Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fantasy life

I was five years old when the Colts packed up and moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night.  My father, like most Baltimoreans, was extremely bitter about this and switched his allegiance to whichever team was playing against the Colts at any given time.  When the Ravens came to Baltimore in '95 my dad became a Ravens fan, but for most of my childhood we weren't really a football house.  We weren't really a sports house, to be honest.

That might be why I am fairly neutral about sports.  I don't like watching sports on TV, but I enjoy going to games on occasion and usually go to a couple of baseball and hockey games each year.  Professional basketball bores me, and I have always had some weird kind of pride in the fact that I do not understand football at all.

So naturally, when I was given the opportunity to play fantasy football, I said yes.

It was a spur of the moment decision that I immediately started second guessing.  I'm a quick study but I absolutely hate not knowing what I'm doing, and believe me when I say that I had no idea.  I really hate not knowing what I'm doing when I'm among those that do know what they're doing.  I hate asking questions and being unsure and I particularly hate feeling like an idiot.

So I went into this with a certain amount of trepidation.  But then I asked a couple of questions and sort of figured out what I was doing, and then I started winning and then I asked more questions and figured out that what I had figured out was actually wrong but it was working anyway, and then I changed what I was doing and started losing, so I went back and have found a happy medium.  I've pretty consistently stayed in the top half of my league.

All of this, by the way, without ever learning how the game of football is played.  I have an okay handle on how fantasy football is played, but I have not the faintest idea of where any of these points these players keep earning for me are actually coming from.  (Perhaps I should fix that?  Volunteers?)

What is most amazing to me about this whole situation is not that I'm doing okay--though that was certainly unexpected--it's that I'm having a lot of fun.  I have a little bit of a competitive streak, and apparently this has triggered it.  I check almost every day, I make little tweaks to my lineup up to the last minute, I downloaded ESPN's fantasy football app onto my phone.  Maybe this is a sign that I should step out of my comfort zone a little more often, because if you had told me a couple of months ago that I'd be enjoying this this much, I would have laughed in your face.

By the way, that whole "not a football house" thing I mentioned?  Ancient history.  Sometime in the last couple of years my mother spontaneously became a huge Steelers fan, and this has triggered the mother of all football rivalries between my parents.  We're expecting my grandfather to disown her at any minute.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good grief.

One of my students died suddenly last week.  I don't really want to talk about it, and this isn't about him in particular, but his death is what prompted musing and conversations on the subject, so it is relevant.  Suffice it to say, I've been thinking a lot about grief lately.

My first real experience with death came when I was already an adult.  My great-grandmother and my grandfather died within about a month of each other in the winter of 2000-2001.  Mamaw died in late December.  I made the trip down to southern Virginia with my mother and grandmother for the funeral, and it was a very emotional, somber time.  There were, as you might imagine, a lot of tears.  I felt uncomfortable and out of place.

Grandpa died toward the end of January, just under a month later.  While Mamaw was my mother's grandmother, Grandpa was my dad's father.  I'm not going to mince words here: Grandpa's wake was like a party.

I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, though there were certainly conversations going on that some might have considered disrespectful.  If there was a funny and/or ridiculous thing that Grandpa did at any time during his ninety-some years of life, we made fun of him for it.  There were some isolated outbreaks of tears, but most often they were tears of laughter.

My mother and my sister were aghast.  I was accused at least once of not caring that Grandpa was dead.  The word Vulcan may have been used.  And I determined that my way of grieving might be weird, but it was weird in exactly the same way as my father's whole family.  By the time my paternal grandmother died a few years later, my mother had accepted the fact that we were not actually unfeeling, terrible people, even if we did seem so sometimes.

Over the last several years, I've heard many references to stoicism in the face of grief being an Irish characteristic.  This week, as I talked with a colleague about our reactions to grief (which are similar) as well as a third colleague's, she made reference to it as well.  All three of us have extremely stereotypically Irish last names.

Is it reasonable to ascribe my reaction to a country I've spent approximately eight days in, and which my ancestors left nearly two centuries ago?  Perhaps not.  But it does make me feel a little more normal, if that's possible at a time like this.