Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The face of addiction

Yesterday night the USC Trojans pummeled the Sooners of Oklahoma and secured the national championship they had been robbed of last year. This marks an end to the 2004 college football season, and the beginning of what, for many across the country, is an eight month drought. These poor souls, deprived of their precious sport, will have to subsist on a thin ration of scouting reports, practice appraisals, and recruiting commitments, awaiting the return of football as feverently as the Jews watch for the Messiah. I know just how brutal the effects of football withdrawal can be, because my own brother is one of the addicts. For my own part I like the sport, but I care little for individual results.

Although my brother has no greater connection to the school than having lived within an hour's drive of it, he has become an obsessive California Golden Bears fan. This condition really only took root nine or ten years ago, though he likes to fancy himself a more established participant, and often predates his alliegance by several years. This is an understandable response to the "old blues" he encounters on message boards and the like, who measure fan loyalty by no other meter than the length of your devotion. Nevertheless, it is somewhat amusing.

The mentality of a fanatic is really something quite unique. Although it goes without saying that he is always rooting for Cal to win a game, the obsession has transformed my brother's obligations, expanding his concerns into a vast lattice of interconnected irrelevancies. First he must support Cal. Then he must support the Pac-10, the athletic conference to which Cal belongs.

The strength of teams is often measured by the strength of their opponents. Hence, if the Pac-10 is strong, that makes Cal stronger (in theory). But it doesn't stop there. Next he roots for Cal's non-conference opponents in games against non-Pac-10 teams, because the better they do, the better Cal's schedule looks. From there, he goes on to support teams that played against teams that Cal played, so long as they don't violate any of the other Asimovic laws of football fandom.

The exponential nature of this process should be fairly apparent; it is with amazement that I find he is able to follow all of these preceedings, and with an attention to detail I doubt his actual responsibilities are blessed to enjoy. I honestly believe that, at some point, a situation will arise where, in Cal's interests it should be more favorable for them to lose than win. At that point, unable to cope with the contradiction, I expect my brother's head to explode.

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