Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Existential Experiment: one year later

My loyalties to my favorite professional basketball and football teams are strong and based entirely on location. I love the Timberwolves, and the meaning of the Minnesota Vikings in my life probably exceeds the mere word "obsession." However, I've no strong loyalty to any college. I attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and the University of St. Thomas--Division III schools with fairly non-descript athletic programs.

But I am an existentialist: I believe as an individual I can define myself and create my own identity; I create meaning for the world, and decide what things in the world matter to me.

Now, I really didn't choose to be a fan of the Vikings and Timberwolves (though I do choose how much they mean to me, and how closely my identity can be tied to them). But regarding college sports, could I choose a favorite school? At age 24, could I decide that I would start rooting for a particular college of my choice? So about a year ago, I chose a school: the UCLA Bruins.

And a year later, I have an answer to my question. Yes, I am able to choose and create loyalty out of nothing.

Living in Minnesota, I don't get to watch a lot of Pac-10 basketball or football. But I've followed the teams, watching them when I can. I've bought a hat and a sweatshirt (and considering I am a firm subscriber to the George Costanza school of cheapness, these purchases mean something). I immersed myself in the history of the basketball program. I now consider Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, and Marques Johnson among my favorite all-time basketball players. I take a strange pride in knowing that the Bruins have 11 championships. The baby blue and gold makes me happy. I feel good when UCLA wins games. I'm disappointed when they lose. I even developed a slight distaste for Matt Leinart (and he's a left-handed QB!).

I feel a connection to this team, a connection that I created as a mere matter of will. The experiment has been an enjoyable success. I have essential made myself a Bruins fan.

This worked in part because I had no previous loyalty to any college athletics. I couldn't right now arbitrarily decide that I was going to start rooting for the Green Bay Packers (indeed, the mere thought makes me want to vomit into the bathtub and then get in the shower with it). But from nothing, I created a connection.

Go Jean-Paul!

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