The Mirage

Brian Tarcy can not only see into the future during football season, he can also scheme and plot. At the end of Brian's next foolproof plot lies another foolproof plot, and it bodes well for every Cleveland fan...

When my hopefully foolproof strategy comes through and I win the lottery, I am going to buy motorcycles for all of the best players on all of my least favorite sports teams.

And then I will make plaques quoting the obvious manlaw that states, "It is not cool to wear a helmet," but I will not mention the other manlaw, "It's really not cool to have your Super Bowl face broken like a shattered beer glass."

No way. If you play for a team that I hate…ride baby, ride. The better you are, the faster you should ride.

Of course no one should think this way but that's what sports in America has evolved into now. It's a world where the standings are more affected by what happens off the field than ever before. 

And loyalties are tested. If the latest knucklehead in the news happens to play for your team and you are the type that bleeds the colors, somehow, you try to make an excuse. A whizzinator? Of course, he needed it, to uh, you know… Well, some problems are harder to rationalize past than others but we, as fans, real fans of teams, have two standards and I don't know about you but I fear that it's always some lottery-winning fan of the other team who is out to ruin my team.

Yes, my theory is that these unlucky athletes with their steroids and their motorcycles and their many other problems are innocent victims who were set up by vindictive fans of other teams. I believe that athletes are role models, heroes, and saints even. It's the fans that make the athletes appear spoiled and irresponsible. The truth is, it's your fault and it's my fault. It's not their fault. Never. How could it be?

And though I don't really think that there are fans conspiring to force opposing athletes to make stupid decisions, I wouldn't be surprised to see it used as a defense in some new trial of the century. The problem, of course, is that if the player involved in a trial of the century isn't active and presently great, fans don't have nearly the rooting interest. In such a case, justice should suffice. Don't you think?

But if a player from my team is involved or if, even better, a player from a team that I hate is the accused or the injured motorcycle rider, I have a rooting interest because even if it is off-season, this situation will affect the standings.

It's the subject no one dares talk about and yet it comes up in every sports discussion these days. They call it "character," but we really know the vicarious nature of fandom at its core.

Yes, "that's the guy that I wish that I was" is our blood-pulsing belief as we hang on every pitch, shot or tackle. And even when we learn of the frat boy exploits, if he's our guy, we love it because we know that there is something to the thought – give me that kind of money and make me 22 again…

And when they are more than frat boy exploits? As a fan of many a jerk through the years, I have learned the perfect rationalization that gets me through things the same way you sometimes have to with your family or your friends. And cheering for a team, in a way, is like that, isn't it? So here's my rationalization for cheering for a jerk: He may be a jerk, but he's our jerk.

The truth is that it is more complicated than ever to be a sports fan these days because you need a medical degree, a law degree and an extremely strong financial background just to understand the dynamics of any particular league. It really is just as the Sabermetricians have told us – the old stats have lost meaning when you look at the big picture. But what the eggheads miss is how much the character things affect the standings.

In our perfect world of fandom we would root for wonderfully eccentric and talented characters that live right near the edge but never go over it. That's the challenge we, as fans, who face it, drive the media, have given to players. And everyone knows that weird behavior gets you face time on TV, and that equals money in the bank and with money, you can do anything.

Money? Look, I'm hopeful that that have a foolproof plan to win the lottery. Because when I do, I can promise that teams I hate are going to have problems.

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