Sunday, October 25, 2009

Waiting for the Races

I spent a long chunk of life miffed at the notion of allegiance to a sports team. Thousands of fans screaming across a playing field, each burning with desire for a particular group of guys to run a ball into whatever place the other group of guys would like it to not be? Why did such a feeling arise in people? Perhaps it was an echo of the battlefield, a homie suggested to me once. Back when the stakes were high, those who were far from the trenches wanted the home army to literally bury the opposition. Maybe there is a serious need imbedded in culture for someone to fight on our behalf. Maybe sport is the metaphor of war. The idea was as compelling as it was unsatisfying. I guess I was a pacifist at the time.

So I continued to stroll the earth, an alien among Bulls, Bucs and Broncos. No jersey on my back and no poster on my bedroom wall. I thought I was forever locked out of the mass mind in the bleachers or the sick excitement of gameday. But it is foolish to preclude the possible.

Through the moto path I have come into my fandom. Tomorrow is the great game, the round on which the championship will be decided and I am going thick with anticipation. I don’t know how it happened that I began to invest in strangers a world away. It is an asymmetrical relation; I am fraction in the fanbase. I look upon these men but they, unlike Nietzsche’s abyss don’t look back upon me. So they aren’t traditional mirrors and Aristotle would tell me that they can’t ever be my friends. The investment that I have must be a kind of projection, a choice to pick someone out of the world and set a mirror upon them that I must always hold in place. So that when they win I am relieved and excited. And when they crash I can feel the heat from their leathers as they slide into the gravel trap.

But there are two. Two riders in whom I place myself. And these two are the only championship contenders. I am thus a house divided.

There is the man on the course, who has been trying for a very long time to win this. Who has seen victory taken from him by technicalities and other heartaches. His speed is relentless though it has not always been consistent. He rides close upon his opponents. They say that his bike is maddening to ride, for his settings are extreme on the side of fast turn in. He has always deserved his chances and now, after all of his struggle, he deserves to not have his momentum crushed. He deserves to win. They call him Nitro and upon his helmet there are white and red flames.

There is the rookie from nowhere. The lone star. As though from darkness he has come and his presence cannot be denied. He has been alongside the fastest of the fast since he put wheel to track. A smooth, consistent and unconventional style guides him to victory. In order to meet his challenge a rider has to find the power to dice with god. They call him Elbowz and upon his helmet is his totem, the skull of a bull.

At one point in the season I had a dream. I was riding. I wore a helmet that fit like it was adorned by the skull. But when I took it off, I saw that it was covered in flames. I don’t know who will win tomorrow. But someone has to. And whoever does, a part of me will be defeated. My saving grace is that it is the recovery from loss as well as the victory that makes us great.

So maybe my homeboy wasn’t that off with the war reference. It’s just that, for me, it is not a matter of standing up to a great rival. In the end, my jersey was doomed to represent two teams; I needed to hold up two mirrors to see myself clearly. It is a shame that one of them has to break.

I think next season I will return to pacifism.

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