Or Enos. Perhaps I should call you Enos. After all, that is the name that your parents gave you. After all that is, culturally, what you generally would be called by the people who know you. After all, at the end of the day Enos, you do not know me, but I certainly know you. After all, at the end of the day Enos, you and I are anything but strangers.
I have written to you before. And written about you. And thought about you. And dreamt about you. I’ve spent considerable time imagining what I’d say if I ever came across you, if you and I were ever to find ourselves face to face in a dark alley off of a random street, if you and I were ever together somewhere, anywhere, where I could tell you exactly what it is that I think of you; somewhere, anywhere where we’d be on equal ground; somewhere, anywhere where your wealth and standing would not be able to stop me from speaking my mind.
You are a traitor, Enos. You are a hack. You are self-important and arrogant and conceited and smug. You are someone whose condescension towards the people that you deem to be undeserving of your time defies the archive of my knowledge of the English language, something that I am incapable of properly expressing with words. You are someone to whom I would ask the following questions:
Do you feel elation or dejection, Enos? Have you ever? Will you ever? Does a Ram’s win on Sundays make you smile? Does another loss make you frown? Did your heart leap when Ricky Proehl made the greatest catch the world has ever seen in the greatest sporting event I have ever attending? Did it drop when Az Hakim muffed that punt? Do you still jump in the air out of pure, unadulterated joy when you watch replays off the Reverend getting behind the defense and rambling untouched down the middle of the field? Do you indignantly toss money across the room at the mere mention of Spy Gate, and the knowledge that you, that all of us, literally got screwed? Does football, do wins and losses, does the way that your team makes us feel, matter to you at all, Enos? Do you, have you, ever really cared?
I can remember exactly where I was when Mike Jones made the tackle: my parent’s living room, sitting on a folding chair, watching a makeshift television set propped up onto a bench and, for the first time in my life, ignoring a platter of chicken wings lying squarely on the coffee table right in front of my face. I can remember exactly where I was when Adam Vinateri made that kick: my friend Kevin’s living room, sitting on the edge of his sofa, my legs shaking so rapidly that it felt as if they were going to break through the bottoms of his hardwood floor. I ended up collapsing to the ground with tears streaming down my cheeks on both of those Sundays. One time because I was a champion. One time because I had lost it all. Never once did I take the time to believe that the men on the television screen were playing for anybody other than me. Never once did I take the time to think about what you, Enos, were doing at that very same moment at all.
Now you, Enos, go and stand in a room with closed doors and tell other obscenely wealthy men that me, that my city, is what’s wrong with your football team and your ability to make money off of it without even telling us where were you on those Sundays; or what were you feeling on the Sunday we won; or how you reacted on the Sunday we lost; or what your outlook was on the cornucopia of heart-retching and despair filled Sunday afternoons that came after, the very same Sundays that both plundered and devastated us all.
Were you, Enos, sprawled out on a living room floor, unable to rise to your feet because your world had just been shattered? Were you sitting in a college dorm room with the shades drawn, despondent and all alone because your favorite team had just lost 17th game in a row? Were you sitting isolated and unattended to in the corner of a Chicago bar because not even copious amounts of alcohol could numb the pain that came at the end of every autumn week like clockwork, the pain that you still somehow, someway, could never see heading like a freight train straight in your direction?
Were you there in Week 17 last season, Enos? Were you in the Dome? Were you watching Odell Beckham run right past our secondary and into the history books in what some were saying at the time would be the last professional football game that St. Louis might ever see? Because I was. I was there. I was on the floor. I was in the dorm room. I was sitting alone at the bar. I was stationed at the top row of the our building, of what is still your building, hoping that there’d be a reason for me to come back some day. You were not hoping for that, Enos. You were hoping, are hoping, will always be hoping, that I am be the one that is going to get left out in the cold. You were hoping then, as you hope now, that I am the one that will be gone forever.
And I hate you for that, Enos. I hate you for your money. I hate you for your obvious treason. I hate you for the control you have over me. I hate you because one of the things that I love the most has its fate in your hands instead of mine. I hate you because you want to take it away from me. I hate you because there is nothing I can do about it.
I hate you, most of all, because of the paradox you’ve forced me to confront; because of the deceptiveness in my own thinking that your behavior has compelled me to acknowledge. The Rams matter to me in a way that they should matter to you too, Enos. The Rams play a role in my life that they never will play in your’s. To you my team is a cash cow. To me your team is something I will always love. And yet in your eyes, as well as the world’s, we are the ones who are not good enough. And yet in your eyes, as well as the world’s, we get to be the thing that is wrong.
And yet in your eyes, as well as the world’s, we are the ones that deserve nothing. And we are the one’s that get nothing as well.
Except for this; except for what your team, Enos, makes us feel; except for what your team creates inside of me, and all the people like me, that it can never, ever, conjure up inside of you. Agony. Glee. Torment. Ecstasy. Woe. Wonder. Significance. Sports matter to the people who care about them because it is the thing, the only thing, that is capable of binding us all together. Sports matter to the people who care about them because that caring leads us down the course, the only course, which we can follow. Sports matter to the people who care about them because it is the very notion of caring itself, caring about something, caring about anything, that allows us to become the most engaged and human versions of the people that we are supposed to be.
Sports matter to the people who care about them because, to quote the legendary baseball scribe for the New Yorker Roger Angell (by way of the Tom Verducci-penned profile for Sports Illustrated):
What is left out of this equation, it seems to me, is the business of caring—caring deeply and passionately, really caring—which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naiveté—the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over a haphazardous flight of a distant ball—seems a small price to pay for such a gift.
Spots do not matter to you, Enos Stanley Kroenke. You, Enos Stanley Kroenke, do not care, and, in doing so, are trying to take away my propensity to care as well. But you do not get to. I will not let you. I give you the power manipulate me, to exploit me, to look down on me, to alienate me, to, in essence, rob me blind. I do it willingly. I do it cheerfully. I do it knowing exactly what your motives are.
What you are giving me, Enos Stanley Kroenke, for at least one more season, is a team to watch on the field. What you are giving me, Enos Stanley Kroenke, for at least one more season, is something to care about. What you giving me, Enos Stanley Kroenke, for at least one more season, is a gift.
A gift that I will never return to you. A gift that you, Enos Stanley Kroenke, have allowed to become mine and mine alone.
A gift so meaningful that it makes both your greed and my naiveté a small price to pay in order to keep it, to have it, to hold onto it, now and forever. Sports are worthwhile in my life because they give me something—no matter, as Angell said, how frail or foolish this concern may ultimately be—to care about. That caring will not go away, Enos Stanley Kroenke. I will never give it up. I will relinquish it. It will always belong to me. No matter how hard you try to pry it out of my grasp.