art news & reviews & Interviews. jeff bergman, editor

136 – Fandom and Rilke

Being a fan is a silly thing.  We align ourselves with causes and nations and parties and these days, it matters little.  I do not mean to sound defeatist, but I do feel that rooting for my Mets is the same as rooting for the Democrats, my input matters none.  Still, The benefit of being the fan of a sports team is that there is a definitive test of their greatness.  You are either the Champion or you are not.  The team serves as your avatar, your symbol of greatness or failure.  And when they lose, you can choose to run them down (usually just to their other fans) or build them up but your words and deeds matter only to you and your relationship with the team, your fandom.  

In the end, I know that my team is a group of mercenaries with little to no true allegiance to city and ball club.  Still, while they are here they are mine and I hope that they will play with intensity. The type of intensity filled with the hopes and dreams of 100,000 children that sit by and watch their team, their parents team, maybe even their grandparents team and pray for greatness.  As an adult, my lips still begin to chant tiny prayers for ground balls or short-gain completions and another set of downs.  

Any number of critical indictments of sports fandom are valid, whether it be the inequality in locker rooms and coaching staffs, or the brash uncaring nature of the fans.  I am not a rabid sports fan, but I have been known to yell and sulk.  I feel my team’s losses as my own.  I defend their victories as my own.  I can use dates, facts and hardware as my badges of honor.

The act of criticism is often the act of side choosing.  I am going to quote Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, but as I am just reading him for the first time, let me wear my lack of knowledge as a badge as well.  Read as little as possible of literary criticism – such things are either partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today, and tomorrow the opposite view. Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism.”  He is right.  Critical opinions often are swayed by popular opinions, occasionally the reverse is true.  We defend our positions based on party lines and academic factions.  I know that my criticism is opinion that could change in a day or a decade, and I have no qualms about admitting that I can be, and often am, wrong.

With my team headed to the World Series, all I can think is: choosing sides has its merits.  I like knowing who I root for.  I love having a place where that never needs to be explained.  I am right always in being a fan.  In criticism, choosing sides is divisive.  In sports, it’s gospel.  I will always have someone to root for without equivocation.  Let’s Go Mets.

-Jeff Bergman

October 2015

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