Watching My Self in Action

Yesterday, I was picking up some items at Ralphs when I passed within earshot of the deli counter and heard a guy say, “Yeah, Lakers won by 20 points.”

Suddenly the rest of my day seemed ruined. I was looking forward to a nice nap and watching the first playoff game on DVR. Without Kobe, the Lakers were suddenly an underdog and I suspected they might play really well—and actually resemble a team—but now my mood turned foul.

The game was ruined. I stormed back to the cat food aisle, picked up some cans, and scowled at the unsuspecting clerk near the checkout stand. I grumbled through checkout, took my bag of groceries back to the car and drove home.

Why would “they” do that to me? One random step and the entire pleasure of watching the game was ruined. Sure, there was tennis recorded, the end of a great match with Djokovic and Nadal, and some other playoff games later that evening but I was REALLY LOOKING FORWARD to watching this.

I began to notice the annoyance and had to smile. This was precisely the sort of thing I’ve been working on—seeing how my reactions to essentially neutral circumstances cause my discomfort.

Was the deli guy “wrong” to talk about the outcome? Well he was loud – he could have kept his voice down – after all lots of people do DVR the games. But come on – objectively – he was excited about the game. Who could blame him? “I” could, that’s who.

So I took my nap and got up and put on the game. I tried to excited by the pregame blather and skipped past the “predictions”—after all, I knew the outcome already. The game was RUINED.

So I started watching and the Lakers were playing well. Without Kobe they actually ran a few plays and passed the ball, and they had great energy.

But they were losing. There was no evidence of them building the 20 point lead I had heard the deli guy talk about. At halftime they were down about six points. So I figured why not watch the beginning of the second half and see them build a lead.

But instead, as the third quarter unfolded, it was the Spurs that built their lead up to double digits. A twenty point Laker lead? On the road? What was that guy smoking?

I realized that maybe I had misheard him. Maybe the Lakers LOST? Or would they still come back? Maybe the 20 points was wrong, but I know I heard him said they won – didn’t I?

Who knows? I watched the fourth quarter in ambiguous delight as I did not know the outcome but it became more and more certain that the Lakers would actually lose – which was not what I “wanted” but I also wanted the uncertainty.

The game ended. They lost. I had to laugh. I had watched an entire game that had been “ruined” for me with even more attention because the “information” I had was completely wrong.

I was still able to get appropriately annoyed by the attention given to Kobe Bryant’s tweets (he hadn’t even gone to San Antonio with his teammates—recovering from surgery I guess) – it wasn’t about Kobe but he was the “star” they had to blather about.

So okay, I got my annoyance, I got my excitement and I discovered that everything I thought I had known was completely wrong.

I had also watched myself going through this entire experience with amazement and some delight, because I hadn’t really gotten caught up in any of it, except the initial ten minutes of frustration that I “knew” the outcome of a game I wanted to watch.

With the game over, I switched to CNN. Now it was time to really watch my self get pissed off.

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