Notre Dame football is ranked number one in the country. And it is completely irrational that I am deriving so much joy from it. I have no vested interest in the outcome of their season. I never attended school there. I have never lived in South Bend. I don't know anyone on the team or associated with the program. Yet I find myself saying "we" when referring to the team. I will shout at the television, as if the linebackers can hear me yelling, "It's a draw!" or "Fumble! Ball! Get the Ball!" I even wear clothing in order that others may associate me with the Fighting Irish. I rank my visits to Notre Dame Stadium as some of the most exhilarating moments of my life. I am a fan.
Now let's move from Fandom to Obsessionville. If you look for it on a map, it will say Levittown. I'm not saying that other areas don't produce as vociferous fans, just not in the multitudes that exist in the greater Philadelphia area. There is something about sports here, that fills more than just that need to associate with something greater than oneself. This is particularly true with the Eagles. I've worked with, lived with, went to school with fans of other teams from other places. I have yet to see a group of people take a loss harder than Eagles fans. On Monday morning you would think that they were in pads the day before. Listen to the two (two!) FM radio stations that are all Philadelphia sports all the time. I'm afraid we may need to close the bridges over the Delaware river to prevent jumpers! Every forlorn caller, they aren't even mad anymore, just sullen and depressed. They have this weird "How could my team do this to me?"
The odd thing here is that they have developed a one way personal relationship with a sports team. They have committed hours to reading stats, watching drafts, driving up to Bethlehem to watch summer workouts, and invested real emotional capital. If this kind of attention were directed towards a human being, like say Jody Foster, we'd suggest that they should seek professional help. They than expect that the team has a duty to repay them for all the diligent time they have invested in supporting them. There it is. The line is crossed when someone creates an imaginary relationship in order to associate themselves with success. There is a vapidness that goes along with this type of seeking. That sports team allows you to "win" without putting in the real work. The reality is though that your support or ennui has no impact whatsoever on the success of your team. That is the dirty secret that lies underneath this macho version of celebrity worship. They don't care about you. They don't even know you exist. No matter how hard you root, how much you lust after the Lombardi trophy, how much time you spend reading ESPN, they will not play harder for you. I heard a guy on the radio say that he may never see his team win a Superbowl in his lifetime, with the angst of a "Make A Wish" foundation spot. I love football as much as anyone, pretty much sports in general. My fear is that people are using sports as a "false idol", a thing to distract them from whats really important. If you never put that effort into your own happiness, into your own betterment, the Eagles can win the Superbowl, but you'll still be a loser.