Victory, on a different field

This past Tuesday, I excitably raised my beer above my head in celebration of victory. As I watched my team standing on the winner’s podium, I cheered and applauded. And as I surveyed a long season of “leaving it all out on the field” finally at its merciful end, I felt simultaneously inspired and perturbed.

Somehow, this particular win had me more enthusiastic than any in many a moon. The happy, vicarious experience of watching eleven – perhaps even as much as twenty-five – men emerge victorious had faded, now being duplicated (perhaps even topped) by the efforts of an Army of One, or an Army of All, depending on your view of the American electoral process. For someone who grew up clinging to every hit, strikeout