Sports and Real Life: A Fan's Plea for Some Perspective

Ben HornerCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2008

My father is, oddly enough, not a fan of any sports that don't occur under the direction of the IOC.  He doesn't get the passion, the ups and downs, etc. that come with following a team. 

My least favorite time spent with my father was while the Yankees were on their way to going down 2-1 to Detroit in the 2006 ALDS.  As I am sullenly listening and hoping against all hope that a miracle was brewing, he stops what he is doing and utters those four words that sports fans hate: "It's just a game."

He didn't understand.

I turned and said "It's not just a game! It's a passion as deep as any other, and nothing will change that.  When your team loses, you feel like part of you is losing too!"

He just chuckled and said I was too young to understand, that there was bigger things than sports.  I angrily turned of the TV and stalked away with those words—and my denials of what he just said—ringing in my ears. 

But he was right—I didn't understand.

The next day I got a phone call around the time that the Yankees gave up four runs in the first three innings.  Strangely enough, after answering that call I couldn't have cared less about what was going on in Detroit.

You see, that phone call was my brother telling me my childhood best friend was found dead in his sleep at the age of 16.  There are still no clear answers as to what the cause of his death was, but it was most likely due to an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers, given for an ankle injury sustained in our high school varsity football game the day before.

Suddenly, I had no desire to see the remainder of the playoffs, with or without my beloved Yanks.  Everything seemed very trivial, and I suddenly understood what my father had told me the night before. 

There were things much bigger than sports, and I didn't understand what they were, and I still don't. 

When I look at the picture at top, it reminds me of myself before my friend died—before I was slapped in the face by reality.  I felt like my life was meaningless after my team lost, and if they won, there was never going to be any better feeling. 

I haven't followed my teams anyless closely since my friend died.  I still hate to see them lose.  It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes.  But I have a better perspective now. 

My father was right, to an extent, it is, sometimes, just a game.  That shouldn't stop anybody from cheering their team on.  It has never stopped me because, even though it is just a game, it is a game, and a team, that I love.

But the next time your team loses a gut-wrencher to a rival or chokes away a playoff win, and you think the world is over and life isn't worth living, remember this.  You can still stand up and cheer for your team. That fact alone makes you damn lucky.