Are Wizards fans crazy?

Rob Carr

It is November the nineteenth, two thousand and twelve of the common era.

Dear Diary,

It's been years since I've written here. Having never been one for documenting the banalities of social life back home, I find that the pages here have been filled with a catalogue of strangeness, the moments that have affected me in my short life. There is a prospective patient referred to me who claims to have been given my email address by a colleague, but he refuses to be specific as to which one. This is mildly worrisome, as he (I believe it to be a he, hereafter referred to such) could have acquired an element of my personal information through some unsavory means and his reticence does not inspire faith in his better nature.

However, having seen few patients in my fledgling career and imagining myself as anonymous as anyone can be in the age of the internet exchanging email correspondence, I inquired as to the nature of his problem. The man admitted himself to be a lunatic ... no, a fanatic. Fan for short, though I find this abbreviation rather curious. More curious is that the object of his fanatacism is a SPORTING team in the Washington-area. Of course, he communicated all this rather more concisely, and the 'fan' seemed largely concerned with diagnosis.

We shared a lay understanding of the the American corporate zeitgeist of the entertainment industry; sell what sells. As a 'diehard fan', he was incapable of changing his rooting preference. His particular franchise, a professional basketball club, has evinced a sort of institutionalized dysfunction that had led to them making their playoffs only five times in his 24 years of being a fan. This didn't sound so terrible, and I told him so, until later correspondence confirmed that over the half the league in this sport enjoyed post-regular season play, and in any event, that wasn't what he was contacting me for.

He had allowed his hard-earned cynicism to waver at a change in ownership and new operational philosophy, though he had been concerned at a lack of any personnel changes in upper management. He stated that a computer was only as powerful as its weakest part and had wondered if his team might be the same way, but that the new operational philosophy afforded an unprecedented transparency that might only be matched by the accountability to the real supporters of the team. Placing his faith in the plan as laid out appeared low-risk as the light at the end of the described was quite far off and relatively manageable, especially since the team had won the 'lottery', letting them choose the best particular player of that year.

I allowed that he may have gotten his hopes up too high, in reply. He instantly demurred, stating he had established his lowest expectations at simply average competency. Becoming more interested in the specifics of his case, I asked him how the team was doing this year. This, he replied, was supposed to be the year the horse started to turn with real authority. Yet it has been the same old story. Things, he said, are the same as they ever were. A different road to the same result. Devastating in its sameness.

There were mitigating circumstances, he conceded. But then, there always are and a good team can rise above such things, or at least not be consumed by them. Yet for all that, this WAS the same old story. It hurt because he was SOLD it was supposed to be a good team, or at least a respectable one. A lifelong fanatic, and he had somehow allowed himself to start over and was he crazy for doing so?

He was quite certain he suffered from depression, partially ameliorated by the current prospects of his football club. I declined to investigate this, though I had been given to understand football to be relatively unpopular in America. Suffice it to say, he was more interested in establishing the prospects of his own lack of mental fortitude, that he could be so easily swayed from a lifetime of evidence and what should he do about it.

I considered telling him that in capitalism, one votes with their wallet. Cease supporting the team and and the team will have to change if his feelings are shared by his fellows. Yet this seemed rather specious, when considered in the light of a captive audience. 'Fans' defy reason in rooting for their hometown teams above all others, to my mind, it seems emotionally sanest to simply root for the best team. With the sort of loyalty my patient described, they could no more forsake their team now than at any other point in their lives.

In the end, I told him that all choices in our lives have consequences, and the values that we have are no different. Valuing sports and hometown loyalty as he did, he would continue to be obligated to his home team and he simply had to make the best of it without willing it to be something it was not. 'Enjoy the ride', I said, or somesuch nonsense I am sickeningly certain I read in one of those horrible, stale fortune cookies and had sent the email before I could come to my senses and delete such drivel.

Yet I had to send something and I have come to no better conclusion after days of thought. Instead, I am left with a mild sort of bitterness at the sheer helplessness of these supporters, subject to the vagaries of the entertainment industry as only those not concerned with their day-to-day survival CAN be. Technically free individuals in a free society bound to be a fan of a losing team, perhaps from a businesss aspect they are enslaved consumers? Perhaps inalienable is a better word. As I said back in the beginning, it is a strange thing. I am a touch angry, that a new owner would stoke the competitive fires of their perpetually wounded and captive supporters without sufficient evidence. Or indeed, any.

WebPhD

(Hey guys, I hope you'll forgive the departure from the usual format and thank you for your indulgence. There are places where I've laid it on too thick and too thin, by turns, but this is what 0-9 gets you in 2012. Until Friday, here's to chasing win numero uno).

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