I quit sports.

I thought my team winning the Super Bowl would make me a happier sports fan, but it’s only made me more miserable. So I’m done.


I’m not growing up, I’m just burning out.
-Green Day

On Monday, January 10th, 2011, I quit sports.

It’s true. Done with sports. As Chris Cooper says in Adaptation: “Fuck fish.”

Now, it may or may not have something to do with that Saintpocalypse that happened last Saturday in Seattle. I can’t be too sure. All I know is I’m out. Cold turkey, I quit.

Which means no more obsessively refreshing Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com, no more listening to football and baseball podcasts, no more reading a million columns from a million different writers across the country all saying the same thing in the same way about a million different things. No Deadspin, Kissing Suzy Kolber, or Big Lead. No more following athletes on Twitter (A fond and bittersweet farewell to Scott Shanle.). No more perusing the hundreds and hundreds of comments on Canal Street Chronicles.

And no more watching the games. Because I quit.

It finally occurred to me that it was time to let go on Monday morning. I woke up in darkness, and said to myself, “What is this void in my heart? Why dost I hurt?” and then remembered that the Saints had lost two days ago. So I grumbled, dried the tears, and absent-mindedly turned my TV onto ESPN2 so I could listen to Mike & Mike in the Morning (Which is a show I absolutely despise. Make no mistake, I loathe that kind of wacky, noisy, say-nothing-but-talk-for-four-straight-hours kind of sports radio.) while I showered. This was my ritual, you see; I’d turn on ESPN2 so there’d be noise in the background while I showered and dressed. Mornings are depressing, desolate, and oh so cold, and sometimes you just need that noise.

Someone get him!

Not 30 seconds into my shower did Mikes begin talking about the disgraceful performance of my Saints, how they had lost because the Seahawks “just wanted it more” and “showed more heart.” It was then that I exited the shower, stood in front of my TV (the water droplets forming ice crystals as they fell to the ground, since my apartment doesn’t have a heater and apparently the Rapture has hit New Orleans and it’s FUCKING COLD AS SHIT), and said, out loud to no one, “Enough!”

And then what did I do? Well I’ll tell ya. I turned that shit off. That’s right. Just turned off television. And then I stood in front of the mirror, examined myself, pretended I was Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and said to myself, “Self, get ready for a new Matt Stokes. Get ready for… Matthew Stokes.”

I resumed my shower, with nothing playing on the radio, nothing on TV. Silence. Just me and and my misshapen countenance and the poignant words of Michael Jackson echoing in my mind: “The man! The mayne! Shamon!”

And when I finished that most cleansing of baths, I looked at myself in the mirror, and I said to myself, “Self,” said I, “I don’t think you’re going to shave today.” This was bigtime. Matthew Stokes doesn’t shave. Think you can shave him? WRONG! This man is no-nonsense. All business. And if you think he’ll take any of your guff, you’ve got another coming, dog gonnit.

And on the way to work, a scraggly-faced Matthew Stokes listened not to Sirius NFL Radio to hear Sean Payton’s weekly spot. No, he listened to—get this—music.

It’s been five days now. My hair is short (I got it cut for the first time in God knows how long), I’ve got a full-on beard and mustache, and I haven’t watched or read/listened about any sports. Except for one Hornets game. And the thing is: I feel… awesome. A fog has lifted. I’m thinking clearly, my back and neck don’t ache in the mornings, I’ve lost ten pounds. I can hear birds singing, babies laughing… The smell of fresh coffee greets me with every new day, brewed in the brand new coffee maker Matthew Stokes treated himself to (It has an alarm clock!).

I’m learning to play the accordion. I’m studying Latin. I finally got through disc one of season one of The Shield, which has been sitting in its Netflix envelope on top of my DVD player since October 2010. (It’s pretty good.)

I read a book. A book!

(A f#^@ing book!)

When I go to the bar at night, instead of staring semi-comatose at the random college basketball game on mute on one of the TV’s, I engage a stranger in conversation. Instead of reading about sports on the internet and getting depressed, I read about Jared Loughner. And instead of worrying about Drew Brees’ knee as I fall asleep, I worry about, like, my future and stuff.

Man. Best decision I ever made. Screw sports. What has it ever brought me but pain? Even when the Saints won the Super Bowl I wasn’t that happy. I just got stressed out over random sportscasters I didn’t care about not giving my team their due. (Like Skip Bayless saying the Saints hadn’t so much won the game as the Colts had lost it. The nerve!)

Why should I let this get to me anymore? If I’m not happy when my teams win, why should I be miserable when they lose?

So I’m out. And, no, I don’t really quit; call it more of a leave of absence. I’ll be back in March, for the NCAA Tournament. Even that’s never as much fun as it should be though. That’s another thing I noticed about sports: It’s like reading the description of a Twilight Zone episode and then being disappointed the episode doesn’t live up to the one-sentence synopsis on the DVD box. No matter how promising the game seems to be, you’re always left feeling a little hollow in the end. It’s heroin, and Matthew Stokes don’t chase no dragon no mo.

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