By Josh Skinner
Following sports has made me comfortable with the soul crushing randomness of the world. At the age of 17, I came to terms with how unaccessible I was to people. I worked weekends at a pub where I mastered the art of wrapping raw pig around unfertilized chicken babies, a Scottish delicacy. I was really good at shooting virtual representations of people from the Middle East, which would be followed up by the ancient ritual of tea-bagging. I was also deep into the cutthroat world of hip hop; rapping for my friends in my mom’s basement, scouring datpiff.com for dank beats.
I had my niches and decided to try and develop some interests that would facilitate me eventually having a diverse group of friends. About a year prior to this I had watched Eyeshield-21, an anime about a rag tag bunch of kids playing football in Japan. After about 142 episodes, I felt like I had a grasp on the rules of football and decided to become a fan of the Chicago Bears. I made my decision based on the hometown of some of my favorite rappers at the time, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, and Common. How foolish of me.
As it turns out, anime is not an effective education tool for anything which meant that I had a lot of ground to cover in terms of learning the sport. Holding penalties and pass interference were entirely new concepts to me, and I couldn’t shake the idea that if a (my) team just perfected the Onside kick like the Bando Spiders that they would be unstoppable. But I hit the books and focused less on killing foreigners in video games and applied myself to acquiring a different type of nerdom.
Football operates very much like a TV show. Your team gets one episode a week for four months, with the possibility of an extension of up to four episodes. Every team has about 50 characters, but you really only need to know five of them well, and every team has their rivals. I watched the Chicago Bears show intermittently my first year, becoming familiar with the faces on our defence, which was strong. More important was getting to know a man who has outlasted three committed relationships I’ve had over the past seven years: Jay Cutler. That first year of following football, my team got within a single game of playing in the Superbowl, the ultimate happy ending for any TV show. The Chicago Bears were promptly annihilated, and every single season since 2011 has been a war of attrition waged on emotions as I watched the team that I fell in love with disintegrate slowly at first, then suddenly all at once.
This is in no way dissimilar to the initial reaction to those who saw President Barack Obama elected. Following the 2008 election was my first real exposure to politics, and just like with the Bears, I was hooked. There was a genuine feeling that linear progression would go unfettered by the shackles of shittiness in the post-Obama world. What has followed has been a war of attrition on my emotions as I saw the world I was suddenly involved in disintegrate slowly at first, then suddenly all at once.
Luckily, since I am a white guy living in Canada, I watched the world burn with relative ease without any fear of repercussions in Canada. The same could not be said for me and my Chicago Bears. I saw all my heroes who captured my hope become slow, injury prone, and on the highlight reels for getting torched instead of doing the torching. I used to invite friends over to watch games and enjoy the spectacle. I started to show more compassion for myself after a room full of people in my humble abode watched a rival drop a 40 burger on my poor Bears in the first half.
A 40 burger refers to when a team scores 40 points on an opposing team. Most teams don’t score 40 points all season, the Green Bay Packers served one to me and my Bears in one half. This was my breaking point that lead me to realize that to constantly hope for some beautiful anime ending for a football season was foolish and lacking entirely in self compassion.
Currently my beloved Bears are 2-6 in a raging tire fire of a season that can’t end soon enough. I still watch every game, but I watch them with reasonable expectations. This is how I deal with the woes of the world as a possible Trump presidency looms on the murky horizon. I knew that Bernie wouldn’t happen. I knew that Justin Trudeau didn’t actually give a shit about Indigenous people. That doesn’t stop these to candidates from representing incremental change in the right direction.
Being emotionally inseparable from the results of sports taught me to understand and get close to quantifying exactly how pointless my hopes and dreams are. Through this enlightenment, I found inner peace when looking into the glaring abyss of sequential awfulness that is in no way limited to the American election. I acknowledge that it’s privileged as neon colored armpit hair to be able to emotionally detach oneself from the results of American election. It’s also a declaration of total war on one’s sanity to tie emotional well-being to something that they have no tangible way of influencing.