Growing Up and Cooling Down

Each week, contributor and new parent Joey will post his thoughts as he undergoes the transformation from fanboy to father.

I’m pretty sure that somewhere in most dictionary definitions of “fandom”, you’ll find the word “fanatic” or “fanatically.” Thus, it only makes sense that when it comes to a person’s team of choice, emotions run as hot as the face of the sun.

I assumed everyone was like me…my team loses, I get pissed off.  If my team loses a game they were supposed to win, I get really pissed off. If my team loses to end the season, it takes me a while to get over it (I’ve often argued that the day Carolina loses in the NCAA Tourney precedes the worst day of the year for me, with regard to sports). Honestly, if I walk out of Kenan Stadium and Carolina has just dropped a game, I really feel that no one should be smiling, talking, or enjoying life, whatsoever.  Fans should live and die with every loss, right?

Dean Smith once said, “If you’re going to make every game about life or death, you’re going to have a lot of problems. For one, you’ll be dead a lot.”

It turns out, I may be a little different than everyone else; the exception rather than the rule.

In college, you surround yourself with like-minded people much more than as you get older. Thus, my real immersion into attending every single Carolina game came with a huge support group. We’d see a bad play or watch a loss, and all have the exact same opinion about what degree of awfulness came with it. There really does exist quite a mob mentality at sporting events, and that mindset grows exponentially among people of the same demographic.

As I got older (and started watching games with my significant other), I realized that quite often, I became that guy while watching games. Again, when you’re in a group of that guys, the phenomenon isn’t quite as obvious.  But once you’ve left the maniacal support group of game-watching with bros, you enter the realm of real-world decorum.  If you still react with the vitriol and zeal at respective bad and good plays, and to a greater extent losses and wins, people are going to look at you funny.

Please don’t get me wrong; I make no apologies for caring so much about Carolina sports. It makes up a pretty sound portion of my identity (ask people that know me personally).  But growing older (and to a much greater degree, being married to a therapist) has mellowed my temperature with regard to plays and game outcomes a fair amount.

UNC Teddy Bear

Teddy Bear!

So has the 3-month old drooler that you read about in last week’s post.

I’m sure that part of the change lies in the fact that with a baby, I cannot focus every fiber of my being into the game du jour like I used to.  However, I also feel that there’s a level of innate human compassion that results from becoming a parent; because you bring another life into the world, one gains a greater appreciation for human life as a whole.  In other less emotional and heartlessly succinct words, I’ve gotten soft.

I’d like to think that since I’ve really seen a life moment with my own eyes, it’s much more difficult to view plays or games as life and death anymore.  There’s also part of me who sees these players as someone’s children now. Just as my daughter will inevitably make a mistake one day, these players make mistakes on the playing field/court. And when viewed as a part of that type of framework, it becomes much tougher for my emotional flame to burn as hot with regard to sports. Finally, the value of my life as a whole has doubled since last college sports season: I’ve got a new object of my affection. Somebody misses a block? I’ve got a dimpled, multi-chinned stinker to laugh at. 3-on-1 fast break ends with a pass into the third row? Probably time to change a diaper. Game-winning field goal goes wide left? Meh…let’s go read up on some “Goodnight, Moon.”

I’m not any less of a fan, I assure you. You could also probably put all of the above to the test during the upcoming football game against NC State, or the first basketball game this year against Duke. But, I have a feeling that the yelling at the TV will probably continue to decrease…

…At least while she’s got impressionable ears and no headphones.

About Joey

While I cannot say lifelong (thanks, Dad), I am a long-time Tar Heel fan, '01 UNC grad, and consider myself just as passionate and knowledgable as the next guy. My wife, also a UNC alum, and I recently became first-time parents. I'm going to attempt to chronicle my personal struggle to come to grips with going from mouth-breathing Fanboy to only-somewhat-crazy Fan-Dad. The thoughts I share in this space are my own...though they may be heavily influenced by a lack of sleep.
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4 Responses to Growing Up and Cooling Down

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  1. sanfransoxfan says:

    Congrats on the first step. Your next one will be when you realize that the player on the opposing team who either just screwed up or broke your heart is also someone’s child. What has mellowed me is realizing that if one of my kids decides to go to UNC, they will be going to a helluva good school (and watching games together will become wild – friends from split families say it’s fantastic). Your daughter may one day apply to and be accepted by Duke. Guess what? Your heart will burst with pride (and you’ll be thrilled, and relieved, if she turns it down for UNC). Deny it if you want, but all that will mean is you ain’t there yet, son.

    1. Dave says:

      increase that relief by many multiples if you live in state

  2. Marc says:

    Good article. I find sports much more enjoyable the mellower I become.

  3. catherine bushby says:

    My husband and I went through the same thing. When our young children had friends come over to play on a Saturday game day, I spent a great deal of time telling them not to be afraid of my husband and me screaming at the tv. That scenario hasn’t changed. My kids’ friends have just gotten older.

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