6 Devastating Stages of Sports Fan Grief

Amber Lee@@BlamberrSports Lists Lead WriterDecember 7, 2015

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 6: A Cleveland Browns fan expresses their disappointment with the team during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 37-3. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

When it comes to identifying something as primitive and primal as grief—an emotion that is not exclusively human and has been observed widely in species throughout the animal kingdom—it’s impossible to define a process that is unique to every individual experience. 

That being said, there are, generally speaking, between five and seven stages associated with grief that have been widely identified and accepted by experts—emotional experts. And at any given moment there are sports fans all over the world knee-deep in the grieving process. 

HOUSTON, TX- OCTOBER 09: A Houston Texans fan bends over dejected after the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Houston Texans in a NFL game on October 9, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Colts won 33 to 28. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

While this is only a temporary state of being for most fans, there are the exceptionally unfortunate few for whom grief—at one stage or another—seems to be a perpetual state of being. Like for Browns fans, who if it weren’t misery wouldn’t feel anything at all. 

Not that the city of Cleveland has a monopoly on grief—it's just the majority shareholder. Let's split the difference and take a look at the six stages of fan grief as expressed via the interwebs.  

I. Denial 

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 04:  A Hurricanes fan in despair during the Super Rugby Final match between the Hurricanes and the Highlanders at Westpac Stadium on July 4, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Phil Walter/Getty Images

Sometimes preceded or accompanied by shock, denial is often how fans power through the initial onslaught of emotion. In most cases denial quickly gives way the more painful stages that follow it, unless you’re an Ohio State or Notre Dame fan, in which case this is probably your only stop on the grief train. 

Ohio State is still the best team in the nation, no questions asked. Go Bucks! #CFBPlayoff #OhioStateFootball

— Andrew T. Mantell (@drewbie1147) December 6, 2015

Ohio State and Notre Dame are the 2 best teams in the country

— Adam Lofreso (@AdamLofreso) December 6, 2015

SOUTH BEND, IN - DECEMBER 13: Detail view of Under Armour Notre Dame Fighting Irish shirt worn by a fan during the men's basketball game against the Florida State Seminoles at Purcell Pavilion on December 13, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeat
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Notre Dame is still the best in my heart and many hearts around the country. #NDMadeusProud

— ☃Skyler☃ (@mrlampkin0012) November 29, 2015

The best Ohio State team to never be

— Mike Higgs (@mikehiggss) December 6, 2015

Ohio State is still the best team in the country.......

— Paulstradamus M.D (@small215) December 6, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 06:  An Ohio State Buckeyes fan cheers before the start of the Big Ten Championship against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 6, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Ohio state is really the best team in the country

— carter (@Carter_Ilich) December 6, 2015

I really think Ohio State is the best team in college football

— Terrell Garr (@RumorRell) December 6, 2015

Seriously, there are thousands of these. In the words of Terrell’s wisest friend Marty, “that ship sailed cuz.” 

II. Pain and Guilt 

DENVER - OCTOBER 7:  A fan of the Denver Broncos wipes tears from his darth vader helmet during the game against the San Diego Chargers at Invesco Field at Mile High October 7, 2007 in Denver, Colorado. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 41-3.  (Photo by D
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Many people coping with grief, sports fans in particular, advance directly from denial into anger, while others take some time to truly experience the pain and guilt that often come along with losing. Everyone has their own reasons for how and why they grieve. 

The beautiful pain...
The beautiful pain...JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

Ouch.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Maybe it’s because they’re emotional masochists. Maybe it’s because they’re upset they wore the wrong socks, thereby personally impacting the outcome of the game. Maybe it’s something else altogether. But it all hurts just the same. 

III. Anger

INDIANAPOLIS, UNITED STATES:  Disgruntled fans show their anger after the end of the Formula One US Grand Prix 19 June 2005 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher of Germany emerged with the victory in a US Grand Prix turned into
STAN HONDA/Getty Images

When the pain subsides, the anger rolls in and washes over us like a red tide that is red from rage, rather than an algal bloom. There are a plethora of ways in which fans are known to express their anger, damn near none of which are productive or even particularly reasonable. 

I hope Tom Brady drinks bleach and dies.

— Griggsay Online (@Griggsay) November 29, 2015

This referee better not catch herself in the same parking lot as South West Select Volleyball team🔪

— kassidy granger (@kroygranger) March 29, 2015 

I hope Lebron James gets herpes everywhere

— Jazz (@Jazz_Lalli) May 21, 2014

#CowboysNation fans have started burning Demarco #Murray jerseys: http://t.co/iq4RXIBG4F pic.twitter.com/tgh5OcVbYg

— 105.3 The FAN (@1053thefan) March 12, 2015

I don't have a DeMarco Murray jersey to burn, so I did the next best thing and unfollowed him on Twitter. Traitor. pic.twitter.com/wDfDVMDwCj

— Justin Hubbard (@JHubb93) March 12, 2015

Um...sick burn with the unfollow. Props for having the most proportional response to a free-agency loss, though! 

