Competitive energy goes Haywire
Jim Presching / AP
I am a very competitive person. I at times insanely dedicated to playing football and baseball as a kid growing up as I am now as an adult doing something at home like video games with friends. It is a mild personality defect that has been drilled into me since I was just about 4 feet tall. I was always told to hit harder, sweat more and push myself to the outer limits of my body. That sort of routine after awhile gets ingrained into you and it becomes a part of your basic personality.
It doesn’t matter to me if you think it is a bad or good trait, it is there for everyone to see and I do not think it can be reversed. And at my age now, my body and my mind are finally playing tricks on each other. For years I have still been able to match up against the neighborhood kids in some street football, but over the last year, my body has decided that is for the young, and not the guy who beginning to show gray on his temples and get winded after 15 minutes playing the game.
And I take that same sort of insane passion with me into my Fantasy sports and even with my Rays Renegade team. None of this was more evident yesterday afternoon than when I saw my Fantasy guys go belly-up. I saw my team, which has 6 Tampa Bay Rays players on it begin to take a free fall towards a final 1 for 37 mark last night, or a miserable .027 batting average for the day. You see, I can not longer play the game like I did in college, professionally, or even in the backyard, so these simple games of skill and have now become my battlefields.
And it is hard for me to sit there and hope for a rebound effect, or even simply just take deep breathing as a relief for the pain. My mindset for so long has been fine tuned to want more than the usual. It has been primed for confrontation and geared towards defeating any enemy, friend or foe. Heck, I do not even go to a friend’s card games at his local tavern because I am afraid of my competitive streak.
So yesterday while I was watching a two-fold implosion, one on Sunsports/FSN-Florida, and the other on my small laptop screen I was venting some extreme clouds of fire from my belly. Smoke was clouding my judgment, and small embers of rage and disappointment ravaged my stomach. I had never seen such carnage before with my team in the crosshairs, and I frustrated me to the extremes.
Anyone who was on Twitter yesterday knows I was within a fine hair of melting down and imploding myself online. Oh, I do not get nasty and go all four-letter words or even attempt to curse, but the pent up frustration did make me re-write my Tweets about three times before I sent them. But this was a different competitive edge.
It had a different feel to it for me, or so I thought at the time. I guess all those years of playing and scrambling had finally gotten me to this point. I was so upset by the end of that game that I knew I could not take phone calls, could not take emails, and especially could not encounter people who would rehash the game with me. I put a huge sign on the fridge door to leave me alone or there would be a firestorm of Nerf products coming at you that would rival a Confederate cannon bombardment during the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
I was in no mood to celebrate one of the biggest pitching accomplishments because it had happened to my team. And with that I sat in the dark for about an hour and thought, and thought and thought, hey I forgot to bring food and drinks into the room. So I wandered out the back door and drove to the grocery store. There I got a few Pepsi products, a Cuban sandwich and a few things to nibble on later that night.
And wouldn’t you know it, the two guys in front of me were chatting about the Perfect game. It was at this moment that I finally came to the realization that I had a problem. I still had the fire in my belly and that pain in my head from losing. That the lessons learned a long time ago might be mis-guided now and out of date. And that is a hard thing to admit. I am older, but not wiser in this area. And I know I am not the only one. I think about friends of mine who still play competitive softball or coach Little League and wonder if they still have that acid belly pain and yearning to smell the win and avoid the bitter aftertaste of losing.
I began to wonder as the two guys were starting to put down the failing efforts of the Rays in that game, and were laughing at the Rays efforts. The little devil in me wanted to throw down and take them both out with vengeance..with authority… with angry power.
And then I wondered if they even knew about Dewayne Wise’s late inning substitution and if he was not there, these guys would not even be talking like this. I wonder if they knew that 5 times in that game Rays hitters got 3-2 counts on Mark Buehrle and he made his magic happen. That even into the Rays last at bats in the ninth inning, that they were still trying to find a way to win. That Rays catcher Michel Hernandez got Buehrle behind in the count 3-1 before taking a strike looking, then swinging at a pitch for the second out.
Three outs before Buerhle and the White Sox were to celebrate, an outfielder had to make the play of the game to save his masterpiece. Two outs from the end he had to show he was the skilled pitcher we always knew he was by prying a walk out of Hernandez’s hands, and in the end, he dominated one of the better hitters in the American League by getting Jason Bartlett to hit a ball to short for an easy third out and end the game.
