Normally, if a guy the size of Glen “Big Baby” Davis got right in my face and started screaming, I’d probably have a heart attack. But when “Baby” appears in excited, larger-than-life glory on the JumboTron at a Boston Celtics home game to rally the crowd, fans don’t get scared: they get loud.
On Wednesday night, J and I watched Big Baby and the rest of the white-hot Celtics stomp the Phoenix Suns at the last home game we have tickets for this season. What I love about attending basketball or other sports events (as I’ve argued before) is the way the emotions of the game completely erase whatever worries or concerns I bring with me to the arena. Watching sports on TV can be similarly cathartic, but there’s something about being in an enormous arena with a sellout crowd of other rabid fans that works wonders for one’s stress levels. It’s possible, I’ve learned, to read student papers while watching televised sports; Stan Lombardo, for instance, once admitted that he worked on his translations of the Iliad and Odyssey while watching college basketball on TV. But grading papers or translating Greek classics just isn’t feasible if you’re actually at a basketball game. If you’re actually attending a professional or college basketball game, it would give a whole new meaning of March Madness even to try to squeeze in some work.
The ancient Greeks, of course, were the first to argue that drama is cathartic, and the ancient Greeks were equally fond of sports: they are, after all, the inventors of the collective catharsis we call the Olympics. I suppose on Wednesday night I could have set down my grading pen in order to watch a play…but they typically don’t let you scream, swear, and stomp your feet at plays. Drama can be psychologically cathartic because you become subsumed in the emotions of others: watching Medea poised to kill her children, for instance, you might re-visit every hellish break-up or desire for revenge you’ve ever experienced. But both watching and (especially) reading plays is essentially a quietly passive act: the actors on the stage or the characters on the page are doing something, but you as viewer or reader are “active” only in your own engaged mind.
For me, the most powerful emotions involve motion. When I have something troubling on my mind, I could sit down and try to mental it out…or I could go for a brisk walk and let my feet do my thinking. If watching a film or play offers emotional release by taking you out of yourself long enough to empathize with the concerns of fictitious characters, sporting events are equally cathartic with the added benefit of bodily involvement. No, can’t “participate” in an NBA game by jumping from your seat and taking to the hardwood to give the home team a hand…but the players, coaches, referees, and even arena security guards don’t expect you to spend the entire game completely silent and spellbound in your seats.
At least one of my sisters and several of my friends who are big-time film buffs would probably be dismayed to hear me admit it, but I actually have a difficult time sitting still for even the most engrossing movie: even my Zen school, with its emphasis on sitting meditation, expects practitioners to remain seated for only about thirty minutes at a stretch before getting everyone up for walking meditation. Does it come as a surprise, then, that I actually prefer walking to sitting meditation, and that my favorite form of collective catharsis isn’t sniffling through a sad movie but leaping to my feet to scream over a great play or swear over a bad call?
In other words, when none other than Kevin Garnett appears on the Celtics JumboTron exhorting fans to GET ON YOUR FEET…
…I am very grateful to comply. Yes, sir!
This is my day-late contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Emotions. I shot the JumboTron images of Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett at the Celtics vs. Pistons game on March 5; the rest of today’s images come from Wednesday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns.