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Fun: A tragic waste of time

During the school year, I live in a quiet apartment complex tucked into a normally quiet corner of a sprawling, otherwise blaringly cacophonous Midwestern city (as I have in the past, Ill refer to this town by the phony name of Midland City, because I like shrouding myself in an aura of mystery). Everyone in my building keeps to themselves, so I dont have to worry about getting roped into bland, endless small talk while retrieving my mail or doing my laundry. Also, nobody in my building likes to have fun, so I dont have to worry about my fellow tenants playing loud music, or hosting all-night tap-dancing marathons, or inviting me to cocktail parties where I might have to endure bland, endless small talk. In short, I dont know my neighbors and my neighbors dont know me and thats the way I like it. The people who live in the surrounding buildings are usually quiet and unobtrusive, too. But not always. The four or five undergraduates who share the house next door have the infuriating habit of blowing off steam on the weekends by hosting what we in the alliteration business like to call boisterous backyard beer-drinking parties. Recently, they put on a real blowout a party that kicked off at 10 a.m. Saturday and didnt peter out until the wee hours of Sunday morning. This shindig coincided with a much-anticipated college football game and, as I spied on the whippersnappers through the blinds of my living-room window, I observed that they were all wearing red jerseys with white lettering: official Midland State University apparel. In addition to dressing alike, the revelers spent all day chanting aggressively in what sounded like arcane tongues. The whole affair had a sinister quality to it, as if these kids werent so much expressing school spirit as trying to open the Gates to Hell. The leader the high priest, if you will would call out a command, and the crowd would shout a response in perfect unison. I got the sense that theyd spent months practicing for this day in their dimly lit basement lair. I considered asking the local Vatican-approved exorcist to stop by and hose the party animals down with thousands of gallons of holy water, but I quickly realized I was overreacting. Having lived in Midland City for two years, I shouldve known immediately that my neighbors and their friends creepy cult-like behavior their obsessive and irrational devotion to something as stupid as a football team passes for normal in large Midwestern college towns. In fact, such behavior doesnt just pass for normal around these parts it passes for festive. Consequently, the success of my neighbors party (its fun quotient, in scientific terms) relied entirely on the validity of their assumption that Midland States football team would win that night. The partiers dressed up in their favorite players jerseys and chanted their battle cries and binge drank because they believed their team had the edge. Their good time was linked inextricably to victory. The problem was that if Midland State lost, my neighbors would have to declare their party a failure. When they looked back at it later, they wouldnt see the party as a good time theyd see it as the set-up for a tragic disappointment. Theyd recognize all the fun theyd thought were having before the game as a moist, steaming pile of wasted time. And thats exactly what their party turned out to be a moist, steaming pile of wasted time, I mean because Midland State lost. After 14 hours of raucous glee in the backyard next door, a palpable silence now filled the air. I watched through my window as the partiers trudged out the back gate, heads hung low, and grinned at their obvious misery. Thatll teach em to put faith in anything ever working out in their favor, I thought. The sad irony, I realized, was that I was just as pathetic as if not more pathetic than the kids next door. Sure, they might have built the house of their good time on a faulty foundation, but look at me: Id sat around my apartment all night rooting passionately against Midland State for the sole purpose of reveling in the rest of the citys misery when they lost. At least my neighbors had possessed the good sense to get drunk before figuring out what incredible losers they were. Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at dpleonidas@yahoo.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.

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