Sternbergh says a late-season meltdown is traumatic because it "falls outside the emotional parameters of what the sports fan has signed up for". Something that unpredictable is, by definition, impossible to prepare for.
The epic collapse is to be treasured, even more so than the improbable victory. It's more rare, and therefore more precious. And it reaffirms the essence of why we root for a team in the first place. ...Sternbergh writes that the collapse of your team "is an opportunity to confront an event that's bewildering in its unlikelihood and ruinous in its effect, yet to also walk away entirely unscarred. It matters, deeply, and yet it doesn't matter at all. It's heartbreak with training wheels."
[Being a sports fan] It allows you to feel real emotional investment in something that has no actual real-world consequences. ... [Games or seasons] are never guaranteed to end happily. In fact, as we've seen, some end in a highly unsatisfying way. ... [The epic collapse is] crushing, maddening, unfathomable — and yet it means nothing. Like a shooting-gallery target or bickering sitcom family, your team will spring up again same time next year, essentially unharmed.
Red Sox fans of a certain vintage lost their heartbreak training wheels a long time ago. We know how to ride that bike. I question the depth of Sternbergh's fandom, in any sport.
The first commenter, Jerry, quotes "yet to also walk away entirely unscarred" and replies:
Yes, but.And that's the point, isn't it? Yes, the Red Sox falling out of the playoff race was maddening and frustrating - especially since we were absolutely helpless to do anything to stop it - but I assume no one was scarred in any lasting or damaging way.
The fact is, we do care. A lot.
Why? I don't really know. But I have cared for many years and I know Sternbergh has it backwards.
He writes: "It matters, deeply, and yet it doesn't matter at all."
I would argue his sentence should read: "It doesn't matter at all, and yet it matters, deeply."