely, what I felt with that loss was not so much sadness as relief. I think other fans – of football, basketball and hockey – can relate, especially if they have a team about which they care deeply.

Being a fan of a sports team has its rewards – the excitement of winning, the camaraderie of other fans, stories remembered and retold. But it has a down side, too. As one baseball player said, “Losing hurts more than winning feels good.”

Every die-hard sports fan, usually in one those many “down” moments, realizes he has an addiction – though “compulsion” might be a more accurate word.

Being a fan can be all-consuming. Sports fans often invest far too much of their time in following and rooting for their teams. During the season they frequently check on the score of a game in progress, inning by inning or quarter by quarter, being distracted from what they otherwise should be focused on doing.

Their emotions are often affected – even controlled – by the fortunes of their team. A win makes them jubilant, a loss despondent.

After a while, what they expect of their team becomes unreasonable.

Some fans feel entitled. “Since I’m fan of this team, I deserve a winner,” they say. They can get angry, sometimes boiling mad, when their team doesn’t perform to expectations. They will castigate the manager or coach and vilify individual players, because the team didn’t win it all.

Some fans engage in wish fulfillment. Their happiness depends on their team winning. But when their team loses, they’re crushed. Losing means not ending up No. 1 – nothing less than the World Series or the Super Bowl trophy will do. This means the fans of only one team will feel elation each season. Fans of the other 31 NFL, 29 NBA, 30 NHL, 29 Major League Baseball and dozens of college teams in a variety of sports will see their dreams crushed before the season ends.

My favorite teams tend to leave me in the second category. Rationally, I know sports teams should not be the prime source of my happiness. But emotionally, in the part of my brain that seems unrelated to sanity, I’m compelled to feel this way.

During the 2018 baseball season, especially as it got close to the end, this compulsion became more acute. The Cubs just couldn’t win the big game, twice, in the playoffs. In both games they scored only one run. I found myself yelling at them on the TV, “Why can’t you hit the damn ball?” Which is about the time I realized I had gone over the edge.

The Cubs, I realized, had consumed so much of my emotional capital that I almost felt captive. They were controlling far too much of my time and emotions. Which is why, when they lost their last game, I felt more relief than sadness.

Relieved because I had been released from a sort of psychological captivity. I could now live the rest of October in peace. No more awakening at 3 a.m. thinking about why the Cubs lost the day before.

The only thing I will miss is the camaraderie I felt from the other four Cubs fans in Los Banos – Gary, Maria, Kim and Susan.

My guess is that many readers, if they’re honest, will relate – whether they’re rooting for the Giants, A’s, 49ers, Raiders, Warriors or Sharks. To them, I say have fun but don’t become a captive of your team.

ON ANOTHER NOTE – Congratulations to the Los Banos Veterans organization which put on another wonderful parade. There was an excellent turnout, in the parade and watching. And the auxiliary’s pancakes were superb. A big thank you to the local VFW and American Legion posts for reminding Los Banos in such a memorable way to cherish our veterans.

John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email john.spevak@gmail.com.