Becoming a fan when it’s psychologically convenient

While I’ve been living alone in Manhattan, two leagues have had their playoffs: the NHL and the NBA. I didn’t really follow either of the leagues during their respective seasons (I can’t tell you the last time I watched a hockey game, probably 8th grade, and the only NBA knowledge I had was how well the combination of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin was doing on my new favorite team) but I’ve watched multiple games of each since I’ve been here.

I asked myself, why am I suddenly interested? I don’t have a particular preference for which team wins each game (though I’m pulling for the Kings, Celtics, and Thunder) and, especially for hockey, I don’t know many of the players. I have very little investment in the games I watch, yet I’ve watched all three games so far of the Stanley Cup finals (with the fourth – and hopefully last – airing tonight) and I’ve watched two games each of the Thunder/Spurs series and Celtics/Heat series.

The answer, I think, is loneliness. There is a certain collective atmosphere attributed with sporting events that remedies the feeling of loneliness – even though I’m technically alone in my room while I’m watching the games, I’m watching with millions of people around the country, watching the same events take place, the same outcomes. I know the whole cliché of “sports bring people closer together,” but there’s something to it.

Being a part of the national fandom consciousness (or at least the one paying attention to the NBA and NHL) reduces the individual watching to just another viewer. I’m not necessarily me watching the game, I’m one of the three million (which apparently is a five year low for the Stanley Cup finals) people tuned into NBC on a Saturday night. I don’t have to think about being in my room alone on a Saturday night, that specific individual persona is shed in favor of adopting the persona of a member of the mob.

Plus, there’s something to be said about the announcers of the games. I mean, it’s like they’re talking right to me. Televised sporting events are designed that way, to maximize inclusion of the viewer at home, and when I’m sitting there in bed watching the Kings/Devils game go into OT for the second game in a row, being a part of the announcers’’ “conversation,” I feel a little less alone. It helps that I talk back sometimes too, but that probably doesn’t say much about my mental state.

I can’t decide if I feel a difference between playoff games and regular season games. I watch baseball games occasionally if they’re on, and I don’t get the same feeling as I do when watching the NBA/NHL games, but maybe that has something to do with the idea of the “primetime” game and the heightened stakes, etc. I’ll get back to you when I only have MLB games to watch. I also plan on going to a Mets game or two while I’m down here (fuck going to Yankee Stadium), so that’s going to have a different feel too. Though I probably won’t go to a game alone, so it kind of renders this argument null.

Oh well. So here’s hoping Jonathan Quick has another good game for the Kings. I say that primarily because he’s the only Kings player whose name I know.

Random picture of the day: Because I watched a roughly 20 minute segment on ESPN about the new fashion in the NBA

Favorite thing I saw today in the city: Not sports related, and not really in the city, but I just saw an ad during Jeopardy for the new Beach Boys album. I’m happy the Beach Boys are making music (even as Brian Wilson approaches the age of 70 and continues to be insane) but when was the last time you saw an ad on TV for a real album?

-Ben Cosman

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