Last weekend, I attended two baseball playoff games, certain my team would win. The Rangers trounced Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg; we determined our progression to the next round inevitable. My 16 year-old son and 14 year-old daughter bounced to the stadium, a giddy spring in their steps I haven't seen since puberty set in. We gripped the complimentary Ranger's towels and waved with the other 50,000 people in the stadium every time the big screen told us to cheer. We KNEW we would win. We didn't. We left the stadium Sunday dejected, physically drained. We'd violated my husband's cardinal life rule: the secret to happiness is low expectations.
I felt down Monday, despite a solid night's sleep. I berated myself for investing approximately 16 hours of time over a weekend on a game that offered no exercise or health benefits. I felt bad, worn out, sure that whatever cocktail of chemicals the anticipation of winning had on my brain was not worth the aftermath. I swore I would never do this again.
Of course Tuesday night the Rangers beat the Rays. I returned from a talk about my book to my children's screams: "We're WINNING! 7th inning!" The win caused an eruption in our household sweeter than any holiday celebration I can remember. My son block tackled me and knocked me to the couch. High fives. Hugs. Redemption.
Today I donned my Rangers t-shirt and traded jabs with my NY friends on facebook. Why do I do this? Why does a normally logical person get sucked into the drama of sports - especially when the probability of failure is at least 50%?
I took my question to Cooper Aerobics Center this morning - for my buddies on the track who like to dissect problems. Tribalism, one replied. We want to belong to something. Unpredictability. Adrenaline.
My take is all of the above. The energy of people united for the same goal is a powerful thing. Even if the odds of a positive outcome are slight, I would argue especially if the odds are slight, 50,000 people wishing the same thing becomes magical, the stuff of dreams.
This emotion isn't reserved for sports. A friend of mine relayed the experience of The Race for the Cure in Dallas. About 40,000 people united to defeat breast cancer. She tried to explain the rush of emotion of that experience, but settled for waving her hands and a tremor in her voice. Sure the dream doesn't always win, but we're dead if we don't try.
Crowds have turned for evil as well as good, but on this bright Texas day, I am choosing to remain positive. The power to dream, the power to unite in a way that makes a profoundly positive impact in the world is one of the treasures of being human.
So this weekend, I intend to temper my mood with a bit of realism. Do I expect the Rangers to beat the Yankees? The post-season giants with a record 27 World Champion titles? No. But I can still dream. I'm wearing my Ranger's red today as proof.
Julie K. Hersh
Struck by Living