Monday, January 14, 2008

A Sports Fan's Tale

What is it about a stupid sports game that can reduce me to my 10 year old self in no time flat? It's such a ridiculous thing to invest the full spectrum emotions in a game, but I do it every time. Such was the case yesterday when my Dallas Cowboys came up short against the New York Giants. It wasn't supposed to happen. All four Fox NFL Sunday hosts predicted it wouldn't. Yet, when Tony Romo threw that last desperate pass into the end zone and had it intercepted... it did. And with that interception an entire season predicated on redemption (Romo's fumbled field goal snap cost the team a playoff game last year) was over. Just like that. Gone. The 13 wins versus only 3 losses were rendered meaningless. I was rendered joyless. And for the next hour or so the "sigh" became my only outlet.

Yes, it's monumentally cliche to draw broad and simplistic comparisons to life here, and I'm certainly no Frank DeFord, but that won't stop me from trying.

Investing in a pro sports team's season is replete with all the ups and downs of life itself. You see the possibilities, the hope, the promise of something big, and you get wrapped up in it. Each game is a new and exciting chapter as the season builds and transforms from a few initial contests into a fully formed narrative with individual stories that combine to form a more compelling group story. Teams take on personalities via these building narratives, and you in turn get drawn into the tale, placing your hopes and fears in their capable hands.

This year, for the Cowboys, the tale was all about a young savior named Tony Romo who bounced back from last year's devastating finale to resurrect America's Team. He was canonized as the second coming of Brett Favre by many, and he seemed to be living up to the hype. Each week he stepped on the field and dazzled fans and commentators alike with his high energy play and laser guided throws. He was the perfect son, and the city of Dallas embraced him as such. He could do no wrong! Then came the obligatory plot twist, this time in the form of a blonde bombshell pop singer. Her name was Jessica Simpson. Her father, a sort of modern day Colonel Tom Parker, having conscripted both his comely (but woefully inept) daughters into ill fated pop singing careers, now had his sights on another scheme: engineer a union of his rapidly fading starlet daughter with the rapidly rising star quarterback of the hometown team to stem the impending tide of finality that was encroaching upon said daughter's time in Hollywood. It would be the perfect vehicle to keep her bimbonic self in the limelight and to at least delay the inevitable descent into the permanent "where are they now?" file. She soon became Kim Bassinger in The Natural tempting Roy Hobbs with her feminine wiles and distracting him from the game. It was a necessary detour. After all, every good story needs "complications" in order to -as they say in Hollywood- "raise the stakes." And at least temporarily, it served to do just that. Suddenly the plot thickened, and the movie got more interesting as our heros were in jeopardy of losing everything over a girl. Helen of Troy she was, or at least Jessica of Tony, donning her pink number 9 jersey from high above the modern day Coliseum, pretending to be a wallflower as TV cameras zoomed in from all angles. But she was no wallflower. She was poison! Arsenic! Black death to all who would dare to spend a weekend in Mexico with her! Whatever she was, the media grabbed onto the delectable morsel of boy meets girl, girl hexes boy, boy blows season and savoured every salacious bite. Alas, however, as with all good stories this was a red herring.

The real achilles heel was the team itself. They were the sole architects of their own demise. Mental errors. Missed opportunities. The onset of lethargy. All of these were the true culprits in the unraveling of a tale woven with hope, possibility, and the promise of something big. But it was not meant to be.

And so, disappointment takes the place of expectancy. Grief supplants exultation. Fiction crumbles into heartbreaking reality. Yes, the pain fades. Slowly. But it never vanishes. It merely slogs off into its appropriate corner of the mind's file folder where it will be accessed on occasion for the next year until it all begins anew. The hope. The possibility. The promise of a story that even the best in Hollywood couldn't possibly script.


Anonymous said...

I am really sorry the Cowboys lost, but I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you. Goodnight.

Mark said...

A football season as a narrative... Genius, dude. I really dug this post. But as a fan of an NFL team that's never won a Superbowl, I wonder if you can truly feel the depths of my pain. That said, fantastic post.