Saturday, November 04, 2006

To Hell with emotional detachment!

(This is a repost of something I just posted on Peegs forum -> HERE )

Like most of the other fools on Peegs', I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to Indiana basketball. Being an IU basketball fan is part of what makes me who I am. I live in Durham, North Carolina, and I have quite a few casual acquaintances who know me as "that Indiana guy." You don't need to spend a lot of time with me before Indiana basketball somehow comes up in the conversation. ("You barely managed to stuff the turkey into the turkey fryer, huh? You know, that reminds me of a story about A.J. Moye, an Indiana basketball player, and Carlos Boozer....")

I was in a daze for several days after Indiana lost to Duke in the Final Four in 1992. It wasn't just the Valentine-induced manner in which they lost, it was that I just couldn't believe the season was over. At the time, I thought it was all about the loss, but in retrospect I now believe that even if Indiana had won the title, I still would have felt a little empty for a few days afterwards... because I loved that team so much that I simply didn't want the season to end, for good or for bad. In some sense, 1993's loss to Kansas in the Regional Finals was even worse, because that was the end for Greg Graham (my all-time favorite Hoosier) and Calbert Cheaney (who is in my Top 5).

A cynic might say, "Well, duh! So you get excited when IU is ranked #1 and you really like IU's greatest players?! Whoa, stop the presses!" Cynics are annoying like that. But it's not true, my bleeding crimson did not end in spring in 1993. Or 1995. Or 1998. And other players on my list of favorite Hoosiers includes guys like Lyndon Jones and Micheal Lewis (good player, but certainly not all-time greats). The point is that there was a day when the team's performance would affect my mood for days afterwards. Actually, there were a lot of those days.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but I'm not like that anymore. It started before Knight got fired and it continued throughout the Davis era. Emotional detachment. I think it basically was a means of self-protection. And primarily, I think it was self-protection from 3 things - the team, the coach, and the forums.

First, much to my surprise, late in the Knight era I realized that I was starting to not enjoy how the team was playing (though ironically the 99-00 season was an exception to this rule). I thought our defensive effort was generally poor, and surprisingly I thought our teamwork was suffering as well. I thought we had good kids on the team, but that doesn't mean I liked watching them play basketball. It was hard to watch significant minutes from Larry Richardson, William Gladness, Richard Mandeville, Rob Turner, etc., and not lose a little attachment to the outcome of games. And even our marquee players like Luke Recker, Neil Reed, Charlie Miller, Jason Collier, and Andrae Patterson oftentimes made it difficult to let myself become emotionally invested in the team. When Davis took the job, I really enjoyed watching our defensive effort the first couple years, but the offense was inmmediately and consistently painful. And here was the worst part - even when the team was effective on offense, it didn't make it enjoyable. Jared Jeffries was a wonderful player, and feeding the ball into him and letting him make decisions with his back to the basket was a winning offensive strategy... and it was hopelessly boring. Again, we had good kids on the team, guys who (if she were 12 years older) I wouldn't mind dating my daughter -- like AJ Moye, Dane Fife, Kyle Hornsby, JJ, Marshall Strickland, and Tom Coverdale. Actually, maybe I wouldn't want Dane Fife dating my daughter (he's crazy), but you get the idea. The last 3 seasons, things got progressively worse, because even the defensive aggressiveness stopped being a motivation to watch. And it's not that the teams weren't very good. I've developed strong emotional attachments to mediocre teams - what generally matters is the perceived difference between how good the team is and how good I think the team ought to be - and style of play. Obviously, I get more attached to great teams (I'm human), but it's not the only factor.

Second, there's the coach. I'm going to basically leave this one alone, because I don't want that to become what this post is about, but in the interest of honesty... late in the Knight era and throughout the Davis years I grew increasingly tired of having a coach for whom I didn't have a lot of respect. I often defended both, but (for mostly completely different reasons), I had trouble coming to grips with the notion that either of them were supposed to be My Guy. That's all I have to say about that.

Then there's the forums. I love the forums. Look at my post totals. But there's a weird sort of dynamic for me on here. I get tired of reading critical posts about the team or the coaches... even when I agree with the criticisms. Actually, especially when I agree with them. If I disagree, I can leap to the team or coach's defense, and obviously defending MY team or MY coach is something I enjoy (though, in the case of the coach, I'd like to have less opportunities to leap to his defense). If agree with the criticisms, then it just seems to double how I'm feeling about the situation. On the bright side, the forum also increases my enjoyment of the good times. Basically, the forum accentuates my emotions in either direction, and when the direction is generally negative, the forum can become unpleasant for me. This is why each of the last 3 seasons I've spent at least part of each season away from the forums and I've stopped watching games. Because I simply got tired of being pissy all the time. I'm guessing I'm not alone in that regard.

But you know what? I've had enough of self-protection. I've had enough of guarding myself against my own fandom. I miss the days when I couldn't wait for the season to start and got depressed when the season ended. I want to live and die with every 3 pointer, every rebound, and every turnover. I want to rattle the house when we hit the game winner, and I want to commiserate with my forum buddies when the other team hits it. I want to passionately dislike our opponent again, and I want to believe that Indiana fights for the glory of the entire state again. I want to defend our team and our coach with reckless abandon, and not try to concede that maybe the other guy has a point. I want to be relentlessly positive, even when maybe the situation doesn't warrant it. In other words, I want to be a fan again, through and through.

People like to post long missives when they decide to leave the forum. This is the opposite. =)

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