The True Fan
by Devanshu Mehta
Is it ok to want to watch only when your team is winning?
Is it ok to want to watch only when the watching is easy?
Is there value in being able to watch when your team sucks?
Is there virtue in sticking with it?
Is the goal to be able to watch when it’s hard?
Is the goal to be able to watch when it’s not your team?
Are you still a fan of the sport if you can’t watch a losing team?
Are you still a fan of the sport if the emotion of a loss is too much to carry on a regular basis?
What does it say about you if a loss doesn’t affect you?
What does it say about you if a loss affects you too much?
What does it say about you if a loss makes you less likely to watch the next game?
Should I turn up again if I know it will hurt?
And when it does, is there virtue in putting up with it?
It’s hard to follow a team that loses all of the time, but perhaps it’s harder to follow a team that wins some of the time. Hope-mongering teams, like slot machines that pay out just often enough. Like the boy who gives you just enough attention to think you have a shot.
Should we aspire to fandomnirvana, where a cover drive gives us pleasure regardless of the practitioner? Where a well-played match is more important than the result? And for those that achieve this state, what does it say about them? And for those of us that aspire to but can’t, are we lesser fans for it?
It hurts when my team loses. And when this happens, I find myself walling myself off from the sport. I no longer follow the sport with as much interest, to protect myself from the hurt.
This is me. This is what I do when the Democrats start losing. I’m a political junkie until we start losing. And then it’s too personal, the losses hurt, the setbacks sting.
It wasn’t this way when I was younger. I had a lot more room in my head to carry the emotional baggage of the world. I would feel the pain of far off lands, of sports teams, of leaders and people.
But now I fill up very quickly. There is just so much of my own stuff I carry around inside, and I have a little room left over for the outside, but I have to draw the line.
And so I move back into my shell. I leave the weight of the world where it is. It will be right there when I come back, but it’s not mine to bear.
And as I step away I think to myself, wouldn’t it be better to not care? To not attach so much emotional weight to what is an abstract concept—a team?
But that is not who I am. When I’m here, I’m here for the emotional attachment. When I come back, that’s what I’ll be back for.
I think you have to experience everything before you can let it go—before you become detached— so that you know what you’re letting go of. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. I don’t know if I want to.
A great unpacking of this condition we live with. Do you find that losing hurts more than winning feels good? I find the high of a victory dissipates quickly, while the low of a loss hangs around.
Like you, I don’t aspire to detachment. One reason is I that am sure it would erode the thrill of the expectation that comes with the build up to every (England) Test; the potential at the start of the game for every player to make this their match.
The highs of the really big wins are yet to dissipate for me. 2001 Kolkatta, 2011 world cup, hitting #1 in Tests. Of course these moments come once every 2-3 years if you’re lucky, but the losses come all the time.
My life revolves around cricket. It has been that way for the last 27 years. I associate snapshots of my life by recalling a cricketing event that happened during that time. My friends would find my obsession with cricket amusing. I have a photographic memory when it comes to cricket matches that happened in the eighties. I can probably recall what the commentator said on air on a few occasions. I jumped up and down with joy listening to the commentary on radio when Kapil hit Hemmings for those 4 sixers at Lords and couldnt wait for my dad to get back home so that I could tell him all about it.
And now for the first time ever, I couldnt care less that there is a test match starting today. The last two weeks have been so depressing that I havent logged in to Cricinfo because I am afraid that I cannot stand to see the headlines criticizing the Indian performance or praising the English one. I was like you, getting ready for the next match no matter what happened in the previous one, no matter how badly India lost. Something snapped in me listening to Dhoni’s post match speech after the 4th test. I seemed to me that the loss just didnt hurt him enough. And surely it couldnt for the team led by him as well. I felt enough was enough. This 5th test has not started yet. I have plans for this evening with my family and watching cricket doesnt figure in that. I dont know if I will get back to watching the game anytime during the next 5 days (assuming it lasts that long). Right now, cricket and me are like estranged lovers.
Very well written – I am a kindred spirit.
[…] from watching most of the days’ play since the Ageas Bowl test. As Devanshu pointed out in a brilliant article recently, the emotional toll that my team’s performance exacts on me can be draining in […]
I too truly understand where you are coming from. I live for cricket, I am an English cricket fan who also happens to be an Australian. Last years ashes was meant to be the highlight, the time that St George finally slayed the dragon in his own den. And the opposite happened. I was so distraught I actually didn’t even watch the last 4 test matches. Cricket was a dirty word in my house. It has taken me 6 months to get over it.