I’m not normally one for public displays of emotion, but today I know that there are other people who feel the same way as I do. Maybe we can help each other; maybe we can use one another to understand how we really feel. Reflecting upon these raw emotions and trying to put them into words is painful; I think, though, that writing might actually help me understand myself.
In case you don’t know, the Chicago Bulls, as of two weeks ago, were destined to play the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA playoffs (I don’t care if you disagree. It was destined…). The winner of that series would play the winner of the Western Conference Finals (in all likelihood the Oklahoma City Thunder). As a Bulls fan, this season’s playoffs were about revenge. They were less about actually winning than about getting another shot at the Heat. Regardless of the outcome, no matter what, last year’s 4th quarter meltdowns would be a thing of the past.
If you’re from Chicago, you know that Bulls fans despise the Heat. Not only did Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and (particularly) LeBron James decide to take their talents to South Beach and win “not two, not three…” championships, but they each individually spurned Chicago during free agency to do so. The general animosity underlying the series goes back to LeBron’s days in Cleveland, when he and (surprise!) Joakim Noah didn’t get along. You watch the Heat on the court and they exude arrogance. Playing them feels like playing an older brother, knowing that when it really comes down to it in the last five minutes of the game, he’ll find a way to beat you because he’s just bigger, stronger, and faster than you are (plus the refs are afraid of him). This year, though, we Bulls fans were sure that would change. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t really improved our roster (Rip Hamilton didn’t really count after he missed half the season): Derrick Rose was a year older, Boozer wasn’t injured, and Joakim was hitting his jumpers. There was no way that this year could end any worse than last year.
Then this happened.
And then this.
I recognize that I’m a little bit late in writing this article, but in the days after “The Injury,” I refused to talk about, or really even think about, what had happened (I told my mom I didn’t want to talk about it later that week after she asked me what I thought about it). Watching Rose go down and the consequent news that he was out for the playoffs gave me a tangible sickness in my stomach. When I read “torn ACL,” I gasped and proceeded to stare into space for the next five minutes. I found myself angrily walking out of a room to find some fresh air and space to think. As I stood outside mulling the news that our season was effectively over, I thought to myself, “this has got to be a joke. I can’t really feel this upset about a sports season.” But that’s the thing, I wasn’t being phony or dramatic; I was really upset.
A few weeks ago, I read a Bill Simmons article about how it is that sports fans invest so much into their teams. After reading the article, I found myself asking how it could be that I had invested so much into this Bulls season. What if they lost to the Heat? What if they beat the Heat and then lost in the Finals? I would have put so much energy and emotion into something that didn’t pan out. If only I’d known what would happen only a short while later. Instead, I refused to acknowledge the possibility that any of these things would happen, blindly continuing on my path towards eternal sports sadness and devastation.
But now that the season is over (and maybe next season is, too…) I have to think about it; I have to reaffirm my belief that in the end, being a sports fan, particularly a Chicago sports fan (read Chicago Cubs), is worth it. What is it that makes me invest so heavily in a sports team? I’m not entirely convinced that I have the right answer, but here’s my best shot: sports teams (the playoffs, etc.) create excitement. I can sit in my common room at Amherst and watch the games with my friends who are Heat fans, or Celtics fans. I can walk into Val and poke fun at a Lakers fan the day after the team got trounced by the Thunder. After Rose’s injury, I got a text from a friend of mine (who is a Heat fan, mind you) that said “I’m so sorry.” Even though his team is my biggest rival, I know he sincerely meant it.
Being a sports fan means that even if I have significantly more urgent things to do, papers or meetings, I find myself incessantly checking the box score from whatever internet source I can get my hands on. It means I update my dad at the end of every quarter with the score and my take on how the game’s going. It means I check my Facebook during and after the game to see what witty statuses my “friends” have come up with. Basically, I think it means that I form a bond with a vast network of people, the scope of which cannot be reasonably articulated.
So forgive me for being a bit dramatic, but yes, I am a bit heartbroken. This was our opportunity, it was our time to shine. As a Cubs fan, though, I guess I can take solace in the simple fact that I, along with millions of other Chicago fans across the globe, am not the only one already waiting for next year.
Picture from: http://www.eurweb.com/2012/05/derrick-rose-gets-spiteful-tweet-from-lebrons-nike-shoe-developer/