Last night two bad things happened: the Ohio State Buckeyes went down to defeat in the NCAA Tournament, and during the game Mr. Sports emerged.
The Buckeyes’ loss wasn’t unexpected; they’d gotten whipped by Gonzaga earlier in the season and were the underdog. Ohio State gamely fought back from a 15-point deficit at the start of the game to briefly take the lead in the second half, but ultimately Gonzaga pulled away. It was a good game, but also one where, from the standpoint of Ohio State fans at least, it seemed like every rolled-out layup and rattling in three-pointer and missed-shot carom just favored the Bulldogs. Sometimes that happens in sports.
That’s where Mr. Sports came in. That’s the name I’ve given to the harsh, foul-mouthed, angry personality that sometimes takes over during TV sports broadcasts when one of my favorite teams is playing in a big game. Mr. Sports wants his teams to win so badly that any adversity or bad break causes him to surge to the forefront and launch into vicious tirades about referees, opposing players, the fates, or even the opposing coach’s wife or Mom and Dad celebrating an impending win. And, because college basketball is a game where so many bounces or debatable foul calls can happen, it’s prime territory for Mr. Sports.
Last night Mr. Sports was pretty bad. Kish and I had decided to watch the game together, but after Ohio State fell far behind and was struggling to catch up, one of Mr. Sports’ loud and profane outbursts caused Russell’s dog Betty to leap off the couch, and Kish decided to retreat upstairs in disgust. Mr. Sports then watched the rest of the game by himself, fulminating about the unjust fates. After the game ended I went back upstairs, feeling sheepish and stupid about my loss of control in front of my disappointed wife and the two dogs. Recently I’ve gotten better about keeping Mr. Sports under wraps — combining age, presumed maturity, and avoidance strategies like just not watching much college basketball this year — but sometimes the power of Mr. Sports is simply too strong.
The Atlantic recently carried an interesting article about the positives and negatives of being a sports fan, and concluded that the benefits outweigh the negatives. And I know from personal experience how thrilling it is when one of your teams wins it all. But it is embarrassing when Mr. Sports thunders out from my id and starts raging at the TV, and it makes me feel bad to disappoint my baffled wife, who just can’t understand how sports can cause such a fundamental change in behavior in the blink of an eye.
I’m 60 years old, and I’ve still got some growing up to do.