To Live and Die by Sports in April

What month is it?  April, Jesus!  Where has the time gone!  It seems like just a couple of weeks ago we were all watching this little team from Indiana try and upset the big bad Blue Devils in the championship.  What do you say?  That was a couple of weeks ago.  Where was I?  No one was pulling for Duke, at least no one with a soul.  Why root for the Yankees when you could root for the Devil Rays? 

April is a beautiful month for sports if you like hockey or basketball.  If you don’t enjoy these sports April can be a grueling month.  The casual basketball fan will doubt their own sanity after the rigorous stretch of the NBA playoffs; and the NHL playoffs (as exciting as I think they are) can leave a sports fan wondering about the Canadian pastime.  Speaking of pastimes (and when I say past I mean PAST,) — baseball!  Baseball stadiums are opening their doors all over the country in April and thousands of fans will be rushing out to the ballparks for their three hours of sunlight before they go back inside.

I went to my first baseball game of the year last week.  Nationals Vs. Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philly, and as a Nationals fan it was a strange and powerful sight.  There were fans!  Hundreds of them, thousands of them, all rowdy and rooting for their home team Phils.  The Nationals have a fan base, but nothing like this.  The kind of pandemonium I saw at this game rivaled…….well a football or hockey game.  This was not the scene of a baseball game; this was the scene of an all out brawl.  The gentleman’s game seemed like a distant shadow compared to what I was seeing.  Although I was in Philly, and I knew how these people can be especially when they were drinking.

The Nats won the game and I briskly made my way to the exits.  I was in a large and very obnoxious group of Nats fans.  I had done my fair share of heckling and I was ready to bolt before the fans realized the score.  These were real fans damnit!  They weren’t above throwing a beer bottle at us.  (In the eighth I felt a beer bottle against the back of my chair…..it didn’t hit me, so no harm done.) 

I got out of Citizens Bank and headed towards the Link (Lincoln Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles.)  I couldn’t help but smile.  We were winners, at least for the day.  Even if I didn’t follow the team all that closely or care about the outcome, I was still a winner.  And there is not much in this world more satisfying than seeing your opponent’s crowd after a loss.  The pain is seen in the faces of the people who booed you, whether it was to your face or not, it doesn’t matter.  As a fan, you take part in a fraternity, a group that puts aside all differences for their team.

As a rabid Capitals fan I am very uncomfortable with Penguins fans.  To be a “real” fan is to be a part of something bigger.  Sports are a lifestyle for some, and, whether that’s good or bad, it means something; something important to some.  It is part of the way we were raised as sports junkies.  Red Sox fans don’t like Yankees fans, and Yankees fans don’t like Red Sox fans.  Friends who are on opposite sides of this fence choose not to discuss sports, but will have no problem rubbing it in their comrade’s face when their strikes victory. 

Where the hell was I?  Oh yeah!  Even in the marathon that is the MLB season, one game can mean a lot to the fan.  It’s about self respect more than anything.  We came into Philly to watch our team play and we won in their house!  I may be making this a little dramatic but why not?  Sports are about drama and without the drama of the sports, we lose our love of competition.  A team needs to lose every once and awhile to savor a win.  As a DC sports fan I know that as well as anybody (except maybe Chicago sports fans.)

 If you’ve ever been in love you will know what it’s like to be a real sports fan.  Your team will keep you up at night.  You won’t be able to eat and sleep for days.  You will get shivers all over your body.  What I’m really trying to say is:  “Washington please win the Stanley Cup!”  That was a bit of a digression but hell I’m a real sports fan.

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