As I write this on Saturday, April 28th, the Jays are down 3-0 in the top of the fourth and Jaime Garcia just walked Delino Deshields, who plays CF for the perennially irritating Texas Rangers.
The Jays have had a rough week.
Baseball has a bad habit of making me moody. Or perhaps I have a bad habit of allowing baseball to make me moody.
April 2017 illustrated for me just how low baseball can make me feel.
I spent too much money. I ate too much bad food. I had no interest in writing about baseball. I began to wonder if the success of the Blue Jays in 2015 and 2016 had actually ruined baseball for me. I didn’t remember feeling this way when the Jays were consistently a .500 team that missed the playoffs for two decades.
The 2018 Blue Jays have had a much better April and my mood has been elevated but after this rough week where the Blue Jays were pushed around by the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers, the old feelings started creeping back.
Frustration, resentment, irritation.
It’s no good being in a toxic relationship with your sports team so I scoured the Internet for some coping strategies. I found some, and I will share the highlights, mostly because the folksy style amused me.
Acknowledge your feelings. Sometimes people allow things like the performance of their favorite team to affect their emotions. That’s okay. If you are angry or upset about your team losing, don’t pretend otherwise. Give yourself a chance to vent a little bit, or at least be disappointed.
Keep control. Because it’s only a game, there is no reason for your anger or sadness to lead to personally destructive behavior. If you are at the game, go ahead and yell a bit, but avoid shouting at other fans (especially fans of the other team). Avoid stirring up fights or throwing things as well.
Psychological studies have been done to try to explain why it is fans are so emotionally invested in the outcomes of games.
One explanation is what science calls “mirror neurons”. The basics of this theory go as such: when you watch a sporting event, neurons fire up in the same place (the premotor cortex) that fires up when you yourself are doing the action. It’s not as intense as doing the action yourself, but there is brain activity.
As Le Anne Schreiber explains it in a 2011 article for Grantland called “This is Your Brain on Sports”
When we see a familiar action, our mirror neurons activate, and their firing lasts exactly as long as the observed action. This allows us to instantaneously understand the action, its goal, and even the emotions associated with it, without having to do any inferential thinking about it. If we are watching strenuous action, mirror neurons even provoke a small but measurable uptick in our heart and respiration rate.
In addition to all this brain activity, there are all the associations we have due to history or familial ties to the team. The bonding and the sense of goodwill that comes from cheering for a winning team can carry over into the rest of your life.
It’s ok to feel your feelings.
Talk to other fans. Sports are a great communal experience, and even if you are watching alone at home, there are other people out there enjoying the game too. Call your friends who are also fans to let off steam and cope with the disappointment of a losing team. Consider joining a fan club or online forums to talk more about your disappointment and even brainstorm ways to fix what went wrong. If you are going to suffer, it’s better to do so with other fans.
I like this idea of “brainstorming” ways to fix what went wrong. Putting it that way sounds ridiculous.
Though, I suppose, a lot of sports journalism, and by extension blogs and online forums, exist to do exactly that. There is no radio call-in show unless some dude calls in with some opinion about why Gibby should telling guys to sac bunt more often.
Accept your impotence. There is nothing you can do to affect the outcome of a game, including wearing those lucky socks. Your team didn’t lose because you didn’t cheer loudly enough or sat in the wrong seat. Their failure is not your failure.
I chose this one because for obvious reasons. We should make t-shirts that say:
Accept your impotence.
Remember the good times. While losses hurt, no team loses all the time. To get over a big defeat, think about your team’s good times. Remember great comebacks, championships, or even just good times with friends and family watching your team. If you’ve watched your team before this game, there will be some moments you can look back on fondly.
Losing to the Texas Rangers is never fun but we will always have this:
Very few moments in sports exist where one player both rises to the occasion and also so thoroughly owns the opposition. It happened then.
Be optimistic. The great thing about sports is that there will always be another game. Another game means another chance to win. Instead of dwelling on the game your team lost today, think about the game they could win next time out.
Depending on where you are in the season, a loss can even be helpful to your team’s future performance. Finishing lower in the standings might mean a better draft pick, or a chance to see underperforming players replaced.
If you are not snuggling up to @FisherCats, you should remedy that.
Plus this is the future:
Gurriel - "How can I make this slide look as cool as possible?" pic.twitter.com/PnYcdjG1LI— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) April 26, 2018
This is also the future:
Teoscar Hernandez today: BB, HR, K, 2B • hitting .316/.391/.702 on the season #BlueJays— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) April 29, 2018
I’m as guilty as anyone of allowing my baseball team to dictate my mood.
This season will not be easy. And if does all get shot to hell, maybe we can all write this together.