For football fans in south Louisiana, whether they follow LSU or Southern, the Saints or Tulane, the season so far has been one of high hopes sometimes tempered by disappointment.
Any sports season can be a gut check for die-hard fans — a call to consider the costs, as well as the joys, of pledging allegiance to a single team. All of it can be enough to make a sports fan wonder if such devotion is really worth it. But worth is an impossible thing to figure when it comes to fan loyalty. “Fan,” after all, is short for “fanatic” – a hint, hiding in open sight, that fidelity to a sports team isn’t a coldly rational act, something summed up in the dry arithmetic of a ledger sheet.
Maybe, in the depth of despair that comes after a loss, it’s wise to take the longer view. And when it comes to sports, there’s perhaps no better living source of the longer view than Roger Angell, who turned 97 this year. Angell is best known for writing about baseball for The New Yorker, but many of his observations about that game apply equally to other sports. In a celebrated 1975 essay, Angell explored — and defended — the psychology of the sports fan.
After LSU's worst loss to Mississippi State in the series' 110-game history Saturday, former…
"It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a ... sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut ... is understandable and almost unanswerable,” Angell wrote. “Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. ... It no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naïveté — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift."
The New Orleans Saints can use plenty more of what Hau'oli Kikaha gave them in limited actio…
Angell is a Mets fan, so he knows a thing or two about irrationality. And as a recent edition of public radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac” reminded listeners, Angell finds a team that wins all the time a less than ideal match for a real sports fan. With perennial winners, a spectator comes to take winning for granted, and it’s less interesting to watch the game. “Almost winning is almost the best,” he noted. “But you’ve got to win once in a while.”
If a lifelong sports fan can live to be 97, maybe there’s still hope that this uneven football season won’t send us true believers to an early grave.