Que Sarah, Sarah

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Love and Football

Originally published on TheSportsBank.net.

For Love of the Game

Sometimes the love of a team can feel just like real love. Overwhelming euphoria prevails during the best of times and crushing sadness seems inescapable during the worst. But no matter how great the pain of a loss may be, sports fans and lovers must allow themselves to try to love again. Sometimes the washing away of painful memories happens in days, sometimes months, and sometimes, in the worst of cases, it can take years. There's a great Erica Jong quote that reads:

"It would pass in time. It always did, unfortunately. The bruise on
the heart which at first feels incredibly tender to the slightest touch
eventually turns all the shades of the rainbow and stops aching. We
forget about it. We even forget we have hearts until the next time. And
then when it happens again we wonder how we ever could have forgotten."

When the Bears lost the Super Bowl last year I could have been "that fan." You know the one. The one the camera guy finds and zooms in on. The most broken, distraught fan in the joint; head in hands, eyes watering. The one that casual fans at home—the kind who attend Super Bowl parties for the bean dip and watch the game for the commercials—see on the screen and laugh at, exclaiming: "She's CRYING???!!" While most of the Colts fans in Dolphins Stadium were high-tailing it out of the rain mere seconds after the game clock wound down to zeroes, I sat and watched Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts accept their trophy. I was cold, I was wet, and I was miserable, but it didn't feel right to leave, because once I did, it was all truly over. Sometimes even when you know there's nothing left of it, you just can't bear to let go of something you love. It took me 6 months to watch the DVD of the Super Bowl that I had my co-worker make for me. In August, with a new season approaching, I finally watched the game and found a way to say goodbye to that love and that loss so I could start over.

During the moments just following Sunday's stunning collapse to the Giants, I felt, for the first time this season, murmurs of last year's heartache. Of course, this has never been last year's team or last year's love. And yet, while this season on a whole has been a disappointment, through it all, despite it all, there has always been a glimmer of hope to hold onto. Now, with the Bears playoff chances all but gone, that gnawing feeling of loss, of something ending, returns. I suppose I could have seen it coming, could have felt it like those moments during the death of a relationship when you can feel each other slipping away and the distance between you becomes almost palpable. Love never really ends easily though, whether you see the end coming or not.

The problem with football is, you can't win a game if you don't play 60 minutes. The Bears defense, which played a superb three quarters, broke down in the final stanza, giving up a late touchdown that put the Giants ahead. The defense wasn't all to blame, of course. The Giants' last score would have been inconsequential had the Bears capitalized on earlier opportunities, the most notable being a perfectly thrown deep ball dropped by Devin Hester. Grossman's solid numbers would have been outstanding had all his good passes, just like that one, been caught. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. All season, courageous performances and spectacular plays have been offset by mental errors and missed opportunities. The Bears' inability to put together a complete game finally caught up to them in the form of too many losses, plain and simple.

True Bears fans aren't going to love the team any less for its shortcomings this season. As with any love, time will make the pain of disappointment grow duller and the promise of a new love seem possible. Talk of expectations for next season will begin and fans will find a way to start over and let themselves be hopeful again. Who knows? Maybe there are even a few miracles left in this season. Lovie told the press after the game, "We'll continue to play until they tell us we're out of it." And if the Bears are out of it, the rest of the season will be about pride, self-respect and another love, one both fans and players share: love of the game. 'Cause no matter how much it hurts when the team you love loses, or the love you felt fades away, worse still than that hurt is never to have loved at all. To quote Jong again:

"Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so
cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for,
risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you
risk even more."

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