Fanaticism is hereditary

Chris Crowell

I watched the Cavs the other day and was furious.

They played terribly.

They played with little passion.

They made me want to run through glass.

Sports have that effect on me. I get to insane levels of fanaticism, and outcomes of games actually ruin my day. I reflected on that trait this weekend while attending my grandma’s funeral.

This is where I’m supposed to say that I’m a changed person. I’m supposed to say my grandma’s death put everything in perspective and lessened my fanaticism. I’m supposed to say that sports aren’t life and death.

Well, I’m not going to say those things. My fanaticism didn’t lessen – if anything, my grandma’s death emboldened it. Let me explain.

My grandma, Jane Crowell, had a two-sided personality. One side was extremely intelligent, a nurse who dominated Jeopardy on a nightly basis and beat all competitors in games of Scrabble.

She was selfless, active in the church and worked for organizations and charities to better the lives of others. She worked at soup kitchens and bought groceries for elderly and disabled people. This side never asked for a thank-you. This is who she was for most of the day.

But every couple days, she revealed her other side for a few hours. This was the side that watched sports. She was rabid for Cleveland teams, most notably the Indians.

Several years ago, Jane was watching a mid-season Indians game, and the team was already assured first place in the Central Division, so this particular game was no big deal, except to Jane. Every game was a big deal to her. She watched manager Mike Hargrove stroll to the mound to play “his lefty/righty game,” as she called it. She hated when he did that. In Jane’s eyes, this decision caused the Indians to lose that night.

As legend has it, she turned her anger into action. She maniacally searched for a way to reach Hargrove. She wanted to tell him exactly what she thought. She called Jacob’s Field and dialed operator after operator in search of his number. My dad remembers that she reached him; mom remembers that she did not.

That adventure took place in her prime. These last few months, she had significant health problems as years of smoking caught up with her. She needed an oxygen machine to aid her breathing, and she couldn’t leave her house. Despite all that, sports still unleashed her other side.

I remember visiting her on a Sunday before I came back to Kent. She was watching the Browns and was upset. She groaned and yelled with the little air she had. She didn’t know that much about football, but she put all her energy behind her team – oxygen mask or not.

I watched the Cavs lose the night of her wake, and I came to a realization. My sports insanity is genetically passed down from my grandma. It’s in my blood. Denying my fanaticism would be denying a quality that directly relates me to her.

Next time the Cavs play like they don’t care – probably their next game – I plan on getting upset and making a scene like I always do. It may be a silly fit of anger, but it will also be a tribute to Jane – the loving mother, devoted Christian and the truest die-hard I ever knew. Grandma, I miss you, and I’ll never forget you.

Hargrove, however, may have a different opinion.

Contact sports columnist Chris Crowell at [email protected].