Column: In search of my former superfan self
Something strange and unexpected is happening.
Do I care less about sports than I once did?
This self-examination of my lifelong dedication and devotion to the professional and college sporting world doesn't date back very long, only a few weeks, in fact.
It was the first week of another professional sport trying to make a semi-normal go of it in a pandemic’ed world, the National Football League, to be specific. A friend, whose favorite team was kicking off the season with a major clunker, texted me.
"I think I was happier when there were no sports," he tapped on his phone and sent to me.
I tried to console him, stressing that his favorite baseball team was still fighting for a playoff berth in this wacky Major League Baseball season, but he was determined to stick to his self-hypothesis. "I'm dead serious," he eventually texted back.
He wasn't, in actuality. His favorite NFL team has since won two straight - albeit against a couple of bad teams - and he was so excited this past Sunday afternoon that he texted "2-1!!!" His favorite MLB team did, in fact, qualify for the postseason, too, and he's offering his thoughts via text on how MLB's pandemic-inspired 16-team playoff tournament might play out as well.
But my mind keeps going back to his initial text from a few weeks back, and my soul-searching continues as of this writing. Do I care about all of this as much as I used to?
Does it only go back to the COVID-19 pandemic that for a time closed the curtains on the entire sports landscape?
Or does this change in me go deeper? Is it more profound? Has it simply come with age and experience? Would I feel differently if, say, the Vikings were 3-0 or even 2-1 right now? Would I feel differently had the Wild not once again shown their true mediocre colors in an absolute dud of an opening round NHL playoff loss to the beatable Canucks? Would I have a different mindset if the Timberwolves had...oh, it's the T-Wolves...why even make an attempt at introspection?
Maybe the Twins will provide the best insight into what is possibly evolving in me as a lifelong Minnesota professional and college sports superfan. After all, they’re a excellent, feel-good franchise, the players are easy to cheer for, and the organization is built from top to bottom to contend for many seasons to come.
If they beat the cheating Astros in the opening round and make a run for the World Series, I will without a doubt be absolutely delighted. But if the Twins serve up yet another postseason flop, will I be despondent and inconsolable? Will I need some actual time alone in a low-lit, quiet room, as my wife afforded me in the moments after the Vikings somehow lost the 1998 and 2009 NFC Championship games?
Looking ahead to the rest of my days on this planet, however many they may be, I can confidently say I will never again be overcome with emotions that extreme, whether they’re euphoric or soul-pulverizing in nature.
Time passes. Things change. People change. Priorities change. The world around us changes.
Is it the pandemic that has made me look at things like diehard sports fandom differently? Is it our comically awful political climate? Is it our burning planet and wondering what my kids and grandkids and great-grandkids will inherit from us?
Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things. Maybe it’s the chapter in our lives my wife and I currently find ourselves in, where we’re helping our elderly parents more while also helping our young-adult sons as they start to navigate their way through life as somewhat-responsible humans.
We’re not sure what each new page might bring, other than the further-cemented realization that time is precious and memorable moments are priceless. So I want to enjoy as many of them as possible. Living and dying with each first down or each pitch or each goal, no offense to my former self, but it no longer measures up.