Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Confessions of an Occasional Fan
A few days ago I was in a coffee shop and there was this girl with a Milwaukee Jewish Day School sweatshirt on. That's not a typical sight around here in California. It's probably not a typical sight even in Milwaukee. Then she took off the sweatshirt and underneath wore an Echo Bowl t-shirt. That's definitely not a typical item of clothing anywhere. I had to chat it up with her. She told me that the Echo Bowl, a bowling alley in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin where I rolled many a ball, is no more. It's been replaced by a Walgreens. Time marches on.
The Echo Bowl was not a particularly good bowling alley. The lanes were not well maintained. I was a serious enough bowler that I had my own ball - oh yes, ordinary people do that in Milwaukee, buy balls custom fitted to their hand - but the balls available at the lanes were lousy. Still, it had a decent little greasy spoon of a restaurant and something unique at the entrance, a very grainy black and white picture blown up to an 8 foot by 8 foot mural of a little man in a pork pie hat bowling at the Echo Bowl. The little man was Vince Lombardi. Echo Bowl once had been blessed by the presence of a god. They weren't going to let anyone forget.
To say that Vince Lombardi was my idol when I was a kid would be an understatement. I would have licked the soles of his shoes. I know that sounds kinky. But it's true. I had an unhealthy obsession about the Green Bay Packers and its god-like coach. They won game after game. I dutifully watched game after game.
I was also a very good football player. It was true that I was kind of slow. But I had my assets, my strength and the fact that on the field I was a maniac. I let my inner mean streak run rampant on the football field. People were scared by my intensity. I had dreams of playing in high school and beyond. But then I discovered drugs. My inner mean streak went into hibernation as a result. And I lost interest in playing football altogether.
About the same time, the Green Bay Packers started to lose on a fairly consistent basis. And I lost interest in them as well. I found out something about myself in the process. I'm not a loyal sports fan. When a team does well I am interested. When they don't, I completely forget about them. There is a term for this of course, the dreaded phrase "fair weather fan." I think that's kind of harsh, myself. I prefer to be called an "occasional fan." I watch on the occasions when "my team" is doing well.
I understand the value of loyalty in life. But sports are entertainment. And there is no entertainment for me in watching a team play poorly. It's just not my thing. Sports are just not that important to me.
Anyhow, I note that the Green Bay Packers are doing very well right now. Not surprisingly, I have a renewed interest in "The Pack." I've even watched two or three games this year. Brett Favre is truly a joy to see play. He's clearly having a fun time out there. His enthusiasm is contagious.
I haven't watched "my team" in about ten years. Not coincidentally, it was the last time that they were winning. Back then, I bought a cheese bow tie to wear during the big games, the conference championship and the Super Bowl. It's a funny thing made of foam. Above is a bad picture of one.
Foam ties it turns out only last several years. The foam hardens and turns an ugly shade of gray. I had to throw my old one away. But a couple of years ago I was in my home state and spotted a new one for six bucks, a steal of a deal. I snatched it up. I told my sweetie that I'd wear it the next time The Pack was in the conference championship and hopefully the Super Bowl.
That time has arrived. This Sunday I'll pull that cheese tie out of its plastic wrapper and wear the thing while I watch The Pack play. Yes, I'm an occasional fan. But with that cheese tie on, I look so silly that I swear that I can pass for the real thing.