Last week marked the fourth anniversary of what became a life-altering change in my life. I disowned a sports team I had followed as a drooling and rabid fan from age 8 to 54. And I stuck to it. I dropped it like a bad habit — cold turkey the way I stopped smoking back in 2002.
It was the only way.
Yes, by March of 2014 had finally had enough. Oh, I had sworn off my favorite team before. Again and again in fact. It happened so often I’m sure to my longtime friends it began to sound like the time on the situation comedy “Cheers” that waitress Carla Tortelli vowed that she would no longer be a fan of her beloved Boston Red Sox. I still love that scene because it rang so true in my own experience as a then-lifetime fan of sports at Wake Forest University.
Before March of 2014 I always went back. My first true sports loves were Wake Forest and St. Louis Cardinals baseball. I followed both avidly and sometimes insanely and most frequently angrily starting in 1967. Fan is short for fanatic and I certainly fit the definition. Fandom often doesn’t make sense. I can attest to it. I still see it on social media. It can be disturbing.
But by March 6, 2014 I had had enough. I disowned Wake Forest athletics for a variety of reasons, many relating to behavior of other fans of the team — the ones who thought it a good idea to buy a billboard in Winston-Salem asking that the basketball coach be fired or take out a front page ad in the Greensboro News & Record during ACC Tournament week seeking the same thing. It was too angry, too fanatical, too much. Yes, the team had bottomed out after years of decline and I complained along with everyone else. But I also discovered that I didn’t want to be like that anymore.
So on March 6, 2014 I decided to not just say I was removing myself from this equation, I put in legal language with whereases and everything then posted it on social media.
Here comes this Separation Agreement and Property Settlement between E. Madison Taylor III, of Alamance County, North Carolina, hereinafter referred to as “Fan”, and Wake Forest University Athletics of Forsyth County, North Carolina, hereinafter referred to as “Teams”, shall become effective as of the date that it has been executed by each party hereto;
W I T N E S S E T H:
THAT, WHEREAS, the parties hereto were joined in September of 1967, and certain differences have arisen between them rendering it undesirable for them to continue to live together as Fan and Teams, by reason whereof they separated on March 6, 2014, and have agreed to part permanently; and
WHEREAS that said Fan has for years purchased Teams’ apparel, mementos, autographed objects and other paraphernalia that will now go into the landfill or to charitable organizations; and
WHEREAS that said Fan occasionally but not that often attended said Teams’ games for free, purchased tickets for games or watched games on TV — something that will not occur from this day forward; and
WHEREAS that said Fan vows not to root against said Teams but will no longer endorse any of said Teams’ activities or bother to pay attention to said Teams’ endeavors to include everything that a bet could be placed upon but most especially basketball and football; and
WHEREAS that said Fan will not otherwise bicker, discuss or interact with other fans regarding said Teams’ current or future successes or failures; and
WHEREAS said Fan reserves the right to terminate all rooting interest in any other teams or sports at any given time in the future, excluding baseball;
So be it hereby resolved that Fan and Teams part amicably and forever from this day forward. Be it further noted that said Fan wishes said Teams nothing but good fortune in the future.
I did everything but have it notarized. I followed this up immediately by removing nearly all Wake Forest-related items from my home — the T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats; the souvenirs, posters and prints. I kept a handful of items for sentimental reasons. There is a miniature football tossed into the stands during the first year Groves Stadium was open. I kept a Brian Piccolo football card and Charlie Davis basketball card given to me by my longtime friend and one-time boss Elliott Potter. I kept two books about Piccolo. And on a wall in my office at home there is a framed newspaper page from the News & Record. It’s the sports front from the ACC Tournament published on March 13, 1995 featuring a large photo of Randolph Childress hitting the tournament-winning shot against the University of North Carolina. The story is by my longtime friend Gary McCann. I worked too damn hard for too many years to part with it.
Then I did the thing that absolutely had to be done. I stopped watching any and all games involving Wake Forest. I haven’t watched a Wake game on TV since 2014 — not one. I also ended social media traffic concerning the Demon Deacons save for posts by my longtime friend Dan Collins, the now retired sports writer for the Winston-Salem Journal who covered Wake Forest athletics for too many years to count. I don’t think I read any of his work about Wake Forest for a couple of years. I participated in no online discussions about Wake Forest athletics or the history of Wake Forest athletics.
I did not stop watching college basketball and still refuse to take any side against the Demon Deacons. I monitor teams that interest me or have an interesting player. This year I mostly watched games involving UNC, Duke, N.C. State, Virginia, Oklahoma, Syracuse (my wife’s team) and Villanova (our nephew’s alma mater). On Sunday I’ll watch the NCAA Tournament selection show. Monday I’ll fill out a bracket for the office pool — something I’ve never won in more than 30 years of trying.
What I can say today is that I don’t follow any collegiate sports as avidly as I used to — or any sports at all really. Overall this is a healthy thing. I was way too fixated on athletics for way too many years. My agitation level with the exploits of young adults playing a game is at zero and I view life through a lens that’s much more realistic. I’m more balanced, more mellow and far less stressed when I watch basketball games on TV.
So I’m at four years and counting. This might be the best life change I’ve made since the day I got married. And that’s saying a lot.