What is it about sports that make fans and players emotional? It’s just a game, after all. It’s a bunch of adults on a field or court playing what is, in essence, a children’s game. ]
Yet, there have been countless instances throughout the history of sport that have brought otherwise rational and intelligent adults to tears.
For the players, it’s easy to see why they might be emotional and even begin to cry.
Generally, it’s a product of them reaching the conclusion of their careers, or perhaps the ups and downs of a rigorous season culminating in a championship appearance, only to lose.
Remember when Adam Morrison dropped to the court after Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 loss to UCLA? He had to be consoled by head coach Mark Few. That was Morrison’s final year in college basketball, and Gonzaga was good. They were a three seed, and UCLA was a two seed. The Bulldogs lost 73-71.
While Morrison was the recipient of plenty of jokes from opposing teams’ fans, those with more humanity understood what was lost for Morrison on the floor that night. It was a young man whose journey in one part of life was coming to an end.
That’s easy enough for us to see. Think of it this way: how did you feel when you graduated high school? What about when you graduated college? If you’ve left a job that you enjoyed, how did that feel? What about the birth of a child?
For Morrison that night, it was more than just losing a basketball game. It was the line of demarcation, a point where one track ends, and then the first step of where another will begin. It just so happens that Morrison’s moment was caught on camera during a sporting event that millions tune in to watch.
For the rest of us, though, it’s just us. There are no cameras and there’s no documentation of the moment. It’s a solemn, and sometimes somber, moment in history — a fragment of the picture — but what’s encapsulated in that moment is years of hard work, of challenging obstacles overcome, of a job valiantly done, and the end of a chapter. That moment is quick and swift, unlike the countless days before it.
As for the fans, I think there’s a similar gravity in the situation. No, fans didn’t have to go to practice everyday and they didn’t need to remain physically conditioned. They didn’t have to juggle games and events with, in Morrison’s and many others’ cases, academic duties. They simply had to be there, they had to be present for the ride. And that’s what fans do.
They’re present the whole time, and for many people, it’s one of the biggest parts of their lives. So by dedicating yourself to a team, you feel as though you’re a part of the ride; you’re there, it seems, for those highs and lows; for the ascent and then subsequent crash. Then, in a way akin to Morrison’s, that one moment befalls you so quickly and viciously that you can’t help but cry and be generally emotional.
The same can be true of the victors, as well. For players, it’s something they worked so hard for, something that they fought for with their teammates after a long and trying season. For fans, it was a moment of validation; a moment many think may never come. It’s a justification for why you remain so loyal and steadfast to an organization, to a logo, to a color scheme. Because once that team finally reaches the pinnacle, it feels like they took you with them.
I’m willing to bet that when Daniel Hudson threw his glove after securing the final out of the 2019 World Series, many of you felt as though you were right there with him.
As the celebration reached a precipice, and the reality finally began to settle in, that the Washington Nationals are World Series Champions, I would also bet that some of you probably cried.
It was a moment years in the making. Year in and year out, the Nationals organization, as well as the fanbase, felt as though they had a World Series contender. But it never reached fruition. It never happened. So for it to happen in a season in which the team was 19-31 in May, the ascent became that much sweeter.
What a wonderful and beautiful thing: years of clearly good Nationals teams that couldn’t get the job done, but the one that struggled and sputtered out of the gate, that’s the team that made it happen. And we as humans have a tendency to cry at wonderful and beautiful things.
That’s why fans cry about sports.