The old guffawing sports-uncle line is that fans of bad teams are masochists. Like most khakicore humor, it's several degrees off funny, more "joke" than joke. It also undersells the rush masochism is meant to induce. What conjures images of ball gags and caned-red asses should not also stand in for someone sunk into their couch, staring vacantly and despondently at a television. Both activities hurt, but only one does so in a pleasurable way. My lone brush with sexy pain came when a girl used my neck as a bite pillow, drawing blood. I felt no happy jolt in my parts at the time, but I would prefer being struck, pissed on, or otherwise degraded to watching the Philadelphia 76ers play something approximating professional basketball. The former would at least be horizon-broadening. I might find my niche. I already know what 20-point blowouts don't do for me.
For that matter, Sam Hinkie makes a lousy sadist. It takes care to hurt someone because they want you to. Math will not lovingly choke you, and Hinkie is like if the field of statistics put on a suit and an acceptable haircut. He gutted his roster, not because he's interested in fielding the NBA's most "Salò"-reminiscent squad, but because he's concerned with acquiring the best possible lottery odds. He's no pro-dom; he's a cold rationalist. His head (he has no heart) is three or four years in the future. Your heart, if you're one of those uncommon, unfortunate so-and-sos with Sixers season tickets, is in your hands.
About those few devotees: It's both strange and explicable that they exist at all. Fans follow teams for all sorts of reasons, but when there's nothing left—when your team is just ineffectually pawing at competence night after night—the most compelling reason to watch becomes just because. It's a blend of habit and delusion. It is a plunging of the hand back into the metaphorical Cheetos bag, as if it might return holding something more appealing than foul saltiness this time. The game is on in five minutes, or the tickets and car keys are on the kitchen counter. You slump your shoulders and decide, fuck it, you're down with the cause for at least another night. Depression. Loyalty. Call it what you want.
Being happy seems impossible, to a certain type of person. Those Lifehackerish guides that purport to give you ways of being better at things you struggle with tell you what you already know. (I should accomplish my goals one step at a time? No shit!) Knowing isn't enough. Were that the case, my bookshelf would contain fewer unread novels, and my body's odometer would have fewer High Lifes on it. And Philadelphians wouldn't watch Sixers games. They would take those two-and-a-half hour periods of numbing misery and play with their kids, or go for a run, or do anything more intellectually or emotionally stimulating than watching Michael Carter-Williams perform his best-yet-crushingly-insufficient Allen Iverson impression.
You know what's good for you. Or some things that are good for you. You do those things when you can. When obligations and society's various barriers don't get in the way, when you don't get in your own way. Sometimes, for reasons that escape you, you're sunk into your couch, staring vacantly and despondently at a television. You don't have to do anything else, but your idiot brain has assumed all control, and you feel like you need to do this to yourself. It hurts like a bear trap hurts five hours after it has broken your skin and your leg. Except you could walk away from it. You could. And you could call yourself a masochist, but that wouldn't make it true.
Follow Colin McGowan on Twitter.