In which I embarrass myself by thinking I can form coherent thoughts about things.
Neutrino Journey here!
So I thought I was going to write a long, quasi intellectual post today about sports as a lens through which to understand a lot of interesting things about humanity and I was about 400 words in until I stopped to watch the UEFA Champions League semifinal between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and all thoughts on this post were promptly abandoned by the roller coaster of emotions that was this game. Now all I am capable of doing is writing about several specific things as a way of salvaging my mood in the midst of incredible sadness at the loss of Real Madrid, my favorite team.
First of all, it’s crazy how emotional I (and many others in general) get over these games and how my team does despite not a) being one of these players or those most directly involved and b) being a relatively new fan who still has a lot to learn! During the game, the some of the moods I cycled through were elation, disgust, hopefulness, disbelief, ecstasy, and despair, all experienced at a high pitch of stress and dread. I didn’t become aware that I was jumping up and down until after the fact when my goalkeeper saved a penalty kick. I felt nerveless and numbed to the bone when we lost. A few tears were eventually shed. I experienced an inexplicable hatred for the German language (which I actually really love from afar).
In general, after a year of following football closely, I’m still not used to the cyclic pulses of euphoria and dejection that comes with the investment in people who simultaneously don’t know you exist and depend on you for the standard of their livelihood. It’s a surreal experience if you think about it, but it’s also kind of wonderful in the sense that it’s the most universal institution based on a completely arbitrary empathy and loyalty from afar. The phenomenon of sports following is like adhering to a religion in which the stakes (for most people - there are some extremists out there as in every institution) are as high as you personally want to set it. Ultimately, we are the ones choosing to be happy or upset over something that is mostly out of our hands (more on that soon hehe), and has no real consequences in our own lives (sadly the same cannot be said about the actual players and managers themselves but it is their job so…).
And to bring that to my next point, I’ve discovered for myself that I find a lot of beauty in sports, not just in the aestheticism of athletic talent, the beautifully constructed skills that come together in the body of an individual or, even more spectacularly, in an entire team. The inspiration with which athletes perform is nearly as acutely and precisely beautiful as a concerto performed or a masterpiece rendered in paint, only even more ephemeral and nearly mystically created through a series of unpredictable events and circumstances that conflate to create something new and different with each iteration of play. It’s sheer fun to watch, but it’s also fascinating to deconstruct.
A favorite saying among managers, players, and the media is “anything can happen in football.” And this is saying holds true in such an immediate way in the world of sports that the element of chance is one of the most interesting aspects of each game. Freak accidents, freak goals, a wrong twitch of the muscle there, and you have a man down in the Chelsea vs. Barcelona game, and Chelsea STILL goes through. And in today’s game, which went down to penalties, our favorite penalty striker was denied, and we lost in our home ground. Let’s not even talk about amazing comebacks the likes of Liverpool’s 2005 feat.
The language with which we frame sports events - “it wasn’t meant to be” “it was destiny,” “I knew as soon as… that this would happen” - and the superstitions that everyone from the players to the supporters hold (if I wear my jersey, they will win, if I had only been watching the game at the moment, this would have happened) speaks to the true personalization of events that are basically out of our control. A small and fun parable of the eternal human quest to control events beyond us and at the same time our eternal awareness of our limited control. I don’t ascribe to any belief in God, but I pray all the time to appease the football gods, and in my most ecstatic moments, I stand in awe of the gods of football, however human they really are.
So this was a really rambly post with very little organization about sports and how I have a lot of crazy feelings about them and am maybe trying to justify them? But then again who needs justification? Sports are awesome. I would know; I fence. (MORE ON THAT LATER!)