Long-time readers and friends know that I’m a gigantic sports fan and a competition freak, both of which combine with a sometimes frightening intensity in my extreme devotion to the basketball team of my alma mater, the University of Kansas. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have been born into a fandom that has provided many more high moments than low. One national championship in my lifetime. Two other national championship game appearances (Those loses sucked, but come on, we were one of the last two teams playing with an even money shot to win both times.) Six Final Fours since I was old enough to pay attention. Lots of conference championships, exciting wins over other highly ranked teams, and in general, just good, entertaining basketball.
I noticed a strange shift in my mood a few weeks ago, though. I was really looking forward to baseball season, which is odd since the team I followed growing up has little chance of ever competing again as long as its current ownership group is in place. I’ve bandwagoned a team or two to make the season more interesting, but I can’t say the passion I had for baseball as a child has returned. I also noticed that on KU game days, I wasn’t always looking forward to the game itself. I wanted it to be over quickly and painlessly. I guess I thought that the sooner the game was over, the sooner I could start the 2-3 hour cooling-down process I have to go through, win or lose, after each contest.
Monday’s loss to Texas Tech sucked, but in many ways it was a loss that was nothing to be ashamed or worried about. We battled a good, ranked team on their home court for 50 minutes and were a close call and a three pointer away from stealing a win. Take care of business Saturday, and we probably only drop a spot or two in the rankings. But Saturday’s loss to Iowa State was brutal. I can’t understand how a team that’s supposed to be full of experienced, talented players who have been through all the battles before can come out so flat, react so poorly, and show so much disinterest in a game. Give major credit to Iowa State and Wayne Morgan: they had a great game plan, executed it perfectly, and despite doing everything they could to lose the game in the last 70 seconds of regulation, got it to overtime and hit the shots to win. However, what I saw on the KU end of the court was too much to take. I was throwing things. I refused to talk to my wife, not because I was taking it out on her but because I was so wound up that I couldn’t speak. I barely acknowledged my daughter, who really wanted to play with daddy. These aren’t good things.
So, I’m taking a week off. I’m not watching Monday’s game against Oklahoma, nor am I recording it so I can watch later if I hear it was a great performance. We’re going to rent movies, probably something S. is interested in more than me, and spend our night watching those. I’ve long been a member of a private e-mail list for idiots like me who need to exchange 250 e-mails each day breaking down every game, every recruiting trip, every choice of uniforms. I’ve logged off for the next seven days. I won’t be reading every internet columnist and blogger who like me hyper-analyze the actions of college kids, sucking the life and joy out of what should be a wonderful experience. Frankly, no matter how much enjoyment I get out of the games, it’s not worth the recovery process after the game, nor the silent fury I sit in during games that prevents me from normal conversations with my family.
I’m sure a few of you are saying, “What a shitty fan! His team loses a couple games and he jumps ship! KU still has a great chance to be a #2 or #3 seed in the tournament, and have enough talent to go a long way no matter how they’re playing in mid-February. At least your team has more than (insert number of wins your team might have here) wins.” I assure you, it’s not just because of the losses, or the teams on the schedule this week. I wasn’t feeling much better during and after wins, so the past week’s events were just the final sign that I needed to distance myself and find some perspective. I’ll not be removing the KU license plate from my truck or stop wearing KU gear this week. I just think it’s important to spend seven days finding some balance. I don’t think this will entirely cure me of my problem, but perhaps it will help enough for me to get through the rest of the season without either working up an ulcer or my wife gently telling me I need to get a freaking life.
I’ve got seven days of detox ahead of me. Hopefully that means I’ll be able to watch the KU-Oklahoma State game next Sunday and regardless of effort or result, be able to watch like a semi-fanatical follower again rather than the churning, stressed out idiot I’ve turned into.