Getting used to losing

So, just as in 2002, both England and the USA are out within 24 hours of each other. In fact, it’s been a tough few weeks for me, starting with Boston’s dramatic loss in Game 7 of the NBA Finals — which was actually even more gut-wrenching.

It’s undoubtably been said many times before: being a sports fan is fundamentally about disappointment, about getting used to losing. In every sport, every competition, every tournament, there is one winner, and the fans of every other team go home losers. Virtually every time you invest yourself emotionally in a team — and this holds for even the best teams — you will find your team losing. In fact, due to the nature of tournament play, the loss is often your last memory.

It’s brutal.

Of course, it’s those rare wins that make everything worthwhile, right? (… right?) And in that sense, I’ve been amazingly lucky in the last decade or so. Several of my favorite teams have won a handful of championships: UConn (’99, ’04), the Sox (’04, ’07), and the Celtics (’08). Even teams that I only tangentially root for have had remarkable success: UConn women (’00, ’02-’04, ’09, ’10) and the Patriots (’01, ’03, ’04). It’s been great. And still it burns, every other time.

Here’s a question. It’s tough to be a sports fan, given how often you’re disappointed, and it’s amazing that there are so many fans. No doubt some of the appeal is in etched in our DNA, that human optimism in the face of harsh odds that’s gotten us so far in everything else we do. (And makes us like slot machines…)

But not everyone likes sports. Are sports fans a self-selected group that has a stronger strain of this irrational optimism? Or is losing something you’re conditioned for as a fan, time after wrenching time? And if the latter, is this comfort with losing an ability that translates to other aspects of life? I’m not even sure it would be a good thing, but I’d be curious to know.

Anyway, here’s one good reason to watch sports: Donovan’s 91st minute GOOOOOL. Check out the commentator first before watching the video.

(^^^ listen to this)

(Oh, by the way, if you’re frustrated by the reffing, I can only point you to this post of mine from 2006. I have some new thoughts on the matter — mostly about how hard it would actually be to implement video replay for live-ball situations — but I think it’s still fundamentally right.)

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One Response to Getting used to losing

  1. I like that “The World” seems to consist of the continental US and Lyon, France.