The entire last inning or so people on Twitter saw my responses, and I think they saw the aggression and the frustration come to a boil, or maybe they thought I was playing. Here is just a few of the rambling out of my collective soul during that final bunch of outs:
RaysRenegade Pat ‘the Faucet” Burrell almost ended the suspense. Game of inches with that drvie down the 3rd b line. Perfectly turning my stomach rotten.
RaysRenegadeWhere is my lighter fluid? Neidermeyer dead, Marmalard, dead, DTX Death Mobile gassed up. White tube sox…….flaming as we speak! Imperfect
RaysRenegadeMark Buehrle is no Billy Chapel. Sorry this is not a re-make of “For the Love of the Game.” Kapler, Hernandez, Bartlett..my $ is on Bartlett.
RaysRenegadeHoly Crappo! Dewayne Wise just came off the bench and goes up over the wall to steal Kapler’s HR.
RaysRenegadeI am not going to act like those NY fans in the movie..I am pissed! I saw Derrick Lowe throw the first no-hitter against the Rays. No No NO!
RaysRenegadeThank goodness I do not have a dog! It might be the 18th Perfect Game in MLB history, but the TV is off! Shut the door,I am not in the mood.
And here is the last Tweet I saw before I left Twitter last night:
You have no idea what was venting through my ears at that time. People who have never played at a high level of sports think that a coach comes into a locker room calm, cool and collected after a game like that. Well, most do not. At least mine never did. From Coach Charlie Pell in college to Coach Kush while I was playing ball in Indy, losing was not an option, it was an excuse for not winning.
I really do not think that New England Patriot Head Coach Bill Beleichick strolled into the locker room after an 11-5 season, and missed the playoffs and sent his team off with a hardy ” we just missed boys” speech. If he did, that will be the end of that dynasty chatter.
This evil energy gnawed at me for about 4 hours last night while I watched shows I had on the DVR saved from Monday and Tuesday night. Competitive spirit and a yearning for the best and the top shelf do not just transcend sports, they support it.
I am wondering if there is a support group of former athletes or competition junkies that meets in my little town. I am not upset by the Rays losing this game, I am not so angry because it was the Chicago White Sox, or much less a great pitcher like Buehrle, the final essence of all of this is that it was a Perfect Game.
I mean I was in Boston on that cool April night when Red Sox starter Derrick Lowe no-hit the Rays and I was upset, but not to this level. It did bother me for the rest of the night, but not to the extreme this one is clawing at my heart. Maybe I have finally hit that wall, that invisible part of life where reality beats up the image of my team.
Maybe it is finally time for me to seek professional help to combat the effects of this over-competitive libido before it kills my love of the game(s).
Nah, that is just crazy talk. I will be fine until the next time we have this sort of performance from the Rays. But I am confident it will not happen to them again in my lifetime. There have been only 18 Perfect Games in the history of the game. To be a part of one of them was great, but thank god it did not happen at home. You do not know what kind of reaction you might get from the bandwagon faithful.
Do I still feel the same about the Rays….sure. And my Fantasy team will rebound. I might get popped out of first place this week, but I will fight back and regain my spot by the time the playoffs come around.
But this one did hurt. All the way down to the middle of the core of my competitive spirit. It fractured my perception and ultimate foundation of my team, but they will be fine and will fight on. No one died. No one was injured, the games will start again tonight. I will again be on Twitter ready for tonight battle and post a few, or more snippets during the game.
I will again be full of the competitive fire in my belly to support my team. I guess what really got to me was the fact that this was it for our games against the White Sox this season unless we both meet in the playoffs. No chance at redemption, no chance to try and duplicate the feat again in 2009. But what might have been the epicenter of all the anger and rage might be as simple as this team did not deserve to go down like this, but you can not stop history, you can only contain it.
But then again, I think I need to make a call right now to a Rays support group. I need to go to a place where people like me can go to grow again and get rid of these ugly feelings bottled up in my belly. I hear they have just that sort of group down at the Red Room in Largo, and the leader of that support group wears a big blue wig and serves cold Coors Light.
I think I need an infusion of other Rays fans right now. I think I need a spirit transfusion stat before I melt into the carpet. Maybe they are meeting tonight at 7 pm. Maybe I can get help during the Rays versus Jays game tonight……..just maybe. Hopefully Roy Halladay did not watch this game and wonder…….