What are some of the worst losses you have experienced as a sports fan?
For me, the ‘97 and ‘98 AFL preliminary finals that the Bulldogs lost rate very highly. The Socceroos World Cup qualifier loss on away goals in ‘97 is also right up there, as is the loss to Italy at the ‘06 World Cup. The Green Bay Packers losing in overtime of the NFC championship game in ‘08 was bad too. Tight test losses to the West Indies in ‘93, and England in the ‘05 ashes also rate a mention. Unfortunately, I could make a very long list.
It seems like every club or team has had at least one famously heart breaking loss. As such, the horrible empty feeling, that I know so well, has probably been experienced by every committed (ie emotionally invested) sports fan in the world. Why does it hurt so much sometimes, but not others? For instance, my Doggies lost in last year’s preliminary final too, but that did not have the same impact on me as those losses over a decade ago.
The pre-requisite for such pain is a belief that your team is certain to win. Of my list above, only the Doggies losses and the ‘97 WCQ had that quality, and they were much more painful than the others on my list. In all of the other instances, I was very hopeful, but not (foolishly) certain that my team would win.
Unfortunately, I was not clever enough to come to this conclusion by myself. In a piece from the Melbourne Uni Postgraduate Association journal Traffic, a friend of mine, Matthew Klugman, explores the concept of tragedy through the experiences of AFL fans. The article is titled ‘Each time I’m reminded of it, I feel as though I need therapy’: Australian Football, Tragedies and the Question of Catharsis.
Klugman draws on material from internet forums and interviews, and paints an interesting and insightful picture that, in part, provides an explanation of how we can become so distraught about what is, after all, merely a game. I recommend it to anyone who can relate to my pain, or is just curious about how otherwise sensible people can be so deeply hurt by a team losing a game.