(ed. - this isn't about Michigan, so if you're so inclined, go ahead a skip it. But you won't, because you're bored at work too, and this sure beats that spreadsheet.)
Every time two teams put on helmets and shoulder pads, or lace up the skates, or put on the warmups, or take the stones out, there is a contest, followed by a winner and a loser (and, in the case of that last one there, most likely some vomiting). This holds true for every meaningful competition known to mankind. Even if the stakes are simply "next" on the court, there is a defined winner, and a defined loser. It's how competition works. What serves as both a great joy, and a great pain, is when you attach yourself to the competitors in such a way that you're living and dying with every movement they make, and feel pain - real pain - when the outcome falls in the "losing" catagory, despite the fact that you yourself sat on your couch and ate a chocolate chip cookie. Your chocolate chips, delicious as they may be, have not impacted the contest and therefore you should simply be happy with your cookie and your couch. And the fact that you yourself do not have to worry about a 330lbs nose tackle crushing your sternum. These are things to be thankful for indeed.
Yet, here I sit, in a hotel room in Ohio separated from my friends and family who I would normally be watching a game because of a scheduling snafu and an early morning meeting tomorrow. I watched the game by myself, and spent the second half on speaker phone with my wife - who hates football, and losing even more - just so that I'd have somebody to talk to. And the Colts lost. For the first time in my adult-ish life, a team that I cared deeply about lost a championship. I suppose the Fab 5 could count, but I can't really remember what happened with that particular squad. Something about boosters and timeouts. I must have blocked it.
What's more is that the loss is so fitting. This week, wearing my Colts hat has felt a lot like driving around with a "Bush/Cheney" sticker in Boston, which isn't to start a politics battle, but it's the best way I can describe it. I've had to make excuses as to why I would DARE root for the Colts after all New Orleans has been through. I've had to actually defend the fact that I grew up in Indiana, and grew up a Colts fan. You would think that the Colts team had personally electrocuted some of these people's puppies the way that public sentiment had turned against them. Nonetheless, I figured that the Colts would come out and start cruising to another somewhat boring victory tonight, and the world outside of Indiana would feel bad for the Saints and New Orleans, and we'd move on. Obviously, that's not what happened, and instead I'm going for the 2nd cookie and feeling bad about myself while the world celebrates with New Orleans, and I might have been one to go join them had it not been the hometown team that they onsided their way to victory over.
With time ticking down in the 4th quarter, and the Colts figuratively bleeding out from a thousands tiny cuts that the Saints had masterfully crafted, it still wasn't over. Manning had the ball with a chance to tie. There was too much time on the clock - had Manning scored that touchdown, Brees would have had around 1:30 to drive and get into FG range - entirely too much time. I could have handled that loss; it was fitting given the way the game was played. Never a big play, just a bunch of tiny gashes. Instead, with Reggie Wayne hobbled by an injury, Manning threw a ball that usually Reggie's there for - only this time a Saints defender just stepped in and could have cartwheeled into the endzone. What had been on life support had the cord violently ripped from the wall. If the Colts were supposed to lose, did it have to be like that?
So I'm sitting here writing all this down because somehow it helps me deal with these sorts of losses. In every meaningful competition, there is a winner and a loser. Losing is wretched. Winning is joyful. Tonight, while the rest of the country who have attached themselves to a city down on their luck proceed with their joyfulness, I will gladly serve as the counterpoint. Without this feeling right now - alone in a hotel room - there is no joy of winning, there is no attachment to a geographical team of your choice, and there is no point to all of this. Because when my team wins again - and they will win again - I'll gladly serve up some joy.