There are lots of books available to help you cope with grieving, but none of those books cover the experience of watching your favorite team lose. This type of loss typically takes days to get over, and the degree of sorrow differs depending on your enthusiasm for the disappointing team. Some losses hurt more than others. Last second plays that end teams' seasons, championship hopes, or playoff runs tend to hurt the most.
There are five stages of grieving associated with the loss of a beloved team. First comes DENIAL. In football, this typically comes before the last second has ticked off the clock. The soon to be victorious team begins to take knees to run time off the clock, and unreasonable thoughts start to fill your mind. “It’s not over yet. If they fumble the snap, we can recover. March down the field, recover an onside kick and probably have ten seconds to score again. It can happen.” It is important to remember here that they cannot win, and the game is over. It is time to get ANGRY.
Pretty soon, the last seconds have ticked off the clock, and the teams are shaking hands and walking off the field. This is when ANGER sets in. “Are you kidding me? Why the heck are they shaking their hands and smiling? They just lost! This is unbelievable. Do they have any heart at all?” Maybe this is not the first disappointing loss of the year. At this point, ANGER begins to be directed at the coach. “How have they not fired this guy yet? As long as he is our coach, we will not win another game.”
Every true fan moves beyond this stage eventually. It may take a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or even years, but eventually we begin to BARGAIN. This is where our consciousness begins to try to convince us that things are not as bad as they seem. Here we think things like, “Well, we will just come out hard next week and win.” “If we make a trade we will be alright,” or the always disappointing “Next year will be our year.” People in the bargaining stage tend to be obsessed with offseason acquisitions and the draft. If the offseason acquisition process or draft does not go well, they will recycle through the five stages of fandom grieving.
If things for our team do not turn around after the BARGAINING stage, we enter DEPRESSION. During DEPRESSION, drinking and nihilism abound. Fans experiencing this stage are often found slouched down at a bar during the game. If you wake them up they might say something like, “This is the worst team I have ever seen”, or “I swear I will never watch these guys again.” Of course they do not really mean this. Truly supporting a team is one of the strongest addictions known to man. They will be back next week, or next season.
After all of these steps comes RESIGNATION. This is when we accept our fate. For Cubs fans like myself, it is the acceptance of the knowledge that our team will never win a World Series in my lifetime. At this point in our fandom, we begin to look forward to other things, and say things like, “Basketball season is right around the corner,” and “I heard Major League Indoor Lacrosse is exciting. Go Shamrocks.”
I hope this article helps fans recognize the things going through their head. Please remember at the end of the day it is just a game, unless you have money on it. Then you are probably screwed. You will lose your wife and kids, your home, and get your fingers broken. Unless, of course, you make some really good bets the next few weeks. But that is probably just the BARGAINING stage occurring.
I am writing this to help fans of the two most prominent sports teams in America. The Cowboys' season ended Sunday, and the Yankees' will likely be ending to an exciting Texas Rangers team. Then again, it may be the Rangers fans that are soon grieving. This is why we root so hard for our teams. At the end of the day, there is a chance our team will not disappoint us, and we will experience none of the grieving stages. Wait, nevermind. I am just BARGAINING again.