Friday, January 22, 2010

Being a fan from afar

During last night's Cavs-Lakers game, I spent the fourth quarter stationed in front of my computer, instead of the TV. After taking an early 11-point lead, the Lakers squandered the advantage and entered the final period trailing by two. That meant it was time to follow along on CBS Sports's website. This cowardly retreat happens often, much more than it should. I tape every Lakers game and usually watch them live.

But the main reason I tape - and, yes, it still is videotape, EP mode, not DVR - is that I can stop watching live whenever LA's errors, missed shots, blown defensive assignments and turnovers get to be too much. The live gamecast online, which gives play-by-play and instant stats, keeps me informed. On CBS, they also have "glogs," - game logs where I get to read the only writing in the world that makes the comments found on youtube and newspaper websites look like Michael Chabon. It's much easier reading text about a loss than it is watching it happen. This way I also avoid hearing the announcers brag about players I don't like and denigrate ones I do. While I might agree with the assessments, it still feels like insults. Only I'm allowed to question Lamar Odom's commitment to the game and Pau Gasol's performance in the clutch.

And if the Lakers do still manage to win, I can simply go back and watch the tape. If they lose? Tape over that game, erasing it from history and my mind.

This isn't done out of any superstition. Many fans think they somehow control the action. If they watch the game while wearing a lucky shirt that hasn't been washed since freshman year in college, they think the team plays better. Or maybe the team plays better when they don't watch so the fan always records the game. Or maybe the team played better until they started watching so they turn it off, on the off-chance that alters the momentum. The players on the court apparently will sense that George finally turned the damned TV off and that sparks a 10-point rally.

So goes the theory. Ridiculous, certainly. No, I don't avoid watching out of superstition, just frustration. Maybe that's even more pathetic than the superstitious. They do what they do because they believe it works. I do what I do because I don't believe in the team's chances.

But for the next two weeks, I'll be following the Lakers and all sports from a faraway land, without the benefit of television or a convenient time zone. For two weeks I'll be in Cape Town, seven hours ahead of New York City. On TV I'll watch cricket and perhaps rugby and soccer with the in-laws, but no NBA. I'll do the best I can, again following online, this time out of necessity. During our stay three years ago, there were nights when I logged in at 5:30 in the morning for a 10:30 p.m. start for the Lakers. This year, the Lakers will be on a lengthy East Coast road trip, beginning their games at 2 or three in the morning in Cape Town. Even for someone raised on tales of Elgin and Jerry and Magic, staying awake for all of those games would require a level of dedication and an amount of sleep deprivation I can no longer handle.

Instead, for most of the trip I'll go to bed each night not knowing the result, waiting until the morning to discover their fate. In some ways it will be like the 1980s, when I had to wait for the morning paper to see the scores. And about 60 times a year, it took two days for those scores to show up in the sports section's scoreboard, as I was forever tormented by the (late) that appeared next to the Lakers results.

And while it's just regular season basketball I'll miss, the NFL playoffs will also conclude with me nearly 10,000 miles away from the States. As the Jets battle the Colts and the Vikings search for their fifth Super Bowl appearance, I'll have been in Cape Town for a few hours and will be hunting for the nearest bed after a day-long journey. And on Super Bowl Sunday I'll be on a plane, heading home. I'll read or watch some movies, oblivious to any and all games. Time stops on a plane for the passengers, even if the world doesn't. When we land at JFK at 8 in the morning the Monday following the biggest game of them all, I'll search for a paper and the score.

I can't wait for the trip. Even without access to the Lakers and college basketball and the NFL playoffs, I don't think I'll miss the televised games much at all. Less stress, knowing I don't have to watch small failures that upset me to a disproportionate degree. Visits with family and trips to the beach will fill the time. It will be a Lakers detox.

Except on January 31. Lakers at Celtics. The Celtics. The hated Celtics.

That's one game I wouldn't miss for the world, no matter where in the world I'm watching.

1 comment:

Jerry said...

Just be thankful that you are living in this electronic age where you can get scores pretty much instantly no matter where you are. If this were 30 years ago you might not find out the results of the Lakers-Celtics game until you got home.