Saturday, October 12, 2019

Schadenfreude: A Different Take on the Joy of Sports' Rivlaries

The most common question I get asked about my new job isn't "How are the students?" or "What do you think of St. Francis?" People want to know about my commute. I drive one hour in the morning from San Francisco to Mountain View; the ride home varies from one hour to nearly two. Not fun. However, the saving grace in the tireless task of road warriorship is not a podcast or a great playlist. No--it's Murph and Mac in the morning. That's right, my local radio show has been so full of good sports reporting that I honestly do best aspects of being a sports fan: a great rivalry.
The fuel for this particular fire was found in the Washington Nationals defeating the arch-rival of the San Francisco Giants, the hated Los Angeles Dodgers. I don't know if anyone could have seen this coming. The Dodgers won 106 games this season—a franchise record—to a team that had to win the wildcard game.

As written in the WSJ

The Dodgers lost in the division series to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night, a devastating—or thrilling, depending on your perspective—7-3 10-inning defeat in the decisive Game 5 of the division series. 
The Dodgers didn’t just fail to win the World Series. They failed even to advance to the National League Championship Series. 
“Disappointing,” manager Dave Roberts said, “is probably an understatement.”
For the first time since 2015, the NLCS will take place without the Dodgers. Instead, it will feature the Nationals, a club certainly accustomed to its own embarrassing early postseason exits.
There is a singular word that captures what has pulsed through the veins of every real SF Giants fan. This term is the name of the song, serving as the music in San Francisco's ears: Schadenfreude—pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune. It rears its head in the memes and posts shared on Facebook. One of my favorites is here:
Schadenfreude. Enjoying the pettiness of it very much this decade thanks to the Dodgers. Now don't get me wrong, to my friends who live and die with the Boys in Blue, I do feel bad for you. Baseball is designed to break your heart. But on the other hand, to all those Dodgers fans I had to endure from the late 1970s to 2009 at Candlestick, AT&T Park, and at Dodger Stadium with their constant put downs about the Giants never winning a World Series, well...our guys in orange and black won 3 in 5 years. 8 in franchise history now to the Dodgers 6. See you next year.
Thank you Sean!
A part of me knows such enthusiasm was petty. Some of the sports talk was mean. At times I felt slightly skivvy, leaning in for more. To be honest, I have a lot of respect for the Dodgers as a team. I do not hate Clayton Kershaw, quite the contrary (I have blogged about him many times). If I grew up in LA (or Brooklyn), I am certain I would wear Pantone 294. I would have a favorite player in Cody Bellinger or Chris Taylor. I think the stuff that Kenley Jansen throws is remarkable....but that still doesn't mean I will cheer for them or value their fans. The rivalry is sacrosanct. 

The time spent in the car...reflecting on the rivalry has caused me to consider more questions. For example: Is this a shared rivalry? Meaning, do Dodger fans have the same heated passion for beating SF and we do for Beating LA?! I think Schadenfreude is acceptable in the world of sports fandom, but I wonder—do I harbor this sentiment in other ways? towards others? I hope not.

I will be cheering for the Washington Nationals for the rest of October baseball, not because they beat the Dodgers (ok, maybe!). DC is a second home to me; my brother lives within walking distance to their ballpark. I think #NatsMass is one of the best connections there is between sport and spirituality. They are my second favorite team in MLB....and a very distant second at that....but I am happy for the Nats (especially without Bryce Harper!) and have always been a Scherzer fan. I hope that's ok.

A good rivalry is one aspect that makes sport so special. My day is framed around watching one of my very favorites as the Irish host the Trojans of USC later today. The LA Times reports

The USC-Notre Dame rivalry is considered the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football, with 36 wins for USC, 46 for Notre Dame and two ties. Between them, the two schools have won 22 national championships and 13 Heisman Trophies. The rivalry began in 1926 and has been played every year, except between 1943 to 1945 because of World War II. It's one of the longest-running rivalries in college sports with the 91st meeting taking place on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.
Rivalries encompass history, tradition, tensions, emotions and even spirituality. No wonder we love sport.

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