Friday, October 5, 2007

Progressive Social Commentary on Winning & Losing; Part III

Throw the breaker, Julio; It's time for our weekly celebration of Friday Night Lights.

Now, folks, I know I have been somewhat cynical about all the emotional pain and suffering caused by "losing" and what that has come to mean for the collective identity in Pecos, Texas, but I think you should know that I gave my heart to Social Construction Theory, The Kingdom of Heaven and Zen Buddhist meditation many long years ago. So it is extremely hard for me to empathize with fans who spin-off into a major depressive episode when the sports -think of killer competition and its arbitrary definitions of machismo socially determines that your son is a "Loser" -- that's Loser with a capital "L" -- and not deserving of either self-respect or community recognition as the "hero" he is expected to be....unless you all die and there is only 300 of you against the hordes of Xerxes at Thermopile.

I mean, how can a guy like that even keep a girlfriend, right? And don't even expect her to wear your letter jacket in the off-season!

But now there is apparently a way to "rise above" the shame, guilt and déclassé of being a "Loser" -- notice the capital "L" in "Loser" please. Time Magazine -- that most American of magazines of Middle Class Amerikana, that standard of our culture that brought Joni Mitchell to weep for our very civilization in the 70s -- has provided us with a report this week on just the treatment that's been unobtrusively available in beauty shops, stadium end-zones and high school counselors' offices all these years -- that secular Balm in Gilead that can restore hope and the promise of happiness to our souls.
A BALM IN GILEAD say nothing of the identity crisis involved.

But I did say "secular," right?

So how do they get over it? How can sports fans, whose teams so often tease them with outsize expectations, deal with such unexpected failures? How should I, a lifelong Mets lover who has lived through so much disappointment from this franchise, take the greatest heartbreak of them all?

"Coping strategies work very well when there's some ambiguity," says Daniel Wann, a psychology professor at Murray State (Ky.) University and author of Sport Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators. "But up seven games with 17 to go — there's not a lot of ambiguity to this." Ouch. Notes Edward Hirt, an Indiana University psychologist who has studied fan behavior: "It's not one of those things where I can say, 'Do this for 30 minutes, and you'll get over it.' People are going to ruminate."

Fine, we know it's going to be hard. But still, there must be some mental exercises that can help ease the pain. The first step is to accept how much it hurts, regardless of those dismissive observers you might know who tell you to have some perspective, that it's just the end of the season, not the end of the world. Sure, the fate of your sports team is less pressing than, say, your marriage or mortgage, and it may seem ridiculous to tie your self-esteem to the actions of multimillionaire athletes who don't know you one bit, but you have to allow yourself to mourn a little. "It's natural to be upset," says Dr. Richard Lustberg, a clinical psychologist from Long Island and creator of the Psychology of Sports website. "Baseball is being taken away from you. It's difficult to handle, especially when watching Mets games have become part of your routine. There's some reality to it. It's like you've suddenly had an aneurysm."

All this psychological and spiritual healing, for only $100/hr of therapy! People still think your kid is a "Loser" -- did we mention that's "Loser" with a capital "L" -- but you now can practice acceptance, that dénouement of the grief process.

Hey, it's better than staying locked in denial. By the way, Pecos lost tonight to Mohahans 47-17, after blowing a halftime lead of 17-12. That should keep this column alive for another two weeks. There is no game scheduled for next Friday, so the lights will stay off. Nevertheless, having checked the season schedule immediately following tonight's loss, the pep-squad set to work with tempera paints making campus spirit banners they will hang in the main hall on Monday: "BEAT OFF WEEK!!"

-Willy the Winner

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