A Boston sports fan’s torment

I love sports. I’m just not sure I enjoy them. And I need to do something about that.

Gracia Lam

“Are you even enjoying this?”

My wife had a good point. It was Sunday, and she wanted to relax on the couch and watch our beloved Patriots attempt to fell another NFL foe. I was making relaxation impossible for her by pacing, wringing my hands, and complaining, to no one in particular, that our play calling was too pass-heavy. She wondered aloud why I always got myself so worked up. I had no idea.

It has always been this way. I’ve been a diehard Boston sports fan for as long as I can remember. It’s in my blood with the glucose and plasma. The Bruins, Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots are a huge part of my life, ranking somewhere above food and just below oxygen in importance. I talk about past teams with the eulogistic reverence of a proud friend and anticipate upcoming seasons with the guarded hope of a college applicant to a “reach” school.


I love sports. I’m just not sure I enjoy them.

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I didn’t eat for two days after the Aaron Boone home run in 2003. In 2004, I was so distressed during the Red Sox’ improbable comeback from 3 down in the ALCS to the Yankees that, on the day of Game 7, I sprang a nosebleed in the middle of my college economics class. Three years later, before leading an early-morning combat patrol in Iraq, I asked my company headquarters to radio me updates of a Patriots-Ravens Monday night game while I was outside the wire. An unusual request in an environment of bombs and bullets, but the radio operator knew me, so he obliged.

I figured the nosebleeds would go away as I got older, that rich life experiences would temper my passion and put sports into proper perspective. Other than immediate family, Boston sports are my only enduring link between adolescence and adulthood. That continuity and familiarity should be comfortable and fun, yet I cling to my teams so hard that, like Lennie and his mouse, I inevitably choke the joy out of those things I love.

“You’re not incredibly fun to be around when you’re watching sports,” my wife said very tenderly, “and you’re always watching sports.” Point taken. “And the most unhealthy thing,” she added, “is you enjoy the wins for maybe three seconds before you start stressing about the next one.” She’s right. I fixate on the losses,  choosing to marinate in my self-afflicted sports misery instead of cherishing Boston’s run of extraordinary success.

Since 2001, my teams have won three Super Bowls, three World Series titles, an NBA championship, and a Stanley Cup. It has been an embarrassment of sports riches that, by and large, I’ve not allowed myself to enjoy.


Something needs to change. Maybe I need to find a new hobby or spend more time with family to help rediscover the undeniable dichotomy between the inane and the important, of sports and real life. I know I can’t go on like this, devoting too much time and emotional capital on the outcomes of sporting events I have no control over.

It’s time to take a break. I’ll start with two months of no sports. No SportsCenter, no fantasy football, no Bob Ryan columns. Just sports detox for 60 days to focus on other, more important things.

My wife laughed at the plan. “Two months? Good luck with that. You have no chance of making it, but I’m rooting for you. When do you start?”

I hadn’t thought of that. The Pats are looking like Super Bowl contenders again, so maybe right after the big game. What’s a few more nosebleeds?

Barry Couture is pursuing joint master’s degrees at MIT Sloan and Harvard Kennedy School. Send comments to

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