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Tyler Matzek, anxiety, and growing from your past

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Do you have questions or comments for Connor? Email connorsmailbag@gmail.com for inclusion in next week's column.

Welcome to Football Friday, a baseball column by Connor. Each week I will dive into the previous seven days of baseball news, shout my opinion into the void, discuss some things about the Colorado Rockies, and answer your emails. Some of them.

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There's a belief, an ignorant one, but a belief nonetheless that anxiety is curable. That it is something you defeat and vanquish, something you move past and never hear from again. The belief that anxiety is a phase, like a bad taste in music or a bad relationship, is part of why anxiety is still one of the most misunderstood human conditions.

This past week, Bobby DeMuro spoke with Tyler Matzek about his bout with anxiety, his bout with what nearly destroyed his baseball career. Tyler talked about his path back to Denver and the battles he fights on a daily basis. It was more than just a discussion with a player struggling to return to the major leagues; it was a great insight into the mind of a human dealing with high level anxiety.

In the comments section of that article and in the response on social media, I was surprised at the empathy and support shown for Tyler. Not only that, the outpouring of support was largely from people who had similar experiences. Tyler isn't alone in this because this monster isn't rare. It comes after a lot of us, and takes some of our loved ones.

For over a year, I performed stand-up comedy in the Northern Colorado area: Fort Collins, Greeley, Boulder, Longmont, even a show or two in Denver. I was making friends and I was getting better at comedy every time I stepped on that stage. It wouldn't have been crazy for me to pursue it as a career like so many of my talented friends in that community; nobody would've looked at me with doubt if I had chosen to do that.

But I couldn't.

It wasn't because of anything that comedy did, it was because I looked into the future and I knew comedy was going to kill me one day.

I, like a lot of people who use humor, developed it early on as a skill to disarm people. While some kids were big and had confidence, I was 14 years old and 110 pounds. While some kids had natural ability to date and flirt, I was shy and unable to form sentences around girls I liked. Humor became my entry for friendship, for relationships, for anything. If I was making people laugh, I felt like I was well liked, I felt like I was friends.

The problem with this line of thought is, when the laughs stop coming, what do you have? When you can't make people laugh you suddenly feel like you have nothing else to offer them. It destroys you. While other kids were gaining confidence and other abilities, I was just trying to make everyone laugh. I had to make everyone laugh.

Stand-up seems like a natural entry for people like that. They lived their whole lives trying to make people laugh, why not try it for money?

I had fun doing stand-up. I had a blast, really. Every time I see an open mic or go to a comedy show I think about going on stage. I crave the attention of the room and the laughs the other comics get. I know that I liked it, I know that I had fun.

But comedy was never fun while I was doing it. Every time I had a good set and got laughs, it was what was supposed to happen. Every time I bombed, it was a catastrophic failure. I put this pressure on myself to crush every single night and refused to accept it as an accomplishment if I did.

I accomplished a lot that most people should be proud of: I won a comedy contest, I was booked on paid shows, I was even booked as a headliner. But as they were happening I just saw them as things that are supposed to be happening. These things happen to anyone who is good so why should I feel so special? This begged the question: if I pursued comedy, what would happen if I were to catch my break? Would I ever actually feel accomplished?

It's impossible to accurately describe that feeling, the feeling that being really good at something is the bare minimum for doing it. I remember every joke that tanked. The worst night I ever bombed on stage still sticks with me. Do I remember the good times? Not specifically, I pushed those out of my mind. Those were the nights that were supposed to happen after all. That kills you, little by little, that destroys you. I had to get out.

Anxiety like that isn't sudden. It isn't one second here, the next second gone. It's a creeping sense of pressure that you put on yourself. It's the idea that no matter what you do, no matter what happens, it's not good enough. Anxiety like that is never truly thrown away. It constantly lives in you, waiting for you to give it a platform and air time. It's not as easy as just throwing strikes, as Tyler puts it. It's not something you leave on the side of the road or delete its number and forget about.

But you can grow from it, you can make it a part of your strengths. Instead of letting it consume you, you can use it to silence itself.

I'm at my best when I'm telling jokes, which is why I'm on this website, I guess. It's why every week I have some outlandish idea that hopefully garners a chuckle. But I likely won't do stand-up ever again. Sometimes I think I ran from my anxiety, that I let it take away a goal from me. But other times I realize that, by changing my path and my goals, I took that anxiety and made it part of the person I'm growing to become. I accepted that defeating it head on wasn't the path for me; I had to beat it by going around it.

Anyway, I'm cheering for Tyler louder than I've ever cheered for anyone before. I'm with him, because in a lot of ways, I am him. If he can overcome that monster, that creeping pressure of doubt that destroys so many, then anyone can. I quit chasing something because I knew I couldn't beat the anxiety that ruled that part of my life. Tyler's facing it head on and refusing to back down. That's admirable and brave in it's own way.

