I often get asked why it doesn’t depress me to listen to people’s problems all day. I guess it’s because I find people’s stories fascinating–a puzzle to solve. And I genuinely enjoy getting to know someone who is ready to deal with their problems. It takes courage to acknowledge that you need help and to do something about it.
But probably the biggest reason why it doesn’t depress me is because I am an optimist. I believe people can change, can make their lives better. This comes in handy when you’re following a losing team.
My brothers and I are avid UVA fans because we went there. It’s different to be committed to a team because you went there or because they’re from your state than when you choose a team because they’re good. Anyone can cheer for a winning team. Being a hard core fan, on the other hand, takes dedication, patience, and optimism.
One of my brothers is such a hard core fan that before the game he spends weeks researching the stats of our team and of our opponents, checking out the scouting report, the spread, comparing how our offense matches up to their defense and vice versa. And he always has these grand predictions for the season. In fact, it borders on being delusional, but in a good way.
For example, this year he predicted that we would be 8-5, which includes a win at a bowl game. At best, we will win 3 games, and that will require some divine intervention to win the last one since we’re clearly so sucky. I remember one year when we had a similar season, he had an epiphany as we watched another loss. He turned to me and said, “you know, I’m beginning to think we’re not that good.”
This year as we sat through the Duke game, which we lost splendidly in the 4th quarter, in the midst of frustrated fans cursing our coach and quarterback as they exited the bleachers, there was one woman who perkily said “see you next week!” to the usher on the way out. My brother and I were struck by how unfazed she was by the loss. We realized that we had briefly waivered in our faith in our team and channeled another source of optimism to motivate us to have hope that we could win the next weekend.
And then we lost again. And again. And again.
We had another conversation about that perky woman and concluded that she must live in Charlottesville, so she could afford to be optimistic because it probably only took her at most 30 minutes to get to the game since there is no traffic and no problem parking. We, on the other hand, had to drive 2-3 hours, spend money on gas and food, and make the long drive home in a bad mood.
Still, my brothers and I plan on going to the showdown against Tech on Thanksgiving weekend. I’m prepared to throw some punches if necessary to avenge any negative comments launched against my team in the event of a loss.
And if we end up being 2-10, then I can take comfort in the fact that basketball season has begun, and we’re supposed to be good at that.