Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What I've Decided Is that Everyone Needs to Chillax

By Mark Smith

During my recent trip to DC, I was there for a fellowship with a bunch of high school teachers, but this time, they were the students. For a few of them, they weren’t far removed from taking college courses, but a few of them hadn’t taken a class since Ronald Reagan asked Mikhail Gorbachev to knock down a wall in his house to actualize his dream of an open floor plan … or something like that. Over the course of the month, we had to write two seven-page papers. Seven pages is nothing for me, but I realize that I was still in the groove of writing academic papers. Those other teachers, however, weren’t. And boy did they freak out. The first was due on a Friday, but people began writing it the weekend before and weren’t done until Thursday. They worked those papers down to nubs as they fine-tuned, redacted, and expanded in the fear that the teachers were going to flunk them. They were all so collectively manic-depressive that I considered throwing a few of them from Key Bridge and saving them the trouble. Where’s the sense of perspective?

Listen, no one wants to fail. I get that. But A) it’s a fellowship program and no one was getting flunked unless they put forth zero effort and B) they were all smart people who could do just fine. It did not require freaking out. Then came Twitter last night. After Tommy Hanson gave up three runs in two innings to the Pirates, people on my timeline started freaking out about the Braves pitching staff. Now, the staff hasn’t pitched well in July. I get that. But A) they’ve pitched in Philadelphia, Colorado, and Cincinnati for half of the games and B) every pitching staff, defense, and offense has bad moments.

So here’s where we need perspective. No, we don’t want the team to lose. Yes, we should cheer them to win, and the players need to play to win every game. But when they lose or lose a few games in a row, you need to look at it in context. Does this happen a lot? If not, then it might be just one of those blips that happens to every team. Is there a direct reason? Is there a key player not playing? Is their velocity down? Is their bat speed slower? Most of the time, stats don’t even out over the course of a full season, so if a guy or staff is in a slump for a week or month, relax. I didn’t say, “Be happy about it.” No, you can still be a bit miffed and upset that your team lost because that’s what a fan is all about, but at the end of the day, you need to be able to sit back and realize that today is just one day.

I’m not entirely sure why people react so furiously to games. I guess it’s because we also compete, and when we compete in whatever game it is (checkers, Twister, wiffleball), we want to win. We put everything we have into winning (moreso depending on how competitive you are), and we know our  favorite team’s players are as well. When we put that much into it, I guess it’s easy to be let down or upset when you or team loses. But again, you have to be able to step back when it’s all said-and-done and realize the context of what’s happening. Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be emotional. No, please scream and yell and be happy or sad when something happens. That’s what being a fan is all about--emotional investment.

In the end, I’m not discouraged by seeing semi-delusional tweets during the game. That’s expected. But it happens at other points as well. And it kind of scares me that people are completely willing to dismiss three months’ worth of good performance over one month in which the context is adverse to such things continuing. It doesn’t scare me for baseball but for the theme it represents. I spent a month with wonderful people who just couldn’t get past a seven-page paper, but if they can’t get past that, what happens when something more important happens? Listen to my advice. Cheer every game as if it’s Game Seven of the World Series but understand that it’s not … until, well, it is.

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