The Wrong Side of 30: Time to make a commitment

Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

We live in a world that is more connected than ever!

It’s probably true, but what you never hear after that is that we’re also flakier than ever. And to an extent, I get it: after all, if I missed you out last night, I can just Snapchat or Facebook stalk you today. FOMO may be real, but let’s be honest: no one wants to go anywhere ever. This leads me to infer that dating in 2016 is practically impossible: while the veritable buffet of mating options is very enticing, there’s no guarantee you could get anyone to ever meet up with you.

But keep in mind, whether we’re talking about meetings, appointments, dates, or being a sports fan, making a commitment is no minor thing. Our level of commitment defines us as a person: if we move on from relationships too fast, we’re criticized as being immature or impatient. If we leave a job too soon, we’re disloyal.

Being a sports fan is no different – if you change your allegiances too often then you are something way worse than all of the above: a front runner. There’s a time to feel out your rooting interests when you’re younger, but as we enter adulthood, it comes time to commit. You don’t have to rush to pick a spouse or a career, but for better or worse, it’s time to commit to a team: one franchise, one driver, one program, whatever.

The best time to be a sports fan is when you’re a kid: hope springs eternal as you are too young to realize the Tampa Rays will never have enough money, Peter Angelos won’t leave the Baltimore Orioles alone long enough to succeed, and the Cleveland Browns will never do anything right (except lose). Year after year, there’s enough superficial evidence that makes you think, “Hey, this season’s gonna be different!”

But then the losing gets to you – you grow tired of seeing someone else always win. You may not understand the concepts of effective organizational management or media market constraints, but as a teenager you start to wonder, “What the hell is going on here? Are these guys ever going to win anything? Will I ever be able to blow my allowance on a commemorative t-shirt?”

Speaking of which, the draw of cool merchandise doesn’t help: what 13 year-old isn’t enticed by the allure of rocking a Yankees hat or Cowboys jacket or Lakers jersey? They’re popular and they win a lot (or at least they used to)! Back in the early 90’s, Dr. Dre was at the forefront of making White Sox hats a fashion statement. The draw of associating with what’s popular among your peers is a critical pull when you’re entering those awkward preteen years.

All of those factors conspire to help us cheat: “My buddy loves the Dodgers, so I guess I will, too.” “Steph Curry is unbelievable and Derrick Rose sucks – I’m a Warriors fan now.” “The Diamondbacks have the coolest uniforms, they’re my team.” Well, no one has ever admitted to liking the Diamondback unis, but you get my point.

Our fandom helps build connections with our friends, families, coworkers, and eventually our children. Devotion to your alma mater’s teams becomes a defining characteristic whether you want it to or not (how many times has a friend validated or invalidated a relationship by saying, “He’s an Eagles fan, he’s one of us;” or “She’s an Eagles fan, but I still love her anyway”). Don’t you think a little less of the guy or gal who professes to enjoy sports but has three favorite teams? How big of a douche bag is this kid?

If you have a child interested in learning about sports, are you really going to explain to them that you love the Red Sox, but not when they’re playing the White Sox, and only if the Cubs are crappy? Why don’t you just put cigarette butts out on their arms and get it over with? Or run for President? (Donald Trump is an egomaniacal sociopathic misogynist, but at least he’s consistent when it comes to head wear).

At a certain age, you have to go all-in on your fandom. You have to be willing to set aside your lingering allegiances and pick your one and only. Part of growing up is learning that life sucks and how to deal with frustration or pain when losing something you care about, including the World Series. So at the end of the day, in the words of Stephen Stills, make a commitment and love the one you’re with.

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