How Atlanta sports fans can survive these terrible times

Advice from “The Boston Buddha”

Dan Devine

Andy Kelley, aka The Boston Buddha, is a Chopra Center-certified meditation instructor in New England. He’s also a huge Boston sports fan who has dealt with many sports-induced lows—some stretching decades—over the last forty years. I reached out to him today, desperate for answers, still sick from the simultaneous collapse of the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Dream, and Bulldogs within the last week.

(For what it’s worth, the Buddha’s Red Sox and Patriots both had miraculous come-from-behind wins on Sunday.)

What are your favorite teams?
If I had to pick an order, it would go Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics. I tell my son, who is ten, that he doesn’t get Boston sports the way me and my dad do. There’s forty years of loss for us. We went so long without seeing any wins that you kind of get jaded. You don’t stop rooting for them ever. But you’re never surprised when they lose.

Sometimes teams are easily liked, though, right?
Oh yeah. [Celtics coach] Doc Rivers came in in 2008 with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and that whole season was all about unity. It was beautiful. That African proverb they shouted at every team huddle means: ‘I am because we are.’ That’s how the team led and fought and how the fan’s saw them playing. When you see someone really hustling and not phoning it, you start to get on board. And be more supportive when they do fumble the ball or turn it over, instead of getting on them the way I used to do. They become a more likeable team. Like the Red Sox in 2004, at the dawn of Red Sox Nation. Teams full of hustling nobodys are just more fun to watch. They’re there because they love the game.

And then there’s the opposite.
2008 through 2012: The Red Sox weren’t a likeable team anymore. But people rooted for them in the earlier years [of that period] because we had gone through so much loss. It’s the same reason I support Peyton Manning this season: because he wasn’t supposed to do well. People don’t like the Patriots [outside of New England any more] now, but in 2001 to 2002 they did. Because they’d gone through a tragic time.

Right, tragedy. What should we do when our teams inevitably disappoint us?
As a fan, you need to be able to turn down your own mental chatter that guides you to negative thoughts. And be aware of throwing out those negative thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or any social media. It gets out there. And if a player sees it now, they read it. I know a couple of professional players and they say that they read it until the wound is deep in there. It doesn’t go away when you’re away from the ballpark. It’s 24-7. So it’s hard to get up to the plate and look out the scoreboard and see your average all the time on the Jumbo-tron, if it’s low. And then listen to the people cheering or jeering at you, and then hit the ball. Because your mind isn’t there, it’s thinking. And if it’s thinking, it isn’t hitting.

So if we have negative feelings about a team we should keep them to ourselves rather than put them out in the public sphere?
Yeah. I think we can be in tune with what’s going on in our own heads. And if you’re in tune with yourself then you get in tune with everyone else. Bill Belichick is known for: “Do your job one play at a time. Let everything else go.” Same with the Red Sox: They let all of last year go. That’s why they can be successful this year. But the fans sometimes go immediately to the negative comments: “Yankees suck!” It isn’t productive at all. But it’s what we usually have gone to, which makes you an unlikeable team. So I always say: Be more in tune with what’s going on inside, and gravitate more to the positive.

Say again?
If we notice ourselves, we start to notice others. That’s where compassion comes from. Compassion for the team, and compassion for the people who hustle, and compassion for when they lose. Believe me, I get made fun of by my brothers for being the “Boston Buddha,” but once I became interested in the quality of the team’s energy and noticing how it ebbs and flows on its own, you can figure out what lessons there are to learn. Part of it was not yelling “You suck!” every time.

But it’s so fun to yell that stuff!
I coach my son’s basketball team; we just lost the championship last week after being undefeated. They gun for you. That’s why it’s important to be here right now. I really think that if we stop worrying what’s going on in the future, then we can win a lot more in the present moment.

Okay, let’s bring this home.
For Atlanta Braves fans, it seems like you guys are a lot like the Red Sox in a sense. You keep getting to the playoffs, and you won once … There’s nothing more gut-wrenching than losing to the Giants. Well, except losing to the Jets.

I thought we were talking about Atlanta …
Right. We pull for you guys when you play the Yankees. You’re a likeable team. And I really believe that that unity helps turn things around after a loss. You can’t have the sweet without the bitter.

Or the beards, apparently. Those Red Sox guys are hirsute.
The beards are pretty jokey here in Boston, everyone is sporting them. But that team unity is something special. You see it as a fan. Yes, it’s funny to wear a Santa beard to a game. But that kind of unity is what has made this team likeable. They can let go of everything in the past and do something great together.

Any final thoughts?
I don’t know what happened to the Falcons. I thought they were gonna be awesome.