It’s the fourth down. 10 yards to go to get a first down, and approximately 50 to get into field goal range. 1:49 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, down two points. It’s do or die time for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan hikes the ball and drops back, and he moves around he sees an open Julio Jones downfield and launches the ball downfield. Julio tries to catch it, but he is seemingly pulled down by notorious Seattle cornerback, Richard Sherman, not allowing him to catch the ball. It appears to be pass interference, and after a quick replay, everyone on God’s given Earth can see Sherman yanking down Jones’ arm, a clear pass interference call which would give the Falcons a first down in field goal range. Alas, the referees don’t call it, and Seattle receives possession of the ball. They run the clock out and win the game. Completely stunned, I turn off my TV and sit in anguish on the leather couch in my room. So many emotions run through me. Anger, disbelief, sorrow, depression, and finally, defeat. I sulk over to my bed and lay there motionless for about 20 minutes until I find the will to get up and move on with life.
Now I’m sure you’re of two minds right now:
1) What the hell is wrong with you, it’s just a football game.
2) I just did that same thing last Sunday.
Sports in general are catalysts of emotion. Whether you’re playing in them or watching them. Being someone who was never really proficient in sports (I spent my early years on the stage), I’ve spent a great deal watching them instead. Specifically soccer and football. While this article focuses on the emotions of watching sports, specifically football, I’ll definitely go ahead and say that soccer is the superior sport, and to say that the World Cup isn’t the greatest sporting event on the planet is just ignorant (I’m looking at you America). But nonetheless, the glory and pain of watching your team win or lose is all the same regardless of the sport you’re watching.
So if you filed yourself under option #1 above, you might be asking yourself why I and many others let sports irrationally pull so many emotions out of us. Why we cry when someone misses the game winning field goal, why we chuck drinks across the room after a last second goal, and of course, the infamous tearing off and throwing of the jersey after the final play. But also, why we scream and run in circles when a 75 yard hail mary touchdown gets scored, or find the closest human being and hug them so hard we lift them in the air during an epic play. Or why my father, just three weeks after total knee replacement surgery, leaves his oh-so-necessary crutches aside as he half-dances and leaps around the living room as everyone else immediately cringes and gets ready to call an ambulance.
In truth, maybe there’s no real rational reason for it. But we’re not all crazy, I promise (well, I can’t speak for everyone). Most of us are bound to a sports team at a very young age, whether it’s your hometown team, for instance here in Cincinnati my family are die hard Bengals fans, or a team you’ve grown to like for other reasons, like myself being Falcons fan since I can remember (I really liked Michael Vick when I was young, boy did that blow up in my face). I think the origins of fandom aren’t as important as it is to stick to them. If you live in Montana and want to be a Patriots fan, go right on ahead, everyone will hate you and despise you, but go ahead. But when Tom Brady gets old and the Patriots fall apart, don’t you dare start rooting for someone else. When you find your team, you stay with them until the day you die. No ifs, ans, or buts about it.
That’s one of the many reasons why we feel so connected to our sports teams. They’ve been there since the beginning, and they’ll be there until the end (unless you’re a Browns fan, no guarantee’s there), and as Americans, we LOVE sticking our boots in the mud and not budging when it comes to something we believe in. No matter how many disappointing seasons my poor father has suffered through watching the Bengals, (losing two super bowls and losing all seven playoff appearances since 1990), he will still sit in front of a TV every Sunday with some black and orange on, because at this point, he’s spent 50 years rooting for the Bengals, and he’s not going to stop any time soon. They are a part of his life, they tie him to his hometown of Cincinnati, they tie him to all of his friends and family through the years whom he’s cheered along side, and they tie him to a way of escaping the doldrums of everyday life. For 17 weeks (or more if you’re lucky), he gets to sit down every Sunday with a beer, food, and family, and watch his Cincinnati Bengals fight it out on the field. It’s a part of him, and everyone else who sits down every Sunday to watch the team they’ve spent years, or even decades, supporting.
So naturally, when you love something so much, or support something so fiercely, you want them to succeed, to win. With only 16 games to play, each one matters so much and games often come down to the final few minutes and plays. One badly thrown ball or one big tackle can change the course of the entire game. The stakes are high, and so are the emotions. So understandably, when our expectations are shattered, or our hopes are dashed away, we can’t help but feel extremely upset. It’s no different than your favorite character dying in the season finale of a TV show. Except in football, every week is the season finale, and anything could happen to anyone. It can ruin our entire day or even our whole week until our team plays again. But when your team loses, is it appropriate to break your remote in half, punch a whole in the wall, and drink your sorrows away while watching your $150 jersey burn in a fire pit? Probably not. But hey, everyone vents differently. But when your team wins, the euphoria you feel is unreal. Especially when it’s a high stakes game with so much on the line against a team you’re expected to lose to. Not only are we happy for our team, but we feel on top of the world, and it makes our Monday’s a little less crappy.
So next Sunday, when you’re watching football, and you have intense feelings of dread or glory, know that you’re not alone. There’s millions of others out there right by you. And if you’re sitting there looking at someone like they’re crazy because they’re yelling and throwing out curse words left and right, and occasionally getting up to pace around the room, get over it, it’s perfectly normal. Just admit that you wish you cared about something as much as that person cares about their sports team. And one day, when your team wins it all, all the pain will have been worth it.