Wednesday, April 29, 2009

That Time of Year.

I don't become a contortionist like my buddy, Kevin. My vocabulary doesn't shift to an array of four-letter expletives when things go bad. I've never lost sleep, skipped a wedding, tattooed the logo of my team's rival on my right butt cheek, or sacrificed a live animal (stepping on a snail right before the Packers went on the four game win streak in '07 was just a coincidence, I think) for the sake of sports. I become animated and a bit superstitious, but weird good luck rituals like rubbing my ladyfriends stomach every time the Lakers hit a shot in Game 4 against the Jazz is about as far as I go.

In the realm of sports psychology, I'm probably about average in terms of fanaticism. In my younger years, I was more of a diehard. Whenever the Packers were playing on Sundays, I'd be glued to the TV from kickoff to well after post-game analysis and interviews. These days, I'll still pull out the ol' foam Cheesehead and scream at the TV for the green and gold, but I'm a bit more subdued. Now I only yell until my voice goes hoarse, stopping before I lose it altogether. (I've got a career to consider! Ok, you got me, I'm a writer, I don't need the voice. I just like the sound of it.)

These days, when the schedule shows Packers vs. Detroit Lions, or Lakers vs. Wizards, eh, I figure I can pass in lieu of a trip to Ikea or Nordstrom Rack. But come playoffs – whether it be baseball, soccer (preferably Liverpool, but really anything but the MLS), football or basketball – the fare-weather fan goes into hibernation and the fidgety, mumbling, cursing fan inside me comes back out. 

I love that about sports. I love that pending games get me pumped, other fare-weather fans start showing their team colors, my schedule starts adjusting to what works with game time. Non sports fans just don't get it. They don't understand why, when sitting at one's couch, a piece of athletic equipment nowhere in site, the sweat glands appear turned up to "Spring Showers." They don't understand the emotion a favorite team from childhood elicits. They get a crooked look when you can rattle off the height, weight, college and favorite pizza toppings of the O-line, but can't remember a siblings birthday (that's what PDAs are for!).

Sure, the egos become irritating, the contracts ridiculous, and the announcers laughable, but the playoff atmosphere makes it all seem moot. There's a reason why sports are compared to religion. It has a unifying effect on communities. It bridges divides between the young and old. It gives you something to look forward to on weeknights and Sunday afternoons. And the Playoffs, well, they just take sports to a whole new level. Playoff time is when hardly-knowns become heroes, drama runs rampant, tempers flare, and the most mundane play can be the difference.

It's with that in mind, that I mentally and physically (gotta strengthen the vocal chords) prepare for the second round of the NBA and NHL playoffs. My Lakers and Ducks (in hockey, I'll admit, I'm only a Ducks fan when they make the playoffs) are both playing well and seem ready for a deep run. This is very important in my sports life. Life after basketball and hockey is the 3 1/2 year long baseball season. Which I hate. Can't stand. I haven't watched an entire regular season baseball game on TV since ... since ... I don't know, Orel Hershiser was pitching for the Dodgers and my dad had just grounded me for leaving a wet towel on my floor. Late '80s-ish. Yeah, been awhile. So, Lakers and Ducks, please keep it up.

Back to the point: Playoffs. Time to thaw out the buffalo wings. Chill the Pacificos. Call over the guys. Be a man. No girls allowed (Sarah, you can come).

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