“Sports are stupid.”
Michigan’s loss that day to Michigan State was already enough, but as I sat in that bar watching the Mets score another run against my beloved Cubs in the first game of the National League Championship Series, “sports are stupid” was the only logical conclusion and the only set of words I could conjure. In retrospect, trying to get over that crazy loss by watching the most pitiful professional sports team in the past century was probably a poor decision.
I was with a Spartan friend of mine from childhood who was visiting and is also a Cubs fan, so we figured going out to watch the Cubs would hopefully be a more enjoyable end to the day for both of us.
“Remember a couple years ago where you came to East Lansing for the game with me and just walked out after Gardner threw a pick at the end?” he asked me.
Of course I remembered. I had snuck into MSU’s student section with him, and in the wind and freezing rain, watched as the Spartans absolutely demolished the Wolverines. At some point in the fourth quarter, with Michigan’s computer-calculated chance of winning the game probably somewhere in the negatives, the interception happened, and I just got up and left. I had no idea where I was going.
“I thought I’d never see you more dejected at a sports game then you were then. Guess I was wrong.”
Yeah, guess you were wrong, I told him. I’d rather watch that game in East Lansing a thousand times than what we had just witnessed.
At this point, Matt Harvey was dominating the Cubs and sports were only getting more stupid.
“At least I’ve got the Lions to look forward to tomorrow,” I said. It’s a joke. It’s the Lions — of course it’s a joke.
My dad texted me that night, “I was at the Kordell game when we lost,” he said, referring to when quarterback Kordell Stewart threw a 64-yard Hail Mary as time expired to lift Colorado to a win in the Big House. “This game was way worse.”
It’s a common thing, sports heartbreak. I guess when you’re a fan of the Lions and your dad raises you to be a Cubs fan like he was growing up, you’ve kind of signed up for the anguish. When my dad was at the University in 1984, the Cubs, who had a phenomenal team that year, choked against the Padres in the National League Championship Series. So to poke fun at his sports grief, his friends in Mary Markley Hall decided to take all of his Cubs gear and dress up as a ghost. “The Ghost of the Cubs,” they called it. Sports were stupid then, too.
No matter how many times it happens, no matter how many different times and different ways the team loses, you still come back for some reason.
The year after that time I walked out of Spartan Stadium I showed up there again. One hundred thousand-plus will still show up in a couple weeks at the Big House. It’s not Stockholm Syndrome or that we haven’t learned the pitfalls of being emotionally invested in a game. It’s not just the inevitable hope of winning that may or may not come that draws fans back. People show up to sports games not just to feel the happiness or sadness but instead just to feel anything at all.
There was a commercial a few years back, in which the Cubs win the World Series and fans celebrate in the streets. It’s the dream of every Cubs fan. And then slowly the camera zooms out from the TV screen, and a guy holding his PlayStation 3 controller, a tear rolling down his cheek as he witnesses the video game World Series champions. Sports aren’t real; from the perspective of a fan, they’re nothing more than entertainment. Yet in every form, real or not, there’s something enthralling that has made sports the integral part of society it is.
There’s something hauntingly beautiful about that football game on Saturday. In the same place, there were one hundred thousand fans standing in stunned silence, and thousands more erupting in cheers. There were tears of all kinds, smiles, hugs and dejected exits. It’s not the image of the game that will stick with me forever, but the image of the reactions of 110,000 fans each feeling something.
Something in response to nothing more than a stupid game of sports.
David Harris can be reached at email@example.com.