January 24, 2016

LEE | The Intersection of Life and Sports

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of loss lately and what it means to lose something or someone. Near the end of last semester, a kid from my graduating class in high school passed away in a car accident and the news hit me a lot harder than I thought it was going to. I didn’t know him that well and our interactions during school generally ranged from a friendly head nod to a cursory conversation about whatever game was on the night before. Knowing that at any point I could forever be 20 years old in the minds of others and that this guy from my grade was now nothing more than a memory made me sink into a pit of sorrow.

And there’s the prospect of loss in life; as the days that separate me from my cap and gown slip away, so slips away my sense that I’m free to make careless, even reckless, mistakes as the sense of every single one of my actions having ramifications continues to loom large over my shoulder. And as I get older, the idea of losing family members grows by the day, namely my grandparents who live halfway across the world.

That gnawing feeling I felt in my gut is something I’ve really only felt in sports. I remember in 2007 when, for days, I couldn’t turn on the television, read the newspaper or turn on the radio. The pain of loss was way too strong. In the aftermath of Super Bowl XLII, I experienced involuntary flashbacks of the image of David Tyree catching a football against his helmet as the hopes of the Patriots’ undefeated season slipped away.

In the grand scheme of things, sports is really just a creation by people as a money-making entity, a system that is used to generate revenue ,like much of America. But unlike a lot of things in the US, people develop (irrational?) attachments to their teams for a wide range of reasons. My emotional well-being during the winter months is very directly tied to the performance of the Patriots. The contrast between my state of happiness directly parallels the scene in (500) Days of Summer that contrasts Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Tom, the morning after he gets laid and the morning after he spends a night sulking around following his rough breakup with Zooey Deschanel’s character, Summer.

The relationship of many sports fans mirrors an actual relationship frequently; there are times we want to throw everything at the TV and walk away, but then you remember the good times (unless you’re a Cleveland sports fans) and you come crawling back. We spend so much time with these teams on our televisions, on the Internet, in our newspapers. Sometimes you can’t help but feel as if a team is like a part of your family. And I think there’s a very big portion of diehard sports fans who would prefer a championship over getting laid.

I remember the thing that got me past the Patriots’ Super Bowl was falling head first in the Celtics’ playoff run that year, and watching Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen raise Banner 17 in the TD Garden (yes, I know I’m a spoiled Boston sports fan) and the idea that Tom Brady, objectively one of the most handsome people on planet Earth, had several years left in his prime to bring the Patriots another Super Bowl. It’s really easy to block out the big picture after a big loss, especially in a big playoff game, but there’s something new just around the corner, to either infuriate you to the point that the sadness doesn’t matter anymore, or bring you happiness.

I generally see myself as an optimist; when something bad happens, I try to take the situation as an opportunity to build character or take a lesson to store in the memory bank to apply at a later point in time. The structure of sports inherently inspires situations of redemption. There’s always another play, another game, another season. When shit happens in life that I don’t know how to deal with, I always hope that it’s similar.