Something has been on my mind for a good week. Over a week now actually. How we deal with heartbreak as a sports fan. We’ve all gone through it at one point or another. Our favorite team falling in a difficult loss that seems to just rip your heart of your chest and is thrown in the trash can. I can name a handful of times I’ve felt that way. Where that knife goes into your gut and you just don’t know how to respond.
I began thinking about it on my way home from the State Title game last weekend. Seeing the faces of our Storm Lake boys, dealing with that heartbreak, it got me thinking on how we as fans of sports get past it.
It’s a difficult issue. Some of us are never able to get over a game. I know life long fans of teams who have suffered a difficult, soul crushing loss who get upset at the mere mention of it. There was a joke on the popular sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” about the 1998 NFC Championship game where the Minnesota Vikings wilted down the stretch. Every time the game was mentioned, an expletive was said and a fist pounded on the table.
That’s one of the ways we deal with heartbreak as a sports fan. We never let it go. When that game is mentioned, we get mad, we get angry over it. We cuss out an official or a player on the other team who may have gotten away with a little more than they should. I’ve blamed losses on bad officiating before in a heartbreaking situation.
I recall an NCAA tournament game about six years ago between Iowa State and Ohio State with a bad blocking foul called on the Cyclones down the stretch being the catalyst for the loss. Never mind the fact an Ohio State player made a flat out amazing shot to win the game, but at the time, I was blaming the refs because a Big 10 team just has to win in the tournament.
Maybe my earliest memory of seeing heartbreak for a team or it’s fans was in World Series in the mid 90s. I remember being a little jerk and laughing at the Cleveland players for crying after game six. My dad was quick to point out that they gave it everything to get that far, only to see it slip away when they were so close.
I think it may have been the same year where I look back at the NBA Finals when my team, the Orlando Magic, had a chance to salt away game one of the series, just needing a pair of free throws from Nick Anderson. He missed them both and Orlando lost the game and ultimately got swept. That was the first time I really felt sick to my stomach over a team.
Of course it didn’t help my dad would ask if I wanted to see his Shaq impression. Regardless of what I’d say, he’d start choking and get me all upset over it.
Over time the pain of that series really hasn’t left. Old wounds were re-opened when ESPN did that 30 For 30 over that era of the Magic. I found myself getting upset all over again at those missed free throws.
The easier option when it comes to heartbreak as a sports fan is to simply let it go. We watch sports for fun, for pleasure and a way to get lost in something for a period of time. I know it’s easier said than done to accept a tough loss, but the sooner we do, the sooner we feel better about it. Knowing that your team was there in a position to get that win helps. Knowing they played most of the game right, and just let those one or two moments slip past them, eases the pain.
Our heartbreak as fans is nothing compared to what the athletes go through, what the coaches go through and what the entire athletic staff goes through. For us, we can move on from a tough loss with another game in the future. For some athletes that’s their last time playing the game. So many fantastic players and athletes go their entire career without even getting a chance to play for a championship of some sort.
Be happy that a team made it so far. Be happy your team was in a position to win. Be happy that they were giving it their all for themselves, their team and for you. After all, we’re just the spectators and writers.