I have a serious, serious sports problem. I plan my schedule around games. I own three separate pairs of team related, color coordinated sneakers. I dislike people before meeting them if they're wearing the wrong jersey.
I'm not proud of it, I just can't help it.
To clear this up early, I'm a weird sports fan. I was a military brat, so I'm all over the place regionally. I'm a die hard Boston Red Sox fan, a Steelers fan (HEEEEEATH! YOU'RE MY BOY!), and I bleed University of Virginia orange and blue. Don't worry, I've heard it all before about bandwagon fandom, blah blah blah.
This past Sunday afternoon, about 2:30, a couple walked in to the bar where I was watching football with my friends. They sat down, ordered drinks, and were probably a little too cozy for a sports bar, but whatever. One of my friends, a Chiefs fan, joined us, and we wanted to switch some of the TVs around to get the game on. Doing our polite sports due diligence, we asked the couple if they were watching any games, or if they had any issues with us switching stuff around. Her answer stumped me.
"We're not watching it. I don't get that whole, over the top sports fan thing."
I don't get that whole, over the top sports fan thing.
I'm sorry, what? Huh? What are you doing at a sports bar at prime football watching time? Did I just get judged for my Steelers shirt and color coordinated accessories? What's considered 'over the top'? Am I too over the top?
At that point in time, I had no idea what was still in store for my ridiculous weekend, but her comment got us laughing. When I think about it now, however, this past weekend was a perfect microcosm of the emotional roller coaster sports can send me on, and a very real reminder how incapable I am to get off of it.
I spent my Saturday in Annapolis, MD covering the Navy Invitational fall women's lacrosse tournament, which featured 15 of the top college teams. After eight hours of non-stop lax, I made it home in time to see my Cavaliers in the second half of their last (foreseeable) football game in College Park against Maryland.
Surprisingly, Virginia was holding their own and had a lead going into half time. Our offense had improved since their previous outings, but were still settling for field goals as they were unable to get into the end zone. Jake McGee had a game that was reminiscent of last year's one-handed catch bonanza, and despite our defensive collapse that led to the Terps taking the lead late in the 4th, I had faith that we could pull it off.
Well, almost. Rather than keep the drive aggressively alive, Head Coach Mike London decided to go for the would-be game winning field goal as time expired, using our back up kicker (and awesome punter), Alex Vozenelik in place of the injured Ian Frye. It did not go well.
I was pissed, depressed, confused, and bewildered all at the same time. I knew I would have to avoid the internet like the plague in order to keep from reading about our most current meltdown, or just how hot Mike London's seat is getting. I felt the worst for the players and about the fact that Vozenelik could absorb any blame for that loss.
After pouting for a little bit, I settled in to watch my Red Sox take on the Tigers for Game 1 of the ALCS. That would make me feel better, right? No. Not at all. Terrible plan. Every checked swing and Joe West called strike started building up a rage that would make Balfour proud. The only thing that kept me from going Bob Knight on my dining room chairs was the 9th inning single that broke up the no hitter. All I wanted at that moment was to watch an old episode of 'The League' and to get some sleep.
Waking up Sunday, I didn't think my sports weekend could get worse, but then I remembered I had the 0-4 Steelers to look forward to. Field goal. Field goal. Field goal. Ok, putting up points, but felt a little like watching UVa. again. Wait, winning at halftime? Is that legal?
My morale improved greatly with the Steelers getting their first win, especially after a good game from Heath Miller who nabbed six receptions for 84 yards. Not too shabby.
Yet, I still found myself thinking, "I'd trade this win for either of the losses yesterday."
My Chiefs friend and I rejoiced in our respective victories, while my Redskins friend had to wait it out a few more hours for the big Washington/Dallas show down. We settled in at our primo bar spots and the
beer water was flowing (hi, Mom!). I could only laugh in disbelief at the big ole goose egg Jimmy Graham got me in fantasy football (which cost me my 5-0 record), and then I left the bar to run home to switch Pittsburgh gear for Red Sox before rejoining my posse. There were eleven TVs in the bar. Ten were on the Redskins. I had one, and that's all I needed.
Game two. Max Scherzer. Another sweet no hitter and 4927 strike outs. Down 5-0? Awesome. At that point, I would have paid to be 'I don't care about sports' girl. Yet, there I was, my happiness resting on the performance of others. Going into the 8th, full on desperate fan mode kicked in. Sports junkies know the deal...it doesn't even matter the sport.
"Ok, we can do this. We just have to score a touchdown, recover the onsides kick, score another touchdown, and convert the two point conversion. forty six seconds left? We're still in this"
I was at that point. "Ok...down four runs, just need to get bases loaded and hit a grand slam and then it will be tied and all will be ok and we can totally do this oh we have two outs? That's ok we're still good."
(Desperate sports fan me thinks in run on sentences)
Amazingly enough, Middlebrooks gets on. Then Ellsbury. Then Pedroia. Two outs. Big Papi coming up. Could it happen? No...surely not. First pitch. Contact...YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!??!!
I stood on the foot bar of the stool I was sitting on and threw my hands in the air so hard, I chipped some of the blue and red nail polish off of my hands on the fake awning above the bar. I didn't even care that I cheered as the Cowboys converted a first down and every Redskins fan in the room was glaring at me. Unbelievable.
In a matter of about 30 minutes, I went from envying 'I don't care about sports' girl, to feeling sorry for her. In the long run, don't
all sports fans fans not from Cleveland block out the bad memories and only remember the wins?
The girl in the bar may not understand my fandom, but she is just as big of a mystery to me, because eventually all the strike outs and the missed field goals fade away and all that is left are the grand slams and the overtime victories. The highs are always better than the lowest lows.
Some may take longer to forget, but over time, all that's left is Sean Singletary hitting that shot over Josh McRoberts to beat Duke in OT, 68-66.
Or the upsets over the number 11, 12, and 15 ranked teams in consecutive home games at University Hall as Todd Billet and Devin Smith solidified my Virginia Basketball fandom for life.
Or the epic 7 OT men's lacrosse win against Maryland. I still get goosebumps seeing Mark Wade come in off the bench and make the cold-blooded save to keep the game going.
Because for the eight seasons of Virginia coming soooooo close to the big victory in men's tennis, this moment where Mitchell Frank solidified the 2013 NCAA National Championship for the Wahoos made it all worth it for me as a fan:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Pretty good sum up of the 5-3 come back moment by Mitchell Frank. <a href="http://t.co/yBKtcv93DQ">pic.twitter.com/yBKtcv93DQ</a></p>— Caroline Darney (@cwdarney) <a href="https://twitter.com/cwdarney/statuses/336979317718413313">May 21, 2013</a></blockquote>
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I accept that I look ridiculous wearing a face tattoo in my late 20s, that I buy into trends like #HereWeGo, #FearTheBeard, and #SWOON, and that my dog is so used to my sporadic cheering and clapping that she no longer flinches. It has become a part of who I am.
So, despite my crippling depression following last Saturday's loss, I will still be at Scott Stadium this Saturday, cheering my heart out for my boys in blue and orange, while obsessively checking my phone for updates on the Red Sox game.
It's just what I do. I'm one of those over the top sports fans.