When it comes to watching and following sports, there seem to be a lot of different ways that somebody can do it. Most people opt for the traditional approach where they pick a set of teams (usually the local ones) and follow those teams through thick and thin, never wavering (but forever complaining). Other people prefer the “Fair Weather Fan” approach of jumping on whatever bandwagon happens to be convenient at the present moment, then finding another bandwagon when they get sick of the current one. Still other people can manage to act (or at least do a pretty convincing job of pretending to act) as disinterested observers, preferring to watch the games as they happen, never bothering to take sides. As for myself… Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t fit into any of those. Sure, I grew up in a family where we were always fans of one baseball team or another. Back when we lived in New Mexico it seemed to be either the Cubs or the Braves, owing mostly to the fact that those were the two teams we could actually watch on TV. Then when we moved up here the family’s allegiances shifted pretty rapidly to the hometown Mariners. And for a number of years I managed to follow along (and even made a couple of years worth of largely disastrous attempts at a fantasy baseball team.) but gradually I’ve found that I have just lost interest.
This isn’t to say that I don’t follow sports. In fact, I find that I spend a fair bit of time on ESPN.com reading various articles about all the major sports and generally keeping up with things. There’s just one problem: Most of the time I can’t be bothered to actually watch a single game, to the point that I’d much rather follow most games through the GameCast on the site (basically a glorified scoreboard) than by turning on the TV and actually watching them. It occurs to me that by taking this approach to sports I’m basically missing the whole entire point, but I never really managed to figure out just why I tend to do this until just this evening I had a sudden realization: I don’t watch sports so much to support teams that I happen to like as I do to root against teams I don’t like.
And on further consideration, I came to realize that the number of teams that I dislike far exceeds the number of teams that I do like. For example, this upcoming Super Bowl is, based on the odd personal sports standards I set for myself, totally unwatchable. I have no particular opinion one way or the other on the Ravens (they seem to be one of those random AFC teams that I don’t bother paying any attention to until they just happen to show up in the Super Bowl for some odd reason,) but for some reason, the 49ers just bug me. Part of it probably comes from them being rivals to the Seahawks (who I don’t particularly root for, but who I do follow to some extent) and part of it seems to come from the fact that they’re from San Francisco. The fact that the Giants (A fixture on my personal sports pooh-pooh list for just about as long as I can remember, dating back to when they were a division rival of the Braves several realignments ago) won the World Series a few months ago probably doesn’t help much here. Either way, I suspect I probably won’t be able to watch the game without being annoyed by something, so I figure I’m probably better off just skipping it and YouTubing whatever commercials happen to be interesting later on.
On the flip side of the coin, even though sports anti-fans such as myself mostly end up putting up with a lot of watching the teams we dislike win (after all, we probably wouldn’t have much reason to dislike them if they weren’t winning everything, usually by outspending pretty much everyone else in the league,) every once in a while we get “treated” to watching one of these teams fall, and fall hard. In fact, the idea for this Blog post comes largely from reading an article on ESPN about the latest drama coming out of the Los Angeles Lakers clubhouse as they flail their way through what’s turned out to be a disappointing season so far, with potential to turn into a full-scale trainwreck if things get further out of hand than they already are. During the NFL season, we got to watch the New York Jets as they stumbled their way into a 6-10 season with the vultures of the New York media documenting every minute of it. And on the baseball side of things, we’ve spent the past five seasons watching the Boston Red Sox go from a World Series win in 2007 to missing the playoffs in 2010, blowing a 9-game AL wild card lead in less than a month in 2011, and finally culminating in the absolute trainwreck of a 2012 season that ended with a 69-93 last-place finish in the AL east as the team melted down. (Edit, a year later: And then in 2013 the Red Sox managed to win the World Series again, just to keep everyone guessing…)
Although the Lakers have long held a place on my pooh-pooh list (as a standard big-market team that wins by outspending opponents,) I have never really had a reason to specifically dislike either the Red Sox or the Jets. Nonetheless, there’s something oddly amusing about watching a team that’s supposed to be going deep into the playoffs ending up as a dysfunctional mess. When the Lakers picked up Dwight Howard during the offseason there were a number of articles written where people were practically already lining up for their Lakers-Heat NBA Finals tickets, but now halfway through the season we’re watching the Lakers sitting just barely ahead of the cellar-dwellers in the Western Conference with a 17-25 record and holding blamestorming meetings in the clubhouse before the game. On the other hand, from the minute they hired Bobby Valentine as manager the 2012 Red Sox season was getting turned into a soap opera whether they wanted it or not. And the Jets, although it wasn’t without its horrendously overblown drama, seems to have been mostly just a simple case of plain old incompetence on pretty much everyone’s part.
Sure, the whole thing gets to be a bit painful to watch if you’re a fan of one of these teams, but for the rest of us, there’s something that’s just oddly amusing about the whole thing. Therefore, I propose the following: For the amusement of the sports anti-fans among us, each year there shall be at least one team within the four major sports that will be chosen as the designated trainwreck team. That team will come from a big market, with lots of overpaid star players, excessively high expectations and inordinately bloodthirsty local media, and subsequently that team will spend their season melting down in the most amusing fashion possible. If circumstances permit we can probably accommodate multiple meltdown teams across multiple major sports within a single year, but I suspect that three different high-profile team meltdowns (as we’ve had in 2012) plus an entire league having a large-scale meltdown that cancelled half the season is probably an anomaly that is unlikely to be repeated on a regular basis. Oh, and protracted long-term meltdowns that have been going on for years probably aren’t going to count here (sorry Cubs fans).
Sure it may not come with the thrills of watching an epic battle between two teams on the field or the court (unless someone gets beaned by a fastball at least,) but at least there aren’t as many confusing stats to figure out that way.