The Press Box For June 7
With high school sports over most of my columns will have some information on little leagues, summer basketball, sports camps, fishing, golf and the race track to name just a few. If anyone has any sports pictures or highlights, now’s the time to get them in the paper. If you have someone who has stood out during the week let me know, write something up send it my way.
It’s never hard to find something going on but it’s often hard to find something worthwhile to write about. The NBA finals are under way and on Thursday, I made my way to Cleveland to watch the fi game with some old friends and relatives. I believe Golden State and Cleveland have the top two teams so I was looking for some real good basketball. They had a tent pitched and about 200 people there. All day there was corn hole, pick up basketball, the pool was full and lots of kids swimming.
I had been looking forward to the trip to catch up on old times and enjoy the cookout before the big game. I knew going in that I was going to be among some big time Cleveland fanatics, so the first thing to go was my Steelers hat. I dug up my old Indian cap packed a few overnight clothes and headed out. There was even some die-hard Carling Black Label drinkers. All the talk was about James, will he do this or that, and “If we can stop Durant, we’ll have a chance.” It was non stop! I knew from long ago that Cleveland fans dropped everything on game day and all attention was turned to rooting on the hometown. I was soon lost in the shuffle, the visit to see family and old friends was overshadowed by the fanaticus of these people, it was insanity at it’s worst.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t totally ignored and I did really enjoy it but I soon found out this was not about visiting, this was serious business. Everyone and I mean everyone (except me) was very emotional, passionate and mostly irrational. They all knew that there was a chance they would end up extremely unhappy with the final outcome, even though it would have zero impact on the trajectory of their lives, (unless of course they were gambling.)
I have always been a Cleveland fan but it is now evident to me that there is a huge difference between fan and fanatic. If you know someone who cancels all plans during game day, if you know someone who’s mood alters with the fortune or misfortune of their favorite team, or someone who wouldn’t be caught dead in rival clothes or if you see an average person turned into a complete irrational fool, you probably know a sports fanatic.
One old friend, a seemly normal person turned into a violent angry person, who actually thought it was normal socially accepted behavior. I use to say “I love sports just as much as the next guy”, however I now know that’s not true. Common sense tells us that sports are never guaranteed to always end happily. The fact is most games end in a highly unsatisfying way and the end result is it really doesn’t matter at all.
I mean for the fan or the fanatic it really doesn’t affect your life, unless you are one of the athletes, part of the team or an owner, there should be no pain in these events. It’s supposed to be fun and entertaining not painful and depressing. I heard one person who threatened to physically assault a rival team supporter immediately after the game. Others were blaming their own team, accusing them of throwing the series.
I never said to much during the game for fear of being wrong. I didn’t know the names of every player and where they played college and high school. I didn’t know all the stats, not like these Cleveland fans. They were wired in and I mean in every way, from their own spot on the coach to when you could go to the bathroom. These people not only questioned every referee call against them, they also blamed the rivals of cheating. That’s how they justified the performance of Cleveland. Their were even some who painted their faces.
My thought was if I wore my Steelers cap, I would get a little harrassment, I didn’t realize it might have been life or death. To me Cleveland and Pittsburg is what it’s all about, a big rivalry, an outlet for pent up emotions.
Everything changes however when the stakes get higher, when our local athletes and teams make it to the state events, we become more excited, we don’t pay just to see a game but to be a part of it. When you get into an NBA championship it gets much more than that, the line between right and wrong can easily get blurred, supporters of one team tend to despise the supporters of the other. Hatred set in!
I know most of what I experienced was in fun and it was a great time but I hope I never get that caught up in something with such little meaning. One guy took his two week vacation and he said if they lose he was going on sick leave for a month, just to get away from it all. His wife said, “And I’ll be the one who has to pay for this.” It was evident she meant her life would be miserable if the Cavaliers lose the series.
The championship is still to come and I’ll probably watch the rest on TV along with the Penquin’s who are also in a battle for the Stanley Cup. Anyway the old Indians cap is back in it’s resting place and the Steelers cap is back covering this old head. Won’t be long till I’m hollaring “Let’s go Steelers.”