Sunday, December 19, 2010

How To Deal With Loss (of your team)

It's not like this hasn't happened before.

It's not like most sports fans don't know this feeling.

It's as if my neck was broken, I was shot in the stomach, and kicked in the balls all at once.

I have no idea what my physiology is going through right now, but nothing in my body feels right at this moment. Everything is clenching, straining, gurgling, and cramping.

But This isn't the first time I went through this, but for some reason this seems like the worst time.

Worse than 1994, when the Knicks lost to the Rockets in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Worse than the Giants loss to the 49ers in the playoffs in 2002 (which was incredibly horrible by the way.) I think this feels like that did, but somehow worse. That's bad considering this was a season game and that was a Post-season game.

Worse than 2005 when, at the first and only Playoff game I've ever attended, the Giants were embarrassed by Steve Smith and beaten 23-0 in the first round of the playoffs. That was soul-crushing.

Worse than my previous worst loss ever, the 2008 playoff loss to the Eagles. This was the year the Giants went 13-3 and seemed a lock to at least get to the playoffs. This also started the trend where, no matter how good they are, the Giants just could not beat the Eagles.

And now this. Today. December 19th, 2010, the absolute worst New York Giants loss of my lifetime. Mind you, the Giants lost a Super Bowl in 2000. That was nowhere near as bad as this was. I was a little indifferent about that year, I'm not sure why. This was just a regular season game. Yes there was a lot on the line, but it isn't as if the Giants are eliminated from the playoffs, or from playoff contention.

It's bad, and I'm sure most sports fans can attest to this, because it was a loss to Philadelphia, a place I absolutely cannot stand. Everyone has a city that they loathe; I happen to have two, Boston and Philadelphia. The Giants last Super Bowl win, spoiling the Patriots undefeated season, gives me a lot of closure with my dislike of Boston, because I know that grinds their gears. But Philly, the Giants have not beaten them in 6 games. Everyone has a city they hate, and a team they hate, and mine is the Philadelphia Eagles. When it comes to hating a team, it is usually more than just a matter of scores and stats. If you truly hate a team it is because of something personal. People who actively hate a team and city have had personal; experience with that team or city. I truly believe Brady hates the Jets, not because they're a division rival, but because he loathes New York City. People from Cleveland loathe the Steelers because they hate Pittsburgh.

There's no sense, no rhyme or reason to sports hatred. It is by definition irrational because lives do not actually depend on the outcome of the game, but many of us react as if they do. What I hate the most are people who dismiss the feelings of sports fans. “Oh it's just a game, you don't play for the team, why are you so upset?” I feel like telling people who say such things to eat a dick, but I don't because I know they just don't understand. A connection to a football team, or any team really, is visceral, emotional, primal. It's like a affective umbilical cord between one entity and a greater cause, a greater goal. It's the essence of “us vs them”, and the basis of telling oneself that the people like you where you are from are better than those people and the place where they come from. It's sociology, anthropology, psychology and familial love all rolled into one. So when something like this happens, when your “family” lets you down in such a shocking and disturbing way, the damage can be catastrophic.

Yes we go one with our lives; we go to work, to school, to church. We don't die with the hopes of our team, yet a small part of us does die. It dies because we detach some of our heart and give it to our team. And for that little bit of ourselves we expect a return on our emotional, and oftentimes financial investment. And when we are deprived of that satisfaction what to the outsider seems inconsequential, we rage, rage against the dying of the play clock.

Two hours ago I thought that I may have to give up following sports, specifically football. I am too invested I think, and my reaction to this loss was kind of scary. But right now I have realized something, this is a defining moment in a sports fans life. I firmly believe that you are not a grown up until you have your heart ripped out and stomped on by a member of the opposite (or same) sex. I think the same is true for sports fans. There are a lot of Yankees fans who didn't grow up until the Red Sox ripped their hearts out in the 2004 ALCS. I think this may have been my wake up call that Ii need to back up a little, lest I end up like those bitter insane Red Sox fans before they won the World Series. I need a catharsis yes, but I know that there are a lot of True Blue fans out there who are excoriating the Eagles and cursing the Giants with me, and for some reason that helps. I think the game that has threatened to make me quit the family maybe the game that cements my ties to the football community for the rest of my life. And that's how you deal with loss, curse scream, yell, but commiserate with the rest of your family. And just remember, eventually you will beat the Fucking Eagles.

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