How to Deal With a Traitorous Asshole Leaving Your Team in a Perfectly Rational Way, Fuck Him He's Not That Good Anyway, I'm Not Bitter, Whatever, He's Overrated

How to Deal With a Traitorous Asshole Leaving Your Team in a Perfectly Rational Way, Fuck Him He’s Not That Good Anyway, I’m Not Bitter, Whatever, He’s Overrated


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Illustration: Angelica Alzona (Photos: Getty)

The scenes outside the Camp Nou soccer stadium in Barcelona say it all: A grown man crying into the jersey of Lionel Messi, because the once-in-a-generation superstar is leaving the club this summer after nearly 20 years due to an impasse with his contract renewal.

Messi’s departure means anguish and despondency for the team’s fans, some of whom have the Argentine’s face tattooed onto their bodies. But mourning the loss of a hero won’t change the strange reality of an FC Barcelona without Messi, nor will it bring the dismayed supporters a shred of solace.

Similarly, albeit on a lesser scale in the NBA and NFL, two other high-profile players—Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Julio Jones of the Tennessee Titans—are either nearing an exit in a blockbuster summer trade, or have already been shipped off to pastures new in defiance of fans’ wishes. But no matter what fans post on social media, or how many jerseys they might burn, the inevitable truth remains that players—and those with the power to decide their futures—will routinely break hearts.

How to separate personal identity from sports

People identify with their favorite sports teams along tribal lines. One study from the University of Sussex in England noted that fans generally fall into a certain kind of tribal allegiance based on collective “feelings that the team identity carries a sense of belonging, meaning, and continuity.” Fandom drives people mad, spurring the kind of rowdy behavior that might boil over in the form of violence, compel some to practice bizarre game-day rituals, or don overtly racist team garb.

Either way, it’s possible that you may be taking your fandom to obscene levels of personalization, so much so that your identity gets tangled up with the team you support. That is, ultimately, a bad thing, because a glut of research has determined that the lows of fandom are usually much more deeply felt than the ephemeral highs.

On a practical level, there are plenty of things you can do to ween yourself off of the toxic merry-go-round of bleeding-heart fandom; you could, for example, unfollow a team on social media, stop checking up on scores, or maybe take up a new hobby (communications professor David S. Heineman wrote a long essay about how and why he broke up with sports fandom that might prove instructive).

But ultimately, the knowledge that athletes will always make their own decisions—many of which you don’t like—will serve you the best. You are powerless to stop your revered running back from being traded from under your nose, and publicly opining the situation will not make the blow any less severe. Sure, athletes can forge connections with their fans, but the most successful ones rarely stay in one city for their entire career; they’re motivated by challenges (and more often than not, money) and the hunt for glory. Lionel Messi, for his part, probably wasn’t thinking of the man clinging to his jersey when the decision of his exit was announced.

A prevailing nugget of wisdom comes in the form of perspective, which is to ask yourself a few questions: Does it matter to the material reality of your life when your beloved team loses its best player, or when they lose badly? Has your life become worse, or even different, as a result of these outcomes?

The answer, almost always, is a resounding no.



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