Monumental – What other word can describe the emotional investment fans make in their favorite teams? Though no swearing-in ceremony, no formal initiation or sacred rite is involved, once that bond is forged, the loyalty, commitment and devotion of fans become a wonder to behold. Banners mounted, memorabilia collected, jackets emblazoned with team names and symbols, schedules scrutinized – that’s just for openers. Defending one’s heroes, proclaiming their virtues – these become almost instinctive reactions. Each season brings inflated expectations together with visions of championships and confetti. Traditional rivals are scrutinized with a wary eye, indications of weaknesses gleefully emphasized.
But it’s only during the games themselves that the full range of powerful feelings comes into play. Each game propels the fan along an emotional roller coaster. No outsider can appreciate fully the mood swings fans experience – from eager anticipation, the pleasures of an early lead, the gloom of falling behind, the exhilaration of a dramatic rally to the shattering grief of coming up short cushioned only by the “might-have-beens” that never were.
That fans need relief and can find it in an occasional blowout, even when it goes against them, is not all that surprising then. But the emotional cauldron really heats up as the season winds down with your team in the thick of the race. The importance of each game suddenly is magnified many times over. The eye is on the crown; visions of victory crowd out all others. Your boys are making a move. It’s looking good. A setback – temporary no doubt. Rivals, however, refuse to falter. Another defeat, momentum waning. They will fall short; others are celebrating. It’s over, all over.
Disappointment – yes, brief flirtations with “what ifs”, but no abyss, no descent into despair. Doubtless surprising, in view of the season’s devotions. But fans are that way. They accept final verdicts: There are no Courts of Appeal. As Yogi might have put it – “Once it’s over, it’s over.” With the dust having settled it is time to disengage, to display resiliency. Frayed nerves need a rest. Besides, fans must be prepared to carry on. For you see in short order another team in another sport will be counting on them for support.