A couple days ago as I was in the middle of my morning routine, in the shower actually, it hit me. Out of nowhere the thought popped into my head and once planted there I knew it wouldn’t quit bothering me until it was over. I’m going to the season opener of the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow night which should be a lot of fun, but the thought that popped into my head wasn’t about the hours I would spend enjoying cheering on the hometown team with my wife at her first NBA game, but rather the ten minutes leading up to the game. I love going to Grizz games and have been going since they first came to Memphis and played in the Pyramid but the anxiety always hits me leading up to the game and today is no exception. Pre-game introductions and the hype video that are played on the big screen overhanging the court are usually the source of much excitement for the home crowd, the electric feeling of everyone standing and cheering in unison for the team you support, but for me it’s just trying to act normal and hoping I don’t pass out. I wish I could enjoy these things like everybody else but I can’t because I know that the inevitable booms are coming, one after the video and one after the introductions.
For as long as I can remember one of my “biggest fears” has been sudden loud noises. I think it’s gotten worse over the years because now I know what causes the bangs and the booms that terrify me, so I’m always on the lookout, trying not to be caught off guard, not that it matters. If I spot a child with a balloon my stomach clenches immediately and the tightness won’t go away until the child does. Knowing and being aware have morphed this fear into something worse, because now instead of the brief unpleasantness of the noise, my anxiety and stress eat away at me until the inevitable happens and I can go back to being just a regular basketball fan, having fun at the game.
I’ve tried to think about where this fear comes from and the earliest memory I have of being frightened by a loud noise was at a minor league baseball game when I was maybe five or six. I remember being at the Arkansas Travelers game in Little Rock with my aunt and uncle and it was late at night, at least to me. After the game ended, instead of leaving the stadium everyone remained seated because there was a special show by some guy named Captain Dynamite. This guy got in a box in the middle of the baseball field and suddenly I was told to put my hands over my ears and someone else, I don’t remember whom placed their hands over mine, trying to shield me from the coming explosion. I felt the world around me shake following the loudest noise I had ever heard in my life, then the entire stadium erupted in cheers as Captain Dynamite stepped out of the box, miraculously unharmed by the explosives taped to the box.
From that point on all of my memories involving loud noises have been terrible and full of anxiety. I was the only kid I knew that absolutely hated fireworks. Now, I can watch fireworks and am better at pretending that I’m enjoying the show, but I prefer to be considerably further away from the action than the others. I don’t own a gun and while I hate all the senseless violence in the world and the pain caused by guns, it is not the reason I don’t have one. I don’t own a gun because of the loud bang they make. It used to stress me out around the time I had to register for the selective service (which is a completely sexist process by the way, but I’ll save that discussion for another time) and thinking about the possibility of having to join the army, not because of the dangers associated with war but because it made me sick thinking about being surrounded by all the loud gunfire. When I have children, if I ever do, they won’t have balloons at their birthday parties. They will probably grow up to resent me and need years of therapy because their mean father wouldn’t buy them balloons, but that is the curse I’m forced to live with.
What choice do I have but continuing to live my life and trying to not let this fear get the best of me? People have told me before to just get over it, a genius plan that I wished I’d thought of, but I have no idea how to go about the getting over it part. I’m legitimately feeling like I’m going to be sick as I sit here and write this and I realize how ridiculous it is, but there’s really nothing I can do about it. As the basketball game approaches it will get worse and worse but once the lights come back up in the Fedex Forum and the game begins, everything will be okay. Before I end today’s blog I ask of you just one favor; If you ever get the urge to kill me I would really appreciate if you would use a silencer on your gun. Thank you for your cooperation.