click to enlarge
We will never really be able to know, in exact numbers, the effect of the Indianapolis Colts' decisive defeat in the NFL playoffs on Sunday in terms of how badly it killed the buzzes of many of the game's beer-drinking fans, both at home and at metro Indy bars.
How many more Budweisers would have been poured if the Colts' offense had been less inept? How many fewer burgers and orders of loaded nachos were ordered at pubs because people felt discouraged and, therefore, less hungry?
But the Baltimore Ravens killed whatever buzzes were being felt throughout Central Indiana when they ended the playoff aspirations of the Colts. All the people who wore blue jerseys to work on Friday were feeling a little more disheartened as they filed into their offices on Monday, knowing there would be no more football parties this Sunday, at least not celebrating the Colts.
Most sports fans accept the defeats of their favorite teams appropriately. It's too bad. The Colts played really well this year and, while it would have been nice to see them win the championship, the team will be back next season, which starts in just a few months.
Other people, however, get completely irrational when their teams lose the big game. They personalize the contest, thinking of themselves as actually part of the team. Their sentences begin with the pronoun "we," as in "We didn't play well enough to win tonight," disregarding the physical reality that they were watching the action on a TV set located hundreds of miles away from where the game was held.
Those people berate themselves for being insufficiently loyal fans or for their obsessive good-luck rituals failing them when they needed them most. They do this probably because they like to feel ownership of the game experience and have a need to feel a purpose toward helping their team.
These people need to be shaken by the shoulders and reminded of a basic fact: Unless you are a member of the Colts' game-day, active roster or coaching staff, you had no influence on the outcome of Sunday's game, or any other game the team has played since moving to Indianapolis in 1984.
When they won, you received no compensation other than the satisfaction of being a fan. The prices of the ticket, parking, concession and souvenirs at Lucas Oil Stadium were the same during the games the Colts played poorly as the ones in which they played well.
Your good luck rituals had far less to do with the way the game turned out than did the way Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis played. Your so-called lucky jersey, hat, shirt or scarf played no part in determining the score of the game Sunday, or any game in any sport ever.
Fans talk about spirit and pride as motivating factors for the love of their team. And while it's true that taking pride in the team's performance and franchise history are natural things to do as a fan, they don't actually make the team perform any better or worse than if you had no team spirit at all.
This gets drilled into our heads in high school, where pep rallies similar to political campaign events are forced upon students. The goal is the same at both events, although the presence of cheerleaders automatically makes pep rallies better. Both want you to do your part and support your team.
But if I donate money, attend a campaign rally for a politician and then actually vote for him or her, I am a participant in the political process, one might even say a player. I've not played one minute in the NBA or taken a single snap in the NFL.
But I've given money to the campaigns of Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Barack Obama. Not all of them won, but I felt a sense of ownership with all of them. I'm proud of the campaign Kerry ran in 2004 even though he lost. I'm glad he stood up for me and I'll support him as an exceptionally well-qualified Secretary of State.
However, I didn't feel like it was my fault Kerry lost. My election night party in 2004 was pretty bad but the Crown Royal I drank tasted great. The chicken wings I'd ordered were splendid. But since I wasn't part of the get-out-the-vote operation in Ohio, I didn't feel a sense of personal failure.
I did, however, feel bad that my chosen candidate lost. The pain that diehard fans of any sports team feels after a loss is real as well. Some just take it too far and I wish there was a way to give them a sense of perspective about it.
Your team played as well as it could on that day. They didn't intend to lose, but they faced a superior opponent. Your children are just as amazing and wonderful as they were before the game. You didn't do anything to make the team lose; they just lost. It will be OK, I promise.