Avid fan reflects on how sports have dominated his life
You may be laughing, thinking that this has got to be a joke, but I assure you that this is serious.
A generic definition for addiction can be any type of behavior reflecting a dependence on a particular substance or activity.
And I assure you I am not alone in this condition.
Have you answered yes to one or more of these questions? If so, you may be a sports addict.
• Do you think about sports when you should be focusing on other activities or family time?
• Do you rush home to catch a game or event or listen to radio coverage obsessively when driving?
• Do you get angry at friends or loved ones if they interrupt you during a game?
• Do you obsessively surf sports websites during work, classes, or meetings constantly to stay in the loop?
• Do you force your partner to engage in superstitious rituals to bring good luck to your favorite team?
• Have you ever called in sick just to stay home to watch sports?
"My love for sports eventually outgrew that of my family and I often found myself fighting over the control of the TV remote with family members."
I can tell you that I can answer yes to all of these questions at any given time, and still I was in denial of my condition.
Just look at the sports section of any news site, or in any paper and you will be able to see ample evidence that sports addiction is a real serious condition.
Take for instance the incident that happened a couple of weeks ago during the NCAA basketball tournament? Two state rival fans in a dialysis clinic came to blows over the upcoming game.
How about the numerous crazy stories that pop up every Super Bowl of people listing their bodies, girlfriends, and prized possessions, all for tickets to the biggest sporting event in the world?
I have never gone to these lengths to prove my fanhood, or get a ticket to an event, but I have entered ridiculous contests, or collected points to enter draws, and paid horrendous prices for tickets.
My story of addiction started when I was one and a half years old.
My grandmother tells me (it seems almost every time I see her) how I would kick a ball around the yard all the time, clearly indicating to her that I had rare, natural athletic talent.
My mother and uncles were hockey fans and constantly watched games on TV, exposing me regularly to Canada's national pastime.
As I got older I started mimicking games I watched on TV, and started learning players' names, numbers, positions, and game rules.
My love for sports eventually outgrew that of my family and I often found myself fighting over the control of the TV remote with family members.
When I was younger, my parents didn't have a lot of money, so they were not able to put me in organized sports.
This was really tough on me when I was young, as I had lots of energy and desire to play, but no real outlet.
I would try to organize my friends from the neighbourhood to go play some sandlot ball, or street hockey, or soccer, but often got frustrated with their lack of interest to play regular games, or lack of athletic skills, as most of my other athletic friends were in organized sports and rarely around to play.
I can only assume that it was this frustration in not being able to play sports competitively, or often enough, that drove me to delve even deeper into watching games, and reading articles in the paper.
All my life, sports has dominated every facet of my life and daily routine.
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is open up the sports apps on my phone to see what the latest news is in the sporting world.
After getting cleaned up for the day I usually turn on "SportsCentre" to catch the highlights of the previous day, most of which, I have already seen, but I want to hear the commentary.
As I go to school, I listen to sports radio in the car, and then constantly update my Twitter feed on the bus.
Any time during classes I check various sports sites, and take any chance I can get to discuss sports with classmates.
I remember a moment shortly after I met my wife, we were in the car and I had gotten on a tangent about my favourite sports team.
She stopped me and said jokingly, "Sorry, are you on the team? You keep saying 'we' as if you're on the team."
It caused me to pause, and all the rest of the night I couldn't stop thinking about her comments.
Was I that bad? Have I crossed over into the world of being an addict?
I actually began justifying my actions as that of just being an engaged fan, perhaps a little over-passionate at times, but I had control. I could go off sports if I needed to.
I was in denial.
My watershed moment came one night as I found myself flipping relentlessly through the channels for over an hour, looking for anything in sports to watch.
It was one of those rare nights where there was very little going on.
Baseball was in the off-season, the NHL had only one game going and it was over, basketball was in a lockout, and it was midweek so there was no soccer, or football happening.
I actually began getting frustrated that there was no "fix" for me.
My kids were looking for my attention, as my wife was out of the house, and I ended up getting frustrated at my oldest son's attempts to get me to look at him.
In a way only kids can do, he got angry and shouted "Daddy, this is not the deal!"
It is funny now, because he was only three and didn't really even understand the line he had just fed me, but he stopped me in my tracks and at that moment I finally gained perspective.
I had a very real problem, and it had taken control of my life, and was preventing me from living a balanced life.
Shortly after I admitted my addiction to my wife who gave me one of those "thanks Sherlock" looks, but agreed to work with me to get some control of it.
It hasn't been perfect, and there is a lot of work to do, but I'm determined to find balance.
I now do not watch sports on Sunday, which I think is a monumental step, as Sundayis often the most active day in sports.
I now reserve that day for family time.
I hope to one day be able to carve out a profession in the world of sports journalism, and that should provide some relief to that craving for sports that I have.
In fact I hope it will bring me to a point of overload, to where I look for moments to take those breaks from sports.
I don't mean for this article to make light of more tragic addictions to harmful substances or behaviours, but I do believe it to be a serious addiction for some.
Much like how people can be workaholics, or sit in their rooms playing a computer game for days on end before emerging, I believe sports addiction to be one of those behaviours that can affect people's relationships with others.
There may not be much in the way of medical documentation on this topic yet, but for any of you who maybe question whether you have an addiction, know that there are others who feel the same, and yes, it is manageable.
It's simply a case of all good things in moderation.
- By Geoff Crane