Sports: Joy and Crushing Pain, All In One Package
Perhaps coincidentally, I started reading Will Leitch's "Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons In The New Age of Baseball" this week, a memoir focused about his relationship with baseball and his father, centered around a regular season game during 2008 between his Cardinals and the Cubs.
Like most things Leitch writes, it's funny, touching and so far quite enjoyable. It almost makes me excuse him for being a Cardinals fan (especially one who seems beleagured, tortured, etc. The team has won a LOT of World Series titles.) His rips on Cubs fans - especially a guy who shows up at the game in a Cubs shirt and Cardinals hat, and looks to his wife (a Cubs fan) for when it's acceptable to cheer for Cardinals - is pretty excellent stuff.
This morning, after probably the most insane World Series game I've ever seen, I read this:
True baseball fans do not cheer for their teams to win: They cheer for them not to lose. Victory does not come with joy; it comes with relief. Losing causes only pain. When I sat in Busch for Game 5 of the 2006 World Series, I was not counting down outs. I was not preparing to celebrate a title. I was terrified that this was all going to veer wrong, that, once again, all the time and effort and emotion I had put into this team, this lovely precious elusive team, would be for naught. I would watch them blow out. And, like all fans, I feared deep down that it would be my fault....It's irrational. But nothing about being a baseball fan is rational. The goal is not to watch your team dominate. The goal is to escape without being embarrassed. Baseball is not a sport for dominators. Baseball is a sport for survivors.
Now, I'm not sure I agree with all that but it feels quite relevant. On the levels of stomach punch, kick in the mouth games, this has to be #1 with a bullet. Texas Rangers fans were ONE STRIKE AWAY, two separate times in the game AND LOST. I know how painful Game 6 of 2002 was, to the point I remember almost nothing in Game 7; I knew we'd already lost. (Also, I was very hungover.) If the Rangers can actually rally tonight, that will be possibly the only way to top what happened last night from an outsiders perspective.
Sports rule. Just keep looking at that animated GIF at the top of this post. Those are wealthy, grown men who have no control over what they're doing, awash in pure joy. That's what it's all about - hopefully the Rangers can experience the same tonight.