Why does it hurt that the Broncos were humiliated in the recent Super Bowl?
I shut off the TV in the third quarter, when the score was 30-something to 0. I felt completely deflated — like a balloon that had lost all of its air. But I didn’t lose the Super Bowl, the Broncos did. So why do I take it so personally? I didn’t play badly; they did. They are absurdly well-paid athletes (nobody has offered to pay me millions of dollars to do what I do). And it is the Broncos that lost, not me.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INCREASES AFTER HOME TEAM LOSES
So why do grown men get drunk when their team loses and then beat up their wives, girlfriends or children? (Historically, the day after the Broncos lose a Super Bowl, social workers from Child Protection Human Services are inundated with referrals from school nurses who see children who have bruises or broken bones, and domestic court judges have their dockets loaded with domestic violence cases — usually women who have been pummeled by a man overcome with anger and rage because his team lost.)
Granted, this is not unique to Colorado, but still, what causes us to react so emotionally — and so reactionary — to our beloved sports team losing?
A large number of fans treat their sports team as a spiritual and transcendent experience. They spend countless hours studying the team’s strengths and weaknesses, watching games, buying jerseys and other paraphernalia, screaming their heads off in the stadium or at the TV, rejoicing in the team’s victories, being dismayed by its defeats — but are always hopeful and optimistic for the chance to go all the way. To win. To become world champs.
OUR TEAMS, OURSELVES
The reason we personalize this so much is that we assign to our team attributes we want in ourselves, and your team becomes both a metaphor and a symbol for the larger story of your life.
Most of us spend our entire lives questing to be the best at something — striving to win a job promotion, for recognition for outstanding work, for the love and devotion of a person we covet or for enough money to live comfortably — in essence, to achieve our own personal Super Bowl-like dream. We spend our lives striving to achieve so we can prove to the world (and ourselves) that we are not just good, but that we are the best. The champions of the world.
But so often an error, a misjudgment, a poor decision, a market reversal or bad luck intervenes, and our goal is fumbled away and our dreams are intercepted. We lose what we were striving so valiantly to achieve, or at least we have to overcome major setbacks, sometimes over and over again.
A REMINDER OF YOUR LOSSES
It was not only Payton Manning out there attempting to be the champion. In some inexplicable way, it was you attempting to be the world champion, too. The gold metal winner. We all want to be someone who sets his or her goals high and then achieves them. We strive to be true real-life champions. And when the Broncos played poorly and lost, it reminded you of all of your own losses, your failures, your disappointments and your dreams slip-sliding away. Your team’s failures brought into vivid light your own real-life defeats.
But you are resilient, and you will bounce back. And hopefully so will the Broncos — next year.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you were not only rooting for the Broncos. You were also rooting for yourself.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 22nd year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or email him through his website, www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.