I feel for Michigan these days. The whole state. It’s hard when one of the football teams and both basketball teams play poorly.The state of Michigan isn’t alone, with Purdue, Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, Rutgers,  Nebraska, and probably others also suffering some strange defeats.  We understand this in Minnesota. I use basketball as a coping mechanism to survive winter. But Minnesota basketball (heck, Minnesota sports in general, excluding the Lynx) isn’t really a great way to boost one’s mood during a cold and dark season. So we need coping mechanisms that help us survive basketball, and by extension, winter. Here are some tips for getting through a disappointing basketball season:

Find a back up team

Finding a back up team with reasonable expectations for success means you can continue to find enjoyment watching basketball, but be spared some of the accompanying sadness when you watch your team. It’s helpful if you have a legitimate reason for supporting the team and stick to that team during the season. During the ‘08 season my back up team was Tennesse. While some of my attachment to the team was thin (they wore orange and are the volunteers), they were a good team and cheering for them through their 2 conference losses helped me enjoy the ups and downs of a basketball season without dwelling much on the Gopher’s 8-10 Big Ten season. Now I’m rooting for Duke. I know some people despise the Blue Devils, but I have a good friend who got her PhD at Duke, I’ve seen a game at Cameron, and I own a Duke t-shirt. So, when February comes and the Gopher’s inevitably tank, I’ll be a Blue Devils fan. Of course, if the Gophers every play my back up team, I’m always cheering for the Gophers.

Get fired up about your team’s academics

They are student athletes, right? Check out your team’s GPA after each semester. Compare it to other schools. Did your team beat Wisconsin academically? Do you have any players getting a master’s degree? Hey, that’s pretty awesome. Joey King had a perfect 4.0 GPA for the 2014 spring semester and I’m super happy for him even when he takes bad shots or commits silly turnovers.

Find some healthy distractions during games

The emphasis here is on healthy. Alcohol, while masking your sadness temporarily, isn’t a great long term solution (liver damage etc.). I find that getting some household chores done during games is quite therapeutic. While washing dishes or folding laundry, I keep an eye on Twitter in case we’re about to pull an upset. But I can also redirect my attention towards things under my control. You might also try writing letters to friends in other states or taking your dog for a walk. The key is to be distracted enough from the reality of the game while still rooting for your team. Wear your team’s colors and DVR the game in case there’s an exciting win. But remove yourself from suffering through each tedious possession.

Accept losses, as long as your team shows effort

I’ve witnessed some brutal Gopher loses. But I only remember 1 or 2 that still really make me mad. During those games the team played without effort. I know our team will lose games each season, and I’m okay with losing. But I will not accept it when we beat ourselves with laziness and disinterest. If we lose but Joey takes a hard charge, Elliot dives on the floor for a loose ball, and De’Andre drives to the basket, then it’s okay. I can accept losses when there’s effort.

Limit your exposure

I’m a Gopher fan through and through. But I know my emotional capacity. I can only dedicate myself to basketball. While I want the Gopher football team to win, I just can’t let myself get emotionally invested in them. I want to know the final scores, but I can’t watch each game. I know my limits.

The key here, Michiganders and fans of other Big Ten teams, is to find a way to care but with limits. Remember why you enjoy basketball and find that enjoyment in other ways, liking cheering for a back up team or for upsets in general. You’re just strengthening your true fan status by supporting your team during tough losses. And if all else fails and you find your suffering to be insufferable, try listening to A Prairie Home Companion, a Minnesota tradition. The news from Lake Wobegon and the Ketchup Advisory Board (natural mellowing agents are helpful after frustrating losses)  will help you get a little perspective, and maybe even feel happy during the middle of winter.