Formative Years and Their Effect on Personality

Sometimes, I feel cursed. There are moments where I am absolutely convinced nothing good will ever happen to me. I am a pessimist prone to anxiety. I consistently expect the worst. I firmly believe that the things I want most are the things I will never have. That’s a pretty absurd conviction. I grew up in the suburbs. I went to a great high school. I was accepted to and received a scholarship for college. The list goes on. Despite these positives, I cannot shake this overwhelming belief that only bad awaits me.

Why?

The answer lies in my childhood sports teams.

The reason I expect the worst is because all my favorite sports teams combine to create a perfect storm, ripe for producing anxious depressives.

My first sports related memory took place around 1994. My aunt had won tickets to a Chicago Cubs game and gave them to my father and me.My memories of the day are quite vague. I know they were playing the Philadelphia Phillies. I think Curt Schilling pitched. I have absolutely no idea what the final score was.  This was probably the day which cemented my Chicago Cub fandom. I endured years of Kevin Tapini being the staff ace. Gary Gaetti playing third base, Lance Johnson in center, and Jeff Blauser at short. I tied my wagon to a franchise that last won a champonship in 1908. Smooth move, ex-lax.

It’s too late now to switch allegiances. Even if I could transfer my emotional investment in the Cubs to a more productive franchise, the positive returns would be superficial at best. The temporary positive feelings of watching my new team win the World Series would quickly give way to my deep seeded, underlying issues. It’s too late. The Cubs have done their damage.

My earliest Chicago Bears related memory took place a few years after that. The mid 1990s Chicago Bears were really bad at football. So bad, in fact, I never really considered being good at football a possibility. I remember looking at teams like the Steelers, Packers, and Cowboys and thinking, “There is no way the Bears could ever be that good.” Unfortunately, I was right. In my entire existence, the Bears have never won the Super Bowl and only made the playoffs a handful of times.

It is not just the Bears futile history which perpetuates my negative world view. Around 1996 I was given the opportunity to go to a Bears preseason football game. I had never been to a Bears game, (and have not been given the opportunity again since) so even though it was an exhibition, I was excited. Unfortunately, a few hours before kick off it began to rain, hard. A thunderstorm rolled into town. The game was postponed. I never got a chance to go to the rescheduled game. The wrath of the heavens prevented me what could have been a lovely evening. It was a traumatic event.

My favorite college football team was the Northwestern Wildcats. My mother attended this prestigious University in the 1980s. I do not have the time nor energy to delve into Northwestern’s dismal football history. I will sum up the decades long futility by explaining that Northwestern’s last and only bowl victory came in 1949, or just a few years after my Grandfather returned from World War II.

During the 1995 season, Northwestern improbably became a national power. They cruised through Big Ten play finishing undefeated. They were led by a number of dominant players. Linebacker Pat Fitzgerald and running back Darnell Autry were two of the top at their respective positions. They finished the season 10-1, ranked number three. They were set to take on 17th ranked USC in the Rose Bowl. In what was a relatively close game Northwestern lost 41-32.

Going into that game, I had no doubt Northwestern would win. I was too young to understand the nuances of the game. I did not know that USC’s Keyshawn Johnson was by far the most talented (and probably least intelligent) player on the field that day. I was not yet encumbered by the knowledge that me and my sports teams were doomed to failure.

In order to fully understand failure and despair, one must also understand the emotions on the opposite end of the spectrum. Sadness lacks meaning if one has not also experienced happiness. For young Peter, happiness came in the form of the Chicago Bulls. They were awesome. They won a boatload of championships. (6) And employed the best player in the entire world. (MJ) Winning looked so easy.

For a short while the Bulls made success look possible.

However, the wheels quickly came off.

Jordan retired. Phil Jackson left. So did Scottie Pippen. The Bulls became terrible. They had briefly offered me a taste of happiness. For a few short years in the mid 90’s they showed me that good things could happen to me. Briefly.

I was only sports cognitive for two of the Bulls championships. The other four, the meat of the success, existed only in stories. I would read and hear about the great Bulls teams of the past and be taunted. See, these stories said, happiness is out there. It’s just eluding you.

Elude me it has.

Yes, good things have happened to me, but I was beaten and battered too much in my youth to ever expect positives to come with regularity. And for that, I have no one to blame but Sports.

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1 Response to “Formative Years and Their Effect on Personality”


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