At first I wasn’t going to write about St John’s 94-72 loss to Ed Cooley’s diseased head on Thursday night at Carnesecca Arena. Not out of fatigue or disgust but more or less indifference: St John’s threw in a clunker of a second half – the worst half they’ve played this year and perhaps the only really bad one – and there’s not a lot of joy to be found in rehashing it. The loss dropped St John’s to 10-3 for the season and into a tie for second place in the Big East, one game behind #1 Villanova and #6 Xavier.
But what I was struck by and what I’m going to write about briefly – so if you’re looking for a normal recap look elsewhere – is the reaction to the loss and specifically the reaction of a certain type of fan: the type who reacts to every data point on the continuum as if it’s epiphanic, as opposed to mundane. And (royal) you know exactly what I’m talking about.
These are the fans who see only three kinds of games: must wins, cupcakes and guaranteed losses. These are the fans who were just 24 hours ago checking plane schedules to Nashville – Lunardi currently has St John’s playing there in March as an 11 seed – and using all the tricks they’ve learned coaching 3rd grade girl’s CYO basketball to devise a diabolical scheme to nullify the height advantage the Seminoles (that’s a racists name right there btw) should 7’4″ freshman Christ Koumadje come back from his foot injury. These same fans who this morning, after watching a bad half of basketball – and it was a bad half, no doubt: poor defense, poor shooting, poor decision making – are describing the game as a disaster (at first I thought a nail bomb had eviscerated the dance team at half time, whew) and humiliating and an embarrassment (they will no doubt this morning have mothballed their St John’s gear lest someone see them wearing it on the subway and be forced to cast themselves onto the third rail in shame) and dashing off emails to university president doctor Conrado Gempesaw beseeching him to reach out to recently dismissed Louisville coach Rick Pitino to gauge his interest in returning to his hometown to save the day, their sources having assured them that Pitino would be interested and it can’t hurt that Mrs. Pitino still has family on Long Island, where she was born and raised, having never cared for the backwaters of Kentucky.
My own hope, such as it is, is that this game serves as a reminder to a young team that has been beating worse teams based purely on a differential in talent that when two teams of equal talent meet the one that works harder wins.
Anyway I’ve been trying to think up the perfect word to describe the behavior of this sort of fan. Mercurial comes pretty close but it doesn’t convey the right sense of emotional instability; infantile implies temporal immaturity, whereas most of these fans are grown men with jobs and homes and wives and children and grandchildren. The word I keep coming back to is
faggotry hysteric: they are like middle aged Victorian women repairing to the fainting couch with smelling salts and complaining of undefined female troubles – something to with their uteruses probably, let’s face it nobody really understand what goes on down there – the only known cure for which is clitoral stimulation and a long lie down on the divan.
Now I know that most of you think I’m pretty smug and arrogant – and I am, and those are two of my more endearing qualities – but I’m also full of a degree of crippling self loathing and doubt that would leave most of you unable to get out of bed in the morning. I am at this point so cynical that I don’t even trust my own skepticism anymore and most of the time I don’t know what the hell I’m doing or why. And so it occurred to me, naturally, that maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t understand what being a sport fan is supposed to be. I certainly don’t follow any sport besides college basketball. I can’t remember for example the last time I sat through an entire baseball game or watched an NBA game; I watch the Lions play on Thanksgiving unless Babes in Toyland is on and then I only flip over during commercials. But that’s really it. I’m not saying that’s good or bad or better or worse, I’m just saying I have other hobbies. Which is what these things are, hobbies. And so I thought sports – like other hobbies – was supposed to be enjoyable and entertaining, a distraction from the fact that we’ll all soon enough be dead in the cold cold ground, forgotten by our friends and families in boneyards overgrown with weeds and our remains being rendered to soil by worms and weevils.
Understand, I don’t think my hobbies are good and yours are bad: I have this moronic blog; I play in a wildly unsuccessful band that sells records almost exclusively to angst ridden pock marked teens in the former East Germany; I bet my hard earned money on dumb four legged animals ridden around in circles by South American midgets; I write long absurdist letters to local government functionaries, insulting them personally and ridiculing their job performance; and I drink, I drink a lot. These things are, all of them, quite stupid. (Note, the, commas.) But the difference between me and a certain type of sports fan seems to be that I enjoy my hobbies. Whereas you (royal) seem to be happy only when you’re miserable. You imagine the worst so that when the worst occurs – and it always does in college basketball, only one team finishes the season with a winning streak that matters – you’re prepared for it. And I think that’s sad.
For your sake I’m looking forward to the day when this program is not so hapless that you are condemned to forever look for a black lining in every silver cloud. A day where disaster doesn’t loom around every corner, where the sky isn’t continually falling on the ship which isn’t forever sinking. Not because I begrudge you your hobbies or the way you go about them or your opinions or your thoughts, but because what it will say about the state of the program, which, unfortunately, I love. (Because it’s all about me.) Nova fans, Creighton fans, Xavier fans, and dare I say dewk fans, Kansas fans, Kentucky fans, they don’t see every unremarkable event as the equivalent of the Titanic careening into a looming volcanic iceberg infected with the bubonic plague. They see blips on the horizon: every once in a while a fluffy cloud briefly obscures an otherwise beautiful sunrise. That is what I wish for you this holiday season: that if you can’t always enjoy the result you can at least learn to love the process.
Dear Ms. M________
On Monday December 26 I came to the E___ G________ town offices to pay my property taxes. Normally I wouldn’t venture near your offices but I was hoping to take advantage of the tax write-off before the new IRS code goes into effect on January 1. When I arrived a patron was already at the window and so I maintained a respectful distance – lest I invade that taxpayer’s privacy – busying myself reading the very interesting notices on the bulletin board facing your office. Only when he left and my turn came did I approach the counter. While I was there a second patron entered. Being it turned out known to you this patron was immediately directed to the counter, where he and you and your staff engaged in a loud, boisterous and excruciatingly boring conversation about who knew whom and whose sister went to school with whose uncle and whose nephews knew whose daughters and where everyone’s respective family vacationed in Florida. This was none of it of the slightest interest to me, the person in the midst of writing the town a check for nearly $ 5000. It occurred to me to ask how large a check I would have to write to get someone’s undivided attention for the five minutes I was going to be there, but I didn’t: that would have been rude.
But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing because while I was at the counter my check book out was out and my tax bill was on display, meaning that should he have had a mind to your loud mouthed buddy could have been privy to inter alia my name, my checking account information, my phone number, my address, the assessed value of my home, my tax account number and my tax liability – which amount he commented on, when you mentioned the specific amount I owed aloud, this was when you refused to accept a check for .21 cents more than my tax bill, which amount I had rounded up, and made me write another one, because accepting the first one would have entailed you making a change to your tax ledger, which change you would have found an inconvenience, earning as you do only $125,000 a year, and being subjected to such rigorous tasks as filing and alphabetizing – all of which information I suspect your office has a duty to keep confidential. Which duty you in my opinion breached.
If this is your standard operating procedure – entailing as it does the willy-nilly display of taxpayer information to the public – it might be something you want to reconsider. The public library more carefully safeguards the titles of the books I check out than seemingly does your office the details of my personal financial affairs. And I pay the library in dimes.