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Addicted to Baseball

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The extreme sports fan strays from ordinary devotion to deeply irrational, compulsive behavior. In Troy, N.Y., there lives a man who will not eat during Dallas Cowboys football games because one day during a game, he got up to fix a snack and when he returned, the Cowboys had fallen behind and proceeded to lose. He blamed himself, as though the act of eating a sandwich could affect the actions and decisions of a group of men in tight pants and helmets 2,000 miles away.

Quirk says that although the majority of sports addicts are men, women are by no means immune to the condition. Quirk describes a pregnant woman who decided to go to the game though her contractions were only 10 minutes apart. Another woman had the Cubs game on in the delivery room both times when her children were born. "They say it helps to simulate your home environment in the delivery room," was the rationale she gave Quirk.

Quirk's book presents many theories as to why people become obsessed with sports. He thinks boys get involved with sports as a way to bond with fathers who are otherwise hard to bond with. He said some men use their relationship with their team to fill their need for intimacy. "They don't feel as deeply about the people and events in their lives as they do about their Cleveland Indians," he told me. "When you think about it, the team is with them from the time they're kids to the time they're grandparents. It's the longest-term relationship in most of these guys' lives."

Quirk also believes that men use sports as an escape, a way of shutting out worries or making up for what's missing in their lives. "Maybe their job isn't everything they want it to be or their relationship isn't everything they want it to be. For a lot of sports addicts, there's some degree of emptiness, something they're hungering for. And the sports world is never empty. There's always something going on."

I presented Ed with these theories last Saturday afternoon, while the Diamondbacks were eviscerating the Giants. Oddly, Ed wasn't watching the game. He was making banana bread. This wasn't what I'd had in mind. I had wanted to ask him these things while he was absorbed in the game, thereby forcing him to, in the language of the Sportsaholism Checklist, "get annoyed or angry when someone interrupts you while watching a game." This would have provided me with lively, ironic material for the article. What I got instead was some really good banana bread. (As it turned out, the Giants lost. The outcome of the game probably had nothing to do with my eating banana bread, but you never know.)

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