I’ve learned the secret of being happy whenever one of my favorite sports teams loses early in the playoffs or fails to make the playoffs altogether.
For example, when our Nashville Predators lost the pivotal Game 7 last week on our home ice, routed by the Winnipeg Jets, I was secretly relieved. Being a psychologist, I have a toolbox full of defense mechanisms at my disposal to use when I experience direct personal failure or vicarious failure via the defeat of a team on which I’ve pinned all my hopes for meaning.
A winning team provides me with “status by affiliation” by wearing flashy team apparel or by telling complete strangers in an airport things like, “I’m flying back to Nashville, but I went to grad school back in ’85 at Florida State University which won the national championship in 2013.”
The personal risks of fandom
But following a team is an emotional investment of time, energy, and money. It’s like dating in a way.
And the more your team wins the more serious the relationship gets; and you hope to soon consummate the marriage with a championship. But when your team loses in later rounds of the playoffs it feels like a broken engagement. If your team loses in the finals it feels like you were left stranded at the altar with a wedding band and reservations for a room with a heart-shaped tub in the Poconos.
The advantage of being a Cleveland Browns fan
In this respect no one has it easier than Cleveland Browns fans. Their team has won a grand total of one game over the last two seasons. Browns fans never have to experience the deflating disappointment of almost making the playoffs.
They never lose sleep, thinking, “If only the refs had not missed that call, our receivers had not dropped those balls, our quarterback had not thrown those interceptions, our kicker had not missed every field goal, and our defense had fewer holes than Swiss cheese then we would be in the Super Bowl next Sunday.”
When the Preds lost in the Stanley Cup finals last year we consoled ourselves with reminders that we were the over-achieving 8th seed, exceeding all expectations just to make it into the playoffs. I told myself that Sidney Crosby and the Penguins (sounds like a terrible music group) needed the Cup more than we did because they have to suffer all year living in Pittsburgh. We’re Nashville. Just living here is the cake and the frosting. Winning championships is just an incidental cherry on top.
Returning to my life
And now that the Preds are out of the running for a second-straight shot at Lord Stanley’s giant sippy cup, I can get on with my fulfilling life and re-engage with some of the meaningful activities that were getting neglected in recent weeks such as …
- Showing up for work
- Feeding my family
- Paying the mortgage
- Notifying the police about a stolen mini-van
- Attending to personal hygiene
- Returning some lawyer’s call about a lawsuit
- Taking out last month’s trash
- Reading the works of 18th Century poet, Vittorio Alfieri, in the original Italian
- Working on my 2015 taxes
I won’t be watching much more of the Stanley Cup playoffs because according to a critical and threatening letter from the home owners association I need to catch up on some lawn work. But of the four remaining teams I’m cheering for the Jets to win it all. Why? Because if only Canadians have any clue where to find Winnipeg on a map then your team and city needs something to feel good about.