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Sports Fan Psychologist: Kubel-Ross's Five Stages of Diamondbacks Fan Frustration

(No offense is intended to anyone actually going through anything. But given some of my educational background, every time I hear about Kubel and Ross I think of Kubler-Ross.)

1. Denial. This stage is marked by failure to consider that things could actually be bad. After all, the team spent 66 days in first place! The Dodgers are hotter than Hansel right now! Diamondbacks fans at this stage typically make statements such as "Everything is fine. We win the division if (insert one of the following options: the offense scores over 5 runs a game, the starting pitching pitches like 5 Cy Young winners, the bullpen never gives up another run)." Arguing with people at the denial stage leads to highjacking threads while only driving them to further denial. It is the task of the friends and support groups to listen patiently and not waste time in correcting them. They will eventually move on from this stage.

2. Anger. Anger is the natural result of the impossibility of denying the situation any further. It may be directed at a number of targets, including fellow fans in the GDT. If you are the target of the anger of a fellow-fan, do not take it personally. Remember, they are angry at the situation, not at you, and opposing them will only make it worse. Targets that are players or personnel of the team are most common, and they change each day, as a previous target makes a key hit or pitches well. (The only exceptions to this are Ian Kennedy and KT; fans at the anger stage would probably be angry at them if IPK pitched a no-hitter and KT managed to sign every single top-10 prospect to a minimum contract.) Once again, be patient with your fellow fan at this stage. He or she is going through a natural process that has been observed many times in many fandoms, and it is best to allow the process to take its course. The only exception is if someone is an Expos or Browns fan, but that is outside the purview of this paper.

3. Bargaining. This stage is marked by the fan promising to do something in exchange for better on-field performance. While it may seem to outsiders as a ridiculous superstition, fans of all sporting teams in all countries seem to genuinely believe that wearing a certain garment (or bit of facial hair) may have an affect upon the team's performance. A fan at this stage might say something like "I'll buy dinner for the next person to convert ten straight save opportunities." Bargaining is, in reality, an attempt to take control of a situation that has spun entirely out of control, and is a noble effort. Fans at the bargaining stage should not be told that nothing they do will make any difference whatsoever, because, although this might be true, this will cause the fan to revert back to the anger stage, and progress will be lost.

4. Neo-Depression. While it may appear that this stage has something to do with The Matrix, in fact, this term references that the word "depression" has itself changed meanings. While it used to signify, among other things, a complete loss of hope, now it is typically applied to a severe feeling of malaise, which is often the result of a chemical imbalance. Sports fans never fully lose hope, and so classic depression does not apply. This stage is marked by mass exiting the GDT in the third inning when the opposing team takes a 1-0 lead, or typing "game over" or the equivalent in the thread. It is also marked by comments in threads regarding potential trades that claim that the sky is falling, the team is in free-fall, and everyone needs to be sold for a complete youth movement to take place, so that possibly winning will be possible down the road. Drinking vast amounts of alcohol while watching the game may be an attempt to avert this stage, but it has been clinically shown not to be of any assistance, although depending upon the beverage of choice, the increased bathroom breaks may cause a fan to miss another bullpen meltdown.

5. Acceptance. While never observed in sports fans during the season, the final of the Kubel-Ross stages occurs when we realize that the team was about what was expected, that they fought and provided us entertainment and diversion, and that when the next season comes up, we will love them just the same, no matter how much anger we levied on them during the course of the season. In the event of a championship, this stage is replaced by euphoria, which is a high more powerful than any drug, and capable of being sustained for an insane amount of time just by replaying the final hit of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Some of us, I'm sure, have yet to come down fully from that high, and demonstrate symptoms of championship withdrawal, a condition which, while severe, is at least better than Padres fan syndrome, as they have yet to experience the euphoria of a cycle or a no hitter, let alone a championship. These small euphoric moments are capable of sustaining fans through the darkest of times, as we discovered in 2004.

(This column is not a fit replacement for actual psychiatric advice. AZ Snake Pit is not responsible for any inaccuracies contained within it. The author is not actually a psychologist, and would not appreciate being sued by anyone who took something that is clearly intended as a joke as actual psychological advice. If you have no sense of humor, you are in need of serious help, and should see a specialist immediately.)

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