Image for the article titled How To Deal With A Telltale Asshole Who Leaves Your Team In A Perfectly Rational Way, Fuck Him, He's Not That Good Anyway, I'm Not Bitter Whatever, He's Overrated

Illustration: Angelica Alzona (Photos: Getty)

The scenes in front of the Camp Nou football stadium in Barcelona say it all: A. adult man cries in Lionel Messi’s jersey, because the generation superstar is leaving the club this summer after almost 20 years because of a dead end in his contract extension.

Messi’s departure means for the team’s fans, some of whom are the Argentine face tattooed on their bodies. But mourning a hero will not change the strange reality of FC Barcelona without Messi, nor will it bring any hint of comfort to distraught fans.

Similarly, albeit to a lesser extent in the NBA and NFL, two other high profile players – Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Julio Jones of the Tennessee Titans – are either about to get out of a blockbuster summer trade or have already been extradited new pastures, despite the wishes of the fans. But no matter what fans post on social media or how many jerseys they burn, the inevitable truth remains that players – and those in the power to determine their futures – will routinely break hearts.

How to separate personal identity from sport

People identify with their favorite sports teams along the tribal lines. A study from the University of Sussex in England noticed that fans in general lapse into a certain kind of tribal affiliation based on collective “feelings that the team identity carries a sense of belonging, meaning and continuity”. Fandom drives people crazy, encourages rowdy behavior that can boil over in the form of violence, forcing some to perform bizarre rituals on matchday or Put on openly racist team clothes.

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Either way, it is possible for you to bring your fandom to an obscene level of personalization that messes up your identity with the team you are supporting. This is ultimately a bad thing because a wealth of research has shown that the Fandom lows are usually felt much deeper than the short-lived highs.

On a practical level, there are many things you can do to break free of the venomous carousel of bleeding fandom; For example, you might stop following a team on social media, stop reviewing the results, or maybe take up a new hobby (communications professor David S. Heineman wrote a long one Essay on how and why he broke up with the sports fandom that could be instructive).

But ultimately, knowing that athletes will always make their own decisions, many of which you dislike, will serve you best. You are powerless to prevent your beloved running back from trading under your nose, and public comment on the situation will not make the blow any less bad. Sure, athletes can make connections with their fans, but the most successful seldom stay in one city for their entire careers; You are motivated by challenges (and mostly money) and the pursuit of fame. For his part, Lionel Messi probably wasn’t thinking of the man clinging to his shirt when the decision to leave was announced.

A prevailing wisdom is the perspective, which consists in asking yourself a few questions: Does it matter to the material reality of your life if your beloved team loses its best player or if it loses badly? Did these results make your life worse or different?

The answer is almost always a resounding no.