For me, it's been a bad couple of weeks for sports. With the sole exception of the University of Washington beating USC in Los Angeles two weekends ago, nothing seems to have gone right. For the sake of speed:
- The Mariners finished the season with record of 61-101. This was a season, that if things went right, would see them in the playoffs for the first time since 2001. And if they got there, with two of the best pitchers in the game... who knew?
- The Green Bay Packers have lost to Chicago and Washington thanks in large part to penalties they created. They also only barely beat the moribund Detroit Lions.
- The aforementioned Huskies lost to Arizona State University in Seattle.
- The USMNT played a sloppy match and more importantly, manager Bob Bradley didn't do a single thing to advance the team's overall cause. A loss with the kids would have been better than a lackluster draw by the veterans.
- And, perhaps the most shockingly depressing, Aston Villa collapsed in the second half and lost to Tottenham two weekends ago, in a manner that is becoming all-to-familiar.
So what gets a fan through bad stretches like these? Stretches where it seems like nothing can go right?
From that list above, it's pretty easy to see that sports are not doing what I want them to do lately. And yet, I've watched more hours of sports programming this weekend than at any point since at least the World Cup. I watched an entire day of football on Sunday, two college games on Saturday, the USMNT match, and tons of playoff baseball. It's been absurd. Do you have any idea how nice the weather has been in DC? By all rights, I should have been outside, or at least out of the house.
But I wasn't. I was here, watching. What is it about being a fan - not just of a team, but of sports - that keeps us tuned in? Certainly, the hope of watching your team achieve something has to be the primary reason. Just ask any fan of the Seattle Sounders this week. They got to watch their team lift a trophy and clinch a playoff spot in a hostile stadium. That has to be incredible. We're going to see that eventually with Aston Villa. I'll see it again with the Mariners. I know these things, and this knowledge keeps me coming back. No matter how dark things seem, there is always hope in the long run.
The long run isn't always applicable, though. The long run doesn't explain why I watched so many baseball playoff games this weekend, or why I watched the USMNT. Heaven knows Bob Bradley certainly wasn't thinking about the long run. What is there in the short run? I think it's the chance to see something spectacular. Even in that excruciating USMNT game, I got to see some beautiful goals. And I got to see Jozy Altidore miss some really close shots. Sure, they were frustrating, but some of the things that set them up were spectacular. And, after all, the game didn't matter. We watch for the chance to see Roy Halladay throw the second no-hitter in baseball post-season history. We watch for the chance to see Emile Heskey make one of the most gorgeous goals of the season on a perfectly placed header, or another superb save from Brad Friedel. We watch because at any moment, we might see something we've never seen before.
And finally, we watch because sports are perfect releases. Aaron has talked in various posts about the catharsis involved in sports, about them lifting the weight of the world. They don't have to be good to do that, either. Sports are incredible. What the human body is capable of is mind boggling. And for two, three, or four hours at a time, they give us the chance to enjoy something from both a purely emotional and wonderfully aesthetic level.
No one would deny that Villa's season hasn't begun how we wanted. But every week we're tuning in. I can't be alone in hating that we didn't get a Villa match this weekend. We're all hooked, and I imagine that's exactly how we like it. In even the worst times of our fandom, there's nothing quite like being a fan.