To the pain. Westley from “The Princess Bride” (1987) demands a duel not to the death, but to the pain. I do not plan on ever getting into a duel, certainly not one that ends in the gruesome way he describes. But sports may be described as “to the pain.” We cheer and give our hearts to teams when only one can win it all.
As a Chicago Cubs fan, this past week was not my favorite. We ended up in a tiebreaker game for the division title with the Milwaukee Brewers. We lost it. We then had to face the Colorado Rockies in the Wild Card game and lost that as well in 13 innings. Bam. Within two days, we had gone from potentially winning the division to knocked out of the playoffs. That was a crushing end to the season.
Why do we, sports fans, do it? After all, only one team gets to win each year. Why do we cheer a team on for 16, 82 or even 162 games? It may end in a loss. It will probably end in a loss. Yet we do it anyway. What is it about sports that keeps us watching, despite the fact that the odds are, more often than not, against us? Perhaps it’s hope.
What else could explain Cubs fans continuing to cheer over 108 championship-less years? I was only around for 18 of those, but those years of heartbreak — to the pain — made the win all the sweeter. The Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory was not just a win; it was a triumph. It was the breaking of a curse and the revitalization of a fan base.
I started writing today to try to rid myself of the pain caused by the Cubs’ brutal losses. Now, luckily, I know the point of the article: to keep cheering, keep loving and keep getting hurt. If you are a fan of a team that is heartbreaking to watch, keep going. I cannot guarantee a win. I cannot guarantee that this year is the year or that the next one is or that in 70 years, you will be rooting for a team with a title. But it is so worth it. Cheer for a team. If you do already, good for you. If you do not … find one.
Sports are about feeling a sense of belonging. They are about hope and the belief that people out there can achieve the improbable and attempt the impossible. Sports allow us to watch incredibly talented people do incredible things. We can bond over them and cry over them. There is something very human about sports. In other words, they are individually meaningless: No game, itself, changes the world, per se. But sports connect people together through the power of shared emotion.
So get a team. Be a part of a community that puts its heart and soul into every moment. Believe in sports.