I am a passionate sports fan. I can’t necessarily explain why. I can’t say why a Laker victory catapults my mood to temporary euphoria and I can’t describe to you why a Laker loss makes me grumpy and irritable. I know it’s just a game. I know it’s silly. I’ve tried explaining it to my girlfriend but can’t articulate it. Bless her for putting up with me during the 2008 NBA Finals embarrassment.
Sports are an emotional enterprise. The word “fan” is short for “fanatic” which can explain some of the heightened tensions and emotions that can exist during a game. Last night’s NBA Western Conference Finals Game 5 is a perfect example of the emotional rollercoaster of being a sports fan. The series was tied 2-2. If the Lakers win, they go up 3-2 with a chance to close out in Denver and even if they lose there they have the deciding Game 7 in the cozy comfort of their home court. If they lose, they face elimination in a hostile Denver crowd on Friday. As the game progressed and the Lakers looked lethargic, I begin to chew my nails down to their nubs. However, when they went on their fantastic run, effectively “flipping the switch” we’ve been waiting for them to flip, it was a great joy to watch.
What is the point of all this? Simply to explain that I get it. I understand the emotions, the triumphs, the disappointments and the let-downs. I am able to reasonably manage these emotions and keep them in check because after all, it’s just a game.
This is a concept that European soccer fans just can’t grasp. They have the emotion, but not the self-control. Recently, Manchester United lost their Championship game to Barcelona. When American teams win championships the occasional riot is bound to happen. Perhaps a car or two will be flipped over and set on fire. While this behavior is obviously abhorrent, it is incredibly tame compared to European soccer riots. In the aftermath of the Manchester Utd/Barcelona match, this happened: