The maturing fanatic

On Thanksgiving Day, 1993, I had a meltdown.

My Miami Dolphins were good that year, and they went into snowy Dallas at 8-2 and poised to be the top seed in the AFC playoffs. It’s one of my favorite games ever – a Miami team without its star quarterback going into the home of the eventual Super Bowl winners and taking the victory with the nation watching. It’s also famous for one of the most boneheaded NFL plays ever. But we’ll get to that in a moment (If you follow my Twitter, I’m sure you already know).

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Mark Ingram making plays

I was 12 years old, and already known by my family for being pretty insufferable when my favorite teams (the Dolphins, Florida Gators, and Orlando Magic) lost. I would cry. I would pout. My mood for several days would be awful. I would dread going to school and having to listen to others rib on me, whether it was good-natured or not.

I knew my behavior was immature. Why get so upset over a game? It had no real bearing on my life. But logic or not, I was fully invested in my teams.

That Thanksgiving game came down to a final kick. Pete Stoyanovich, a generally very reliable kicker for the Dolphins, trotted out on that snowy turf and put it boot into it. We will never know if that first kick would have gone through, because it was blocked.

Stoyanovich

Stoyanovich

The game, for all intents and purposes, was over.

All the Cowboys had to do was wait until the officials blew the play dead. The ball slid along the turf, its momentum dying. Several Dolphins players had gathered around it, watching helplessly as the thing came to a stop.

Then, to everyone’s astonishment, Leon Lett – a Dallas defensive lineman – came sliding into the picture feet first, as if he was stealing home plate. For some reason, he believed his team was responsible for downing the ball (though clearly none of his other teammates were quite as mistaken). He wound up bobbling the ball, which Miami then recovered, giving them another shot at the field goal.

Leon Lett it be

Leon Lett it be

Stoyanovich nailed the second attempt and the Dolphins were victorious.

I didn’t even see the play.

Following the initial blocked field goal, I’d stormed upstairs to my room, sobbing and sniveling.

After I pulled myself together, went back downstairs and saw what had happened, I was was quite pleasantly surprised. My tears turned to elation, although I felt awfully silly.

I learned an important lesson.

Getting as upset as I did was ridiculous. Sure, I could be upset about my teams losing. That’s part of the fun. But I needed to be more mature about it. Believe it or not, even at 32, I still struggle with it. Of course, my days of crying and stomping into my room are long gone, but I still have to hold back my emotions at times. I think simply by doing it over and over, practicing it so to speak, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s become ingrained in me. Sort of like repeating something for so long you begin to believe it.

There’s also been a shift in my perspective.

The Florida Gators lost this past weekend. It wasn’t just a loss. It was a display of self-destruction, ineptitude, poor decisions, and it all came at the hands of a hated in-state rival.

If this loss had happened when I was 12, I’d have taken it much, much harder. But now, although I was upset, it didn’t even ruin my day (!!!). Ugly losses are all just a part of what makes college football great. Yeah, it sucks when it happens to your team. But it happens to every team. It provides fans with something to talk about, something to learn, and something to look forward to (seeing a team bounce back). And, thankfully, this whole situation has put not only football, but other inconsequential things in my life in a better perspective.

Some things just aren’t worth getting too upset about.

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