There’s a certain time in every sports fan’s life where it’s time to grow up.
The time when it’s okay to throw away the face-paint, time to put the jerseys back on their hangers, time to just, you know, tone it down a bit.
Don’t take that for something it’s not, though: sports are a nearly universal thing that brings out the 12-year-old in all of us.
It’s easy to understand why they mean so much to us.
For so many people, sports are just something to believe in, something they can proudly support on their hat and be reassured it’s a steady foundation to hang that hat on.
Your sports team might let you down once in a while, but it will always try to make it up to you.
Really, it will.
Sports aren’t turning on the television for a couple hours on a Saturday. They aren’t a casual way to blow back a Sunday evening.
While what sports means to you is entirely contextual, the bigger picture suggests that sports, for the most crazed fans, are more of a religion than a hobby.
And for what that’s worth, it’s incredible – and incredibly scary.
If there’s a line in the sand between passion and obsession it’s wire-thin.
Why do we care?
Not that I can speak for them, but when Ohio State’s football team runs out of the faded red tunnel on Sept. 1 against Miami University (Ohio), understand that they need your support, not your blood.
Anything more is a recipe to create and feed a beast that’s already had enough to eat.
Understand that the Braxton Millers, the John Simons, the Jordan Halls of the world are students – 18 to 22-year-old kids who have classes to go to, life to attend to, girlfriends to deal with.
They wake up the way you do, breathe the way you do, feel the way you do.
Understand that regardless of how brilliant they are in the Horseshoe on Saturday afternoons, they might not necessarily be someone you would want to associate yourself with at Big Bar later that night. Exceptional football ability doesn’t always translate to exceptional character off the field, no matter how much some folks would argue otherwise.
It could, though, and they might be someone truly worth bestowing your affection upon – John Simon, for instance, is someone I’d love to have a beer with.
But I won’t be tatting his name on my buttocks or naming my first-born after him.
Understand that the idolatry, the hero worship, the glorification, the can-do-no-wrong, “holier than thou” treatment of the team – players to coaches – is misguided and can be dangerous.
These guys, these players – blessed with more athletic ability than I could ever fathom – are amazingly talented athletes who are often the people off the field we sometimes try to mentally conjure them to be.
Sometimes, they’re not and to think otherwise is naÃ¯ve and blissfully ignorant.
Admiration, respect and maybe even envy for the outstanding athletic gifts they possess are beyond warranted, as is praise for the great things behind the scenes like visiting hospitals with devastatingly sick children or reading to a group of underprivileged inner city kids.
The balance here is clearing off the Scarlet and Gray lenses and being able to rid yourself of a schema that views these guys as gods around Columbus.
The balance is understanding that while athletes, especially those at OSU, are role models, not all of them deserve to be.
Be careful: Your Harvey Dent on the field might be Two-Face off of it.