Hallelujahs & Heartbreaks

January16/ 2000

….. I have become waaay too “mature” in my overall sports fan mindset.  Because I preach from this cyber pulpit that some of you need to throttle back on your emotional over-commitment, I feel I must set the example.  I do 98% of the time.  Thursday night I strayed.  “Hi, my name is BobLee and I let my sports’ fan emotions get the best of me.” …. “Hi, BobLee.”

“Ahhhhh, just throw the freakin’ ball over the plate …..!!!! “  I’m screaming at a 19 y/o Moochie 1,500 miles away in Rosenblatt Stadium under the greatest pressure he has ever imagined in his life.  Missus has to come in from the other end of the house to remind me “Honey, they are just kids ….” You know I was a tad “beside myself”.

(This is the same Missus who last Fall scared the bejeebers out of a jam-packed sports bar in Hoo-ville while watching Mizzou’s Chase Daniel throw umpteen interceptions vs Texas.  Her highly vocal admonitions to young Mr Daniel caused the restaurant manager to ask me “Is she OK?”  My reply “I estimate she’s got about five minutes of verbal ammo left.  Could we have another order of Ultimate Nachos?” was judged best retort of the year at that establishment.
Two months later when Mizzou was losing to Oklahoma like 62 to 3 AT THE HALF she had mellowed …..  deciding to concentrate on something less strenuous than sports watching …. and immersed herself in saving Western Civilization from Lord Obama ….. to which my earlier solution of “another order of Ultimate Nachos” still seems incredibly appropos.)

Our ability as a couple to Ying –Yang our way through these emotional roller coasters has thus far proven effective.  While Missus did invest some emotional capital in fellow Missourian Tyler Hansbrough she would still prefer seeing Matt Doherty on TV than Ol’ Roy.  Her reasoning is somewhat similar to why I was so adamant about UNC getting their dance team shaped up from JV level to Major College.

To my overall point ….. I think my “losing it” in that AWFUL 7th inning on Thursday had more to do with the pace and nature of baseball than it did my vicariously investing my personal happiness in Mike Fox’s Moochies at the CWS. Although I do so admire all that they represent in a world otherwise gone quite insane.

I am blessed to know personally, and regularly communicate with, guys who REALLY REALLY KNOW the intricacies of Football, Basketball and Baseball.  I’m talking names many of you would recognize who have coached boys and men in the height of big time sports combat ….. had to play high intensity chess with equally skilled tacticians on the other sideline or dugout.  And, ultimately, leave it up to the athlete to out perform his opponent within the lines.  To “rise to the occasion” ….. “suck it up” ….. “be the ball” ….. to marshall all those hours of practice repetition and fundamentals in to “one bright shining moment”.  While we hapless fans can do naught but “grab our left one” (or one’s anatomical equivalent) and adjust our “rally caps” and watch.

To reflect with those wizened sports warriors is the sports equivalent of listening to for real combat veterans.  “How did you feel” when that shot rimmed out …. that ball went thru Buckner’s legs …. that Scott Norwood field goal sailed just wide of the goal post?  “Whattayamean how did I feel?  I felt AWFUL.  Howdayathink I felt … geeez?”

For every walk-off homer there is a forlorn outfielder staring over the fence.  For every buzzer-beater there is a defender with an outstretched arm.  For every Michael Crabtree catch vs Texas, there is an opponent in stunned disbelief.

I take personal solace in my classic line when Mike’s Moochies lost to Oregon State on that “routine grounder to second” four years ago ….. “God loves Beavers too.”  The reality is that The Almighty usually is receiving simultaneous requests from both dugouts and fan bases to manifest His love for said team by bringing about a favorable outcome.  The impossible duality of that Godly Dilemma is usually lost in the tension of the situation.

Have you ever wondered, in those prayerful entreatments, desperate fans barter all sorts of personal shortcomings in exchange for a W.  For those whose offers go unaccepted is there some solace that they can continue their assorted debaucheries?  “Hey, we lost the stoopid game but at least I can keep having lustful thoughts over Juanita in accounts payable.”

It has been said that nothing brings a man to his knees in prayer more effectively than being under live artillery fire.  I would add being in an OR waiting room while a loved one is in delicate surgery ….. or being in the late innings of an elimination game at The CWS.    Not necessarily in that order.

As a fan, is “the thrill of victory” worth the potential “agony of defeat”?  Both are totally vicarious on the fan level of course.  As the concentric circles move outward from the athlete with the ball in his hands …. to his teammates …. to his coaches ….. to their families ….. to the “fans” of the team ….. the thrill of the “thrill” and the agony of the “agony” changes in its intensity.

In no way was my frustration watching Tar Heel pitchers throwing 59’ curveballs in that 7th inning even remotely on the level of the young men and coaches wearing Carolina Blue in Omaha on Thursday last.  The same could be said for the joy of that Ralph Malph looking kid from Arizona State who did indeed “rise to the occasion” on not one but two times.

All fan frustrations during the first half of “that Kansas game in San Antonio” was not within a bazillion degrees of that of “the team”.  I like to think that when the heat of the moment has subsided, most fans realize that.  My experience with “board monkeys” has taught me there is a faction of humanity that will never “get it”.   For those sad souls I do believe The Almighty created personal identity theft, acid reflux, constipation and those FreeCreditReport.com commercials ….. and an eternal hell where such folks can wallow FOREVER.  But, hey, I could be wrong.

Will this weekend see someone endure a Kenny Perry Masters meltdown at Bethpage Black?  If not this weekend, then surely somewhere down the road I (and maybe you) will find ourselves deeply committed in yet another sports moment and maybe just a tad ….. beside ourselves.

    “Honey, they are just …”
“Yeah yeah …. just kids.  I’m going to bed $%#^&#@!”



Who was the Red Sox Manager watching
“the ball go thru Buckner’s legs”?


Another radio show appearance yesterday (Friday) on local WPTF 680AM.   I managed to mangle the reputations of at least a dozen area notables by either calling them out for assorted crimes against humanity or in 1-2 cases expressing my admiration of them.   If anyone in Chapel Hill was allowed to even own an AM radio (they are NOT by local statute!)  they heard me lay into favorite human piñata Gene Nichol.
We were on location at a CHill car dealership so I dared Mean Gene to meet me.  I guess  the ONE class Gene teaches (for $200,000/year) is from 5-6 on Fridays so he never showed up.  I could not tell if host Bill Lumaye was relieved or disappointed.

Ron Goldman’s last place of employment was Mezzaluna …. Which closed a few years after the OJ trial.

Former UNC FBers from the mid 70s died this week – Steve Streater.  Streater was an outstanding athlete from the late Dooley Era and was permanently paralyzed in an auto accident just after his graduation.   A reminder of another UNC player from that era – WR Jimmy Jerome – who died in an auto accident in the same general period.

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