Rodney M Bliss

Basketball, Baseball and My Irrelevance

I live in Utah, but I grew up just South of Seattle.

Yesterday the Jazz and the Mariners played. (Not each other, because that would be weird.)

The Jazz won and the Mariners lost.

One result makes me slightly happy the other makes me slightly sad. But, I’m not sure why I care about either.

I grew up in a sports family. We didn’t play many, but we watched a lot. For part of my growing up life my dad was a professional gambler. Often we had (or rather he had) money on the game. I remember one playoff game where the Sonics were playing. I’m not sure if my dad had bet the over, or if he took one team and the points, but the Sonics were ahead going into the last few seconds. My dad needed 1 more point to cover his bet. The Sonic player threw the ball into the rafters. I’ve never seen my dad so unhappy about a win.

My dad had a reason for caring about the outcome of the game. There was a financial incentive for him. Aside from winning a couple of football pools when I worked for Microsoft, I don’t gamble. I certainly don’t gamble on sporting events. So, my interest is not fiduciary.

I love to watch baseball. The ebb and flow of the game, so annoying to many people who consider it “slow,” is a comfortable rhythm to me. Listening to a game can be sometimes even more enjoyable.

I listened to the Mariners game last night. The beauty of the internet means that I can pick up a radio station from 1000 miles away. So, I got enjoyment from the exercise of listening. But, then they lost in the 9th inning and it soured some of that enjoyment. But, at least that explains a little why I care about an event that I have no input into.

But, I didn’t watch the Jazz game. I checked the score after it was over and saw that the Jazz beat the Houston Rockets in Houston. It’s round 2 of the NBA playoffs. Each series is a best of 7 series with the team that had the best record getting home court advantage. By winning last night in Houston, the Jazz have now essentially stolen home court advantage. It’s a big deal.

And I had nothing to do with it.

Why do we follow teams? I’m part of the fan-culture and I don’t even understand the appeal. I suppose we live vicariously through those teams. But, vicariously doing what? Shooting a basketball? Hitting a baseball? Those are odd activities to live vicariously.

Perhaps it’s the affinity we feel for the team and the vicarious thrill of winning, or even the vicarious emotions associated with losing (Looking at you Cubs fans of the past century.)

It’s not uncommon to hear fans claim,

We killed them!

We played awesome tonight!

Our offense was unstoppable!

And yet, it wasn’t “us.” There was no “we.” There is a “them.” But, the affection and the closeness we feel is by our own creation. I support the Mariners because I grew up in Seattle. And yet the current team has none of the players I watched growing up. Oh sure, Edgar Martinez is a hitting coach, and Dan Wilson will pop up in the broadcast booth occasionally, but the players on the field weren’t even born when I was watching the Mariners games.

I suppose much of it is good marketing on the part of the league and the teams. And ironically, I know I’m being manipulated, but I don’t care. I know that I’m irrelevant to the outcome of the game, and yet, I let it influence my emotional state anyway.

I guess it’s that I don’t like not knowing why I think, feel or do something. After thinking about it, I’m no closer to figuring out my dilemma.

Go Jazz

Go M’s

Because even though I shouldn’t, I care.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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