No, this isn't Olivia Munn's fault.
No, this isn't Olivia Munn's fault.Jordan Strauss/Associated Press/Associated Press

This is Olivia Munn's fault. #Packers

— Sam (@Sam_ThatWasEasy) December 14, 2014

None of my teams won today and I'm going to blame all of it on Olivia Munn. Not just the Packers, but my fantasy teams too. All her fault.

— Matt Chic (@iammattchic) September 22, 2014

Although, maybe it WAS Jessica Simpson's fault. It's hard to remember at this point.
Although, maybe it WAS Jessica Simpson's fault. It's hard to remember at this point.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

breaking up w Jessica Simpson was the best move for romo! go cowboys!

— helen grazi (@hgraz) September 29, 2009

Can we please get rid of Romo already?! He hasn't been the same since Jessica Simpson. #smh #fml #cowboys #nfl

— one9 (@one9) September 18, 2011

Lashing out at women irrationally is, perhaps, the least productive and most ridiculous of all the outlets for fan rage. 

Except for, perhaps…

MONACO - AUGUST 27:  Esteban Cambiasso, Walter Samuel and Julio Cesar look dejected during the UEFA Super Cup between Inter and Atletico Madrid at Louis II Stadium on August 27, 2010 in Monaco, Monaco.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

…setting fires. 

IV. Bargaining 

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  A Celtic fan looks dejected at the end of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Celtic and Juventus at Celtic Park Stadium on February 12, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Gett
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Probably not coincidentally, people tend to turn to a higher power after exploding into a fit of red-faced rage gets them nowhere, usually to apologize first, then ask for a favor. It's literally the only reason most people will utter the words, "I'm sorry." 

Maybe if God would quit playing favorites...
Maybe if God would quit playing favorites...Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“Dear God, I apologize for sending death threats to various players, coaches and opposing fans via Twitter, but if you give Johnny Manziel just a little of that Russell Wilson magic, I promise to go to church every week for all of eternity.” 

Please God, let the Texans beat the ever-livin' hell out of the Cowboys. I'll do anything.


— Tyler martens (@TyMartens) October 2, 2014

Please God let the Cowboys win next week. I'll do anything


— Allure. (@AllureXoXo) December 22, 2013

PLEASE GOD!! Let the COWBOYS win!!! I'll do anything!! #CowboysNation

— Talent Caldwell (@talentcaldwell) November 5, 2012

Please dear god I am begging you to make the cowboys trade for colt McCoy I will do anything to make this happen

— Andy Driscoll (@driscollandy) October 28, 2012

Someone just informed me the Cowboys are not in the Playoffs today....how did I miss this...Heading to Church...God can do anything...

— James L Walker, Jr. (@jameslwalkeresq) January 8, 2012

As you can see, Cowboys fans go to the God well a little too often, especially given Jerry Jones' steadfast support of one Greg Hardy. 

V. Depression and Loneliness 

5 May 1996:  A distraught Manchester City fan shows his feelings as Manchester City can only manage a 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Maine Road. The result meant Manchester City were relegated from the Premier Division to Division One. Mandatory Credit: MarkT
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

With all that mess behind us, here’s where the crippling sadness sets in. 

So lonely...
So lonely...Andy Lyons/Getty Images

So VERY lonely...
So VERY lonely...Christopher Lee/Getty Images

This is when all of the other feelings finally fade away, leaving nothing but an infinite black hole of devastation and emptiness. 


VI. Acceptance 

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 16:  A dejected Russian fan after defeat and elimination during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Greece and Russia at The National Stadium on June 16, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

The only thing sadder than depression and loneliness is acceptance, which only truly comes after a fanbase has been brutally beaten down long enough that sitting back and continually taking it on the chin is the only remaining option.

Cubs fans got this one down by now.
Cubs fans got this one down by now.Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Acceptance among sports fans is about as common as championships in Buffalo. (Sorry, Buffalo! It just felt cruel to put Cleveland on blast again. Sorry, Cleveland!) So getting there is a special moment worth celebrating. 

"Meh. Whatever."
"Meh. Whatever."Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

OK, maybe not celebrating. How about a conciliatory bro-hug of recognition instead? 

Rock on forever, epic Washington State popcorn guy! You are a shining example of acceptance to all grieving sports fans. 


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