I watched the last five innings of my Royals’ unlikely run through the playoffs while at a church session meeting. We debated the merits of an urban garden project while Madison Bumgarner laid waste to my teams’ hopes and dreams. When it ended, I quietly closed my laptop and turned my attention (my full attention now) to the agenda.
The heartbreak of losing is for the sports fan more wrenching than the thrill of winning. Many of us are trapped in unhealthy relationships with our sports teams and leagues, because our loyalty to them produces far more negative emotions in us than positive ones. Every team but one finishes their season a loser. Even the Royals, who seemed destined to win it all. In the end: the loser. I’m crushed. Me–who leapt up and down in my neighbors’ living room as they won the Wild Card; who cheered them on to playoff wins in Anaheim AND Kansas City with some of my favorite people in the world; who enjoyed countless texts from far-flung friends and acquaintances expressing support for my team–crushed.
Rooting for something is good for the soul, and so being a baseball fan is a holy exercise in thinking and hoping and celebrating and, finally, grieving. Losing is good for the soul. The sports media industry is ripping all of us off with its slow motion montages and canned narratives about the “will to win” (brought to you by Chevy), no doubt. But it is channeling a drama that we need to be fully human. It’s a proxy for the fundamental drama of humanity, with its failing and adjusting, redeeming and overcoming. And as a proxy you could do a lot worse.
It’s over. I’m sad. I’m restless. I want some reprieve. Tonight will be a long night, and it will be good for me.