February 4, 2008

I guess I should write something here

To borrow a lede from my favorite piece of campaign literature of the past forever years:This is what a disaster looks like.Devastated and disheveled, ill prepared for another week of reading, midterms, and newspaper publishing at the University of Chicago, I feel like a Vince Wilfork-sized bag of bricks just landed on my kidneys and sucked the life right out of my soul--or at least what was left of it.I understand there are dozens of fan bases in professional sports who would drool with envy to have what I've had in the past five years. The three Super Bowls and two world series titles are great--more than I could have ever wished for when I was eight years old and began watching my local sports teams for the first time because I found an issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids. But right now, that just isn't cutting it for me.Back then, I barely understood what it even meant to compete for a championship. The Patriots, under Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe, were exciting but fatally flawed. The Red Sox, with a starting rotation that included Joe Hudson (Joe Hudson!!) won the AL East, but stood no chance of making a substantive playoff run. Probably because Joe Hudson was in their starting rotation.No, the Super Bowl seemed as far away as Ashgabat, and the World Series was even farther. And that was all perfectly fine until 2001 happened. Out of nowhere, before we could even build up a sense of expectation or brace ourselves for the impact of actual, honest-to-goodness, sweet sweet success, we were champions--whatever that even meant. It was just kind of forced upon us, like a flu shot, or being pushed into a lake to learn how to swim, but 78 percent more enjoyable, if that makes any sense.So what does this 2008 feel like? The quick answer is that I haven't felt this poorly, in any capacity, since the 2003 ALCS, when Grady Little stomped all over my 17-year old heart and humiliated my favorite player (Tim Wakefield) for good measure. But when you think about it, this is really nothing at all like 2003. It's a new kind of heartbreak: The heartbreak of anticipation, of eschewing a regular season and playoffs in the hopes of a perfection, of coming within site of the platonic ideal of perfection and getting pushed backward by the finish line. The type of heartbreak that makes me listen to The Wallflowers for two hours straight and type blog entries when I should be reading for Islamic Civ--A new kind of heartbreak.The truth is that this kind of thing is not supposted to happen. It's like watching a Bond movie where 007 dies, or rewatching Jurrasic Park and discovering that the Dinosaurs actually do take over the island and everyone gets eaten alive, including Doctor Grant. In short, the lunatics have taken over not just the asylum, but the county sheriff's office, the major broadcast networks, and all three branches of government.No, the pursuit of perfection was never supposed to end like this. Not because I'm from New England and have rooted for the Pats since Marion Butts was our tailback and Vincent Brisby was a deep threat, but because of the quaint idea progress. For the same reason Roger Bannister ran a four minute mile and Buzz Aldrin staged the moon landing outside Las Vegas: To prove that the impossible is possible, that records can be broken, and that Bill Belichick is not the anti-christ. Every sporting experience in my life was building up to tonight's game, and I'm left now with nothing but heartbreak and an existential crisis of fandom.So what happens now? I'm not entirely sure. The problem with this season is that everything was predicated on going 19–0, and it was established in April that anything less was unacceptable. We built ourselves up to an impossible pinnacle. So if I can take a lesson from this, it's to appreciate the 50 point victories for the masterpieces that they are and not try to fit every win into a hypothetical equation.Oh, and if you get four defensive lineman surrounding Eli Manning, please tackle him. Please.Congratulations New York Giants.