Ever since I got into the business of sports journalism, I knew that at one point I could no longer root for the teams I grew up loving.
I never knew it would be this easy.
You see, for sports writers, cheering in the press box is akin to breaking a Ten Commandment. You don’t do it. Other writers don’t do it. And if someone does it —athletic department interns — you glare the eff out of him/her, and not-so-subtly whisper, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Thou shalt remain objective.
It’s a tough transition — at least I thought it would be. To go from rooting for one team above all others, to staying emotionally detached and writing without bias.
But as I watched Ryan Fitzpatrick shotput a water-logged ball into the arms of some awaiting Rams defender Sunday, all but assuring the playoff drought would reach its teenage years, a new feeling swept over me. I uttered three words that I’d tried time and time again in my life to say with meaning. After a countless number of blunders and blown leads, the words were always hollow. But this time, they felt real and substantial.
“It doesn’t matter.”
The look on my girlfriend’s face was priceless.
“What did you say?”
“It doesn’t matter. Oh well.”
No screaming muffled obscenities into a pillow. No pulling out hair. No ripping off a jersey, throwing it against the wall while saying, “Never again.” Just a calm, cool “whatever.”
The day I graduated from college with a degree in journalism with every intention of one day covering professional sports, it was clear that my days as a true fan were numbered.
My current job has been a useful stepping stone. By covering high school sports 4,000 miles from where I grew up, my emotion doesn’t interfere. I don’t find myself needing to make excuses for why one team lost. There’s no “Well, if only they did this” moment. I leave that to the coaches and athletes.
Thou shalt remain objective.
Through the past couple of years, I still remained loyal to my pro teams. I still wanted nothing more than the Bills to win on Sundays. I would hold out hope, year after year, well after pundits, predictions and probabilities said otherwise.
However, that has started to change. It has to for any sports journalist to successfully advance in this career — whether the team missed out on four straight championships or you grew up with a dynasty.
Some might even call me lucky, because I’m not exactly walking away from the Utopia of sports franchises. But as you and I both know, all it takes is one win over New England to make a season memorable.
This is not to say that I want the Bills to fail. I’m always going to wish them well. I love the city of Buffalo. It’s more hometown. I want the Bills to succeed.
I always had this vision that I covered the Bills winning the Super Bowl. That I’d quell my excitement, write the best gamestory out there, and do my job before throwing my shirt and tie into the trunk of my car, pulling on a jersey and joining the celebration.
But reality is starting to set in.
It’s going to take a lot of overhaul for the Bills to reach that point. New coaching staff. New personnel. New attitude. Likely a new stadium, too.
And things will have changed on my end as well.
In fact, they’ve already begun.