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A Compromise

All feelings welcome.

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) celebrates in the end zone after scoring a touchdown against the Michigan Wolverines during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Michigan won 24-15.
Here’s a happy Drew Allar!
Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

For a full recap of the game, Chris got you covered.

Today, I’m going to “officially” reveal the reason I left Black Shoe Diaries (and the blogosphere in general), back in 2018.

On October 13, 2018, at around 6:30 PM Eastern, Penn State had just finished losing its second game of the season, to the Michigan State Spartans. I got so angry that, in my drunken state, I threw the remote at the TV and broke it. Later that evening, I nearly flooded the house trying to give my son a bath, as I fell asleep on his bed while I waited for the tub to fill. My pregnant wife saw the massacre I created when she got home, packed her bags, and took the child with her. My now ex-wife saw me drunk one too many times.

I was stuck in a bad situation. A slow burn of unhappiness and depression culminated with everything blowing up on that fateful night. My mom had just gotten a stroke earlier that year (I couldn’t visit her when she was admitted to the hospital). I was stuck in a job I didn’t love, unable to get a different one for reasons that would be unfair to reveal at this point. I was in a state I had no ties to, and was isolated from everyone I loved, except my kid. And now that was gone too. I was at possibly the lowest point in my life, and the only thing that would keep me sane for eight months at a time was Penn State football and basketball. For those of you with long memories, that was the NIT winning season.

Everyone’s epiphany came between 2020 and 2021 (2022 for those who let it marinate a bit longer). Mine came in 2018, when my life basically fell apart. I sorely needed to do something, and the first step was the obvious. Stop drinking. Thanks, Michigan State!

The second step, get therapy. Control your uncontrollable anger. Handle your depression. Get out of your rut and make the most out of the situation that’s been handed to you. Of course, with no one around to support me physically, I had to rely on the virtual support of the people back in New York. Little by little, things were addressed.

It took me years to get my life back on track, and, along the way, I made some discoveries that explained some of the struggles. Turns out I have ADHD and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)! Explains a whole lot in retrospect! Did you know? SAD* no only affects my fears of what people think of me, but they affect my fears of what people think of the things I engage in, and all sorts of other fears when it relates to the people around me.

Armed with that knowledge, tools to understand my own feelings and behaviors, and a way to bring balance into my life, I slowly got things on track. I got shared custody of my children. I even get to take them to see their family in the Dominican Republic! All that is possible through a concerted effort to not only live a life worth showing to my kids, but one worth living for myself.

Why am I boring you with a piece of my life not even a day after one of Penn State’s most crushing defeats of the past five seasons? Well, because of the compromise. I love Penn State. I love Penn State sports, football and basketball in particular. The Nittany Lions have brought me joy at times where none was found. But if I was going to let them back into my life, to the degree I once did, I had to make sure I put some guard rails to avoid another 2018. When Jared asked me to come back a few years ago, one of the compromises I made is that, if I’m going to bring sports fandom back to it, that I wouldn’t let it affect my mood the way it used to.

That means I’m not going to let the losses ruin my days, weeks, whatever, anymore. And I am most definitely not going to get so upset as to have my 4-year old son talk about how I broke the TV in daycare. I’m supposed to be the person they look up to, not the person they fear. So I got rid of facebook. I barely use twitter anymore (it’s fucking twitter, none of that X nonsense). I allow myself an afternoon (or an evening) to grieve, and a whole week to celebrate. Because, if I’m going to engage with something that’s supposed to bring me joy —entertainment, if you may, then I’m no longer going to let despair take over.

So that brings us to yesterday. Penn State will likely finish the season 10-2 for the second straight season. People will share their opinions on what James Franklin can and can’t do. I, on the other hand, will choose to enjoy the 10 wins and accept the two losses. I will choose to see a team that ran for 164 yards yesterday and compare it to nearly 10 years ago, when offensive linemen were blocking each other. I will choose to see the 1-point losses as signs of progress instead of signs of futility. I will choose to enjoy whatever New Year’s Six game Penn State ends up in, knowing that this team wasn’t even supposed to be this good this fast. I will choose to view Penn State as the place that brought me so much joy when I was there, a part of my identity that I feel proud to have, and the reason I have all these connections to so many of you.

I will choose to celebrate the positives, and accept the setbacks. Because, ultimately, I don’t want to break another TV. Those things are expensive.

*You know they picked that acronym on purpose.