Posted on November 5, 2018
by Steve Janowick

It’s the usual scene for a football game that the Ravens are playing in.  

We’re all gathered in my sister’s living room hanging on the edges of our seats.  The Ravens have grinded through tons of adversity the entire season to be where they are today, fighting for their postseason lives against their number one adversary, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they find themselves in a familiar scenario.  With less than one minute to play, the Ravens score the go-ahead touchdown and convert the extra point. They are now up by two, with 50 seconds left on the clock, and everyone is high-fiving and fist-pumping, thinking we’ve got this one in the bag!  Except me.

I’ve watched this scene play out way too many times.  The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time on their side.  My total allegiance is with my guy, Flacco, don’t get me wrong. But Ben is on a whole other level.  For my money, he’s the best QB in the business for bringing his team back on the final drive. He’s big.  He’s ugly. He’s mean. And he can slice and dice a defense like no other when the pressure is on. It absolutely pains me to say all this.  It’s the equivalent of an American praising the Germans in the Second Great War. No, maybe that’s not an appropriate analogy, but you get the point.

So, as everyone else is passing out more celebratory beers, I’m glued to my seat, nervously gnawing at my fingernails.  And as sure as the day is long, it plays out exactly like I hoped it wouldn’t. Ben methodically marches down the field and gets his kicker close enough to boot the game-winning field goal through the uprights.  

The cheers from earlier gave way to some high-pitched shrills of “No, no, oh my God, no…!”  I’m not exaggerating when I say that there were several of us that were actually sick to our stomachs.  There was a discernable cloud of disappointment, that bordered on actual grief, permeating that living room.  Literal tears were shed at the realization that the Ravens were defeated in such a gut-wrenching fashion, and I found out later that a few in attendance actually called out from work the next day-it was that upsetting to them.  And these types of reactions play out every Sunday in millions of living rooms across America.

So, why such strong emotions for…a team?  

My dime-store take?  Because now, more than ever, our personal identities are tied into groups.  Just like in politics, one’s affiliation with a group (or team) has become more paramount in measuring his self-worth than his status as an individual.  In our daily lives, we’ve all been lumped into factions that are constantly at odds with one another. Group think is taking over many of us by subverting the individualistic spirit and, whether consciously or sub-consciously, the teams we root for have become, more than ever, the ultimate “group” for which we measure our successes and failures through.  If Pittsburgh beat Baltimore than I personally, by virtue of living in Baltimore, lost as well. Therefore, I’m a loser. This is how far it’s come. We don’t simply watch our teams as casual, enthusiastic spectators anymore. We live vicariously through them. We live and die by them. Just like we do with the groups in our daily lives-you know the ones I’m talking about.

And that, sports fans, can be very unhealthy (and idiotic) if left unchecked.  

Don’t be an idiot.

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