. . . I didn't watch the end of the Super Bowl. I didn't see the now-famous "Puppy Love" commercial (although I did watch it ahead of time). No, like many, I couldn't bear to watch the end of the debacle in East Rutherford. As far as I was concerned, the outcome had been decided and my watching (or not watching) wasn't going to change it, despite the fact that I was wearing a Broncos' "Time to Ride" orange shirt. My hopes and garments were insufficient to alter the results. But that didn't change my sense of disappointment when I saw the final score.
Yesterday morning, Neil Rosenthal, a therapist AND columnist for The Denver Post, wrote a piece titled "Why you also feel at a loss when your team loses". He suggested that we "treat our sports team as a spiritual and transcendent experience. We spend countless hours studying the team . . . The reason we personalize this so much is that we assign to our team attributes we want in ourselves, and the team becomes both a metaphor and a symbol for the larger story of our lives." He concludes that "Whether you recognize it or not, you were not only rooting for the Broncos. You were also rooting for yourself."
I agree with most of Mr. Rosenthal's analysis (he's a licensed therapist after all, and I'm not!). But I would like to add a nuance that isn't really apparent in the column. Many years ago (and I may have related this story here before), I was working on my certificate in Clinical Pastoral Education . . . one of the requirements in many religious traditions for ordination. One of my course-mates found himself on the receiving end of some accusations of improper behavior at one of the congregations he was serving. He was adamant that he was innocent of the charges (and I suspect he was, although a bit naive of congregational dynamics). What was equally devastating to him was that the charges were coming from within the congregation. He was shocked that a religious community, founded on love and trust, would treat him so poorly. While there was certainly a LOT of material to sift through as we dealt with his situation, one thing was apparent to me: his ideal of the Church had just been dealt a lethal blow; a dream had died. And he was going to have to go through a grieving process.
To use Mr. Rosenthal's logic, my friend "lost" whatever he had personally invested in his vision/ideal of the Church. And, so as the vision was dealt a blow, so was he. And I think we ALL have that experience, whether its the loss of an ideal, or the loss of a game by a favorite sports team. But simple knowledge of the reason for the sense of loss by itself is a bit unsatisfying. Where's the hope?
I remember working with that colleague those years back on re-establishing a more realistic vision of the tradition in which he was laboring. That re-imagined vision was more flexible, more forgiving, than the one that he had lost. It provided more movement -- yes, less certainty -- but also more grace, more hope. It was living, not calcified. It took some time for us to get there, but the work was worth it.
So, yes, I admit it. I changed channels last Sunday night. It wasn't the first time, nor will it be the last. I've seen a lot of my favorite (and favored) teams get pasted, and have turned away. But I don't lose hope; I'm not embarrassed. I remember that I am watching a contest in which "victory" can be measured in many different ways, not just by the final score. That's a different vision, seen through a different lens. But one that will have me turn the TV on for the next game, and re-don my orange (or green, or crimson) shirt to watch how men and women of character can inspire me.