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Breaking curses, believing, and being a fan

Remember to wear your lucky shirt!

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs watches the video replay against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Divisional Playoff at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs watches the video replay against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Divisional Playoff at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

I have a confession to make: I didn’t watch Alex Gordon’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in the first game of the 2015 World Series.

No; I went into the other room in a huff to play some Rocket League. If you remember, the Kansas City Royals were ahead in the eighth inning until Eric Hosmer made an error on a routine play to first base, leading to the New York Mets scoring the go-ahead run. I was furious.

See, you only get so many chances to win a World Series, and to get back to the World Series for the second year in a row and throw away the first game when it was in hand? Visions of the 2010-2011 Texas Rangers and the 2011-2013 Detroit Tigers raced through my brain, great teams that came so close to winning it all in multiple years and didn’t. Great teams whose chances slipped away, and neither team has made the American League Championship Series since then. They couldn’t get it done.

I didn’t see Gordon’s single-turned-triple in the penultimate plate appearance of the 2014 World Series, either. The Madison Bumgarner lefty-on-lefty matchup was just too much, and besides I was preoccupied with writing the game recap for this very site. So I missed that, too. I turned on the TV again just to witness Salvador Perez flail at fastballs as high as his neck and eventually pop out to third base. I turned the TV back off.

Thankfully, Royals fans now know what happened afterwards: the Royals won the 2015 World Series, ending a 30-year championship drought for the city (Sporting Kansas City excluded). All’s well that ends well, right?

I have another confession to make: I only watched the second half of Saturday’s Kansas City Chiefs game after I knew the score. My parents were in town for longer than intended thanks to the snow, and they wanted to watch it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen a single second of it, as I had intended on seeing a movie at the theater with a box of overpriced popcorn. But we watched the first half on delay so we could skip through the commercials, and we decided to wait until we knew if the Chiefs won to watch the second half. After all, Patrick Mahomes had led the Chiefs to a 17-point lead. Losing that game would have been an emotional disaster.

I do not think this makes me a bad fan. In fact, I know it does not. Fandom is not an obligation. Bandwagon fans are far saner than serious fans for that reason. We have a limited time on this planet. What’s the point of voluntarily sinking resources into something if we’re not getting anything in return, or if we’re not affecting what we’re sinking said resources into?

Last year, I refused to watch the Chiefs’ divisional round game. It was the second best sports decision I’ve ever made. The Chiefs coughed up an 18-point lead to a far lesser opponent (the Tennessee Titans), at home, in an embarrassing fashion. Before the game, I made the calculation that witnessing a loss in the divisional round, again, would be far more emotionally taxing than watching the clear favorites win a game they clearly should have won. Thus, I was spared much of the emotional angst—though not all, as the consequences from the loss reverberated for the rest of the season.

Of course, the best decision I ever made was getting tickets to the 2014 Wild Card Game. The Royals were down four runs in the eighth inning and won. Multiple couples around me left before the game ended. If I were watching, I might have turned it off. But we know what happened. To this day, I would pay a huge amount of money to go back in time and witness the reactions on the faces of the people around me that left mid-game once they learned about what happened.

I’m not entirely certain this post has a thesis, and maybe that’s the point. Sports are what we make of them. The more you put in as a fan, the more you will get out. We watch sports for a variety of reasons, and we do not have to legitimize any of them to anybody. That’s why being a fan is ultimately so rewarding.