Well, on with the jokes

★ ★ ★

The Good Opinion of the Week

Each week, I will personally scour Rockies-related Twitter feeds for good opinions on food, music, movies, or even bottled water. I will feature anything that I look at and think "that is a good opinion." This week, the good opinion comes from the big Kahuna around here, the Bruce Springsteen of Purple Row, the dang man himself Bryan Kilpatrick who tweets:

Disclaimer before I start this thing: I am a Broncos fan. I love the Broncos professional football team. My grandparents have had season tickets since the 60's and I've been to more Broncos games than I can remember. I was there when it was bad, I was there when it was good, I was there when it was Tebow.

Now, that being said, what the hell is your problem, Broncos fans? I can't go two months without some Broncos fan comparing the ownership mentality of Denver's football team to the Rockies bunglebomb they've put together.

We get it, the Broncos are good and the Rockies aren't but to think that Broncos fans and Rockies fans are 1) separate entities and 2) rivals is just dumb idiot speak that you're shouting because you're upset that for ONE SECOND someone wouldn't pay attention to your blue and orange costumed strong boys.

For the love of God, take the summer off. There's plenty of Broncos stuff for you to think about, stop yelling at me for following a baseball team that just happens to coexist in the same city.

I hate to do this, but I blame Peyton Manning for some of this. Peyton Manning brought a bunch of fans previously untethered to an organization to the Broncos. So for four years these guys who don't care about the Rockies have been getting mad that someone cares about the Rockies.

Criticize the Rockies all you want, they deserve it, they're weird and crappy. But policing fans for being fans is not going to fly with me. So some Rockies fans go and just drink on the Party Deck, does that effect your life in any way? It does not. You're just mad that someone would have fun at something that you're stressing about. God forbid someone has fun in this world when it comes to sports.

Broncos fans, stay out of my mentions in the summer and I'll be sure to never write a piece titled "Mark Sanchez couldn't even pitch for the Rockies". Thanks.

Good opinion, Bryan.

★ ★ ★

Connor watches The Bachelorette

This season, I've decided to watch the Bachelorette, I have never watched this show before, and I'm not sure if I like it or if I am just a fan of people making themselves look like idiots on national television. Maybe a little of both. Anyway, in this section, I will talk about something I noticed during my viewing of The Bachelorette.

Wow, what an episode. This week, over the course of two hours, JoJo kissed five (5) men and had like 13 of them say they could see themselves falling in love with her, which is bonkers and would exhaust me.

One time I had a girl tell me after a month that she had a dream about marrying me and the energy drained out of my body I couldn't imagine that happening over a dozen times I would walk into the ocean and have the salt of Poseidon carry me away.

But, I'd like to talk about Chad Johnson.

Chad Johnson is a luxury realtor from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Which means...something, I guess. If you're ever looking for a luxury apartment in the second largest city in Oklahoma, Chad is your guy.

Chad is also systematically destroying every single other man on The Bachelorette by being overtly aggressive, occasionally moody, and "brutally" honest. Chad is a jerk, frankly. He's a guy that gets mad when you bump into him in a bar on accident. Chad is the guy that asks your girlfriend why she would ever go out with a guy like you while you're standing at the bar next to her. If Chad were a frozen snack, he'd be a hot pocket. All the exterior traits of an appetizing meal but once you bite in you're supremely disappointed.

Other people have already written at length about Chad, that's because the producers cut up enough footage to make the episode 80% about this porcupine of a person. But I want to talk about how I, as a Bachelorette rookie, judge Chad. Chad lives in a gray area of judgement. He angers me. I've met the Chad before in real life and I never like Chad. But also, the ease at which he's living inside over a dozen men's heads is truly magical. Alex, the short marine who loves to lift weights and do push ups, is personally victimized by everything Chad does. The show spends over a minute on the guys getting mad at Chad for eating food.

Like you're not going to eat free food.

This also sets up Chad as always eating during moments of conflict, which ultimately puts him in a huge position of power. If you are so unaffected by these guys basically threatening you that you can still consume large slices of ham and chunks of mozzarella, you are the alpha.

I love Chad, but I hate Chad. I respect Chad, but I want to see him elbowed in the neck. Chad tears me in two. Here's to Chad, screw that guy.

★ ★ ★

Has Connor Been Owned? (By someone other than Thomas Wilson)

Each week, our team of investigators and officials here at Connor, Inc., will look into whether or not Connor was the victim of an "own."  For the uneducated, an own is often a comeback or put down that renders the person speechless and unable to turn the conversation around. It's also described as a "serve" or "savage." I'm a medical miracle in that at no point in my life have I been owned by anyone not named Thomas Wilson online or in real life.

Here is what is being brought forth to the Committee of Owns this week as alleged evidence of my owning:

Thomas Norwood asks "who" when he sees my name which is preposterous, he knows who I am! I'm a well regarded brand all across Rockies fandom.

This is not an own because lots of people know who I am, I have almost 1,000 followers on twitter dot com, which means something I swear, I will cash those in one day for lots of money.

The committee ruled with ease that I was not owned in this instance.

Regards,

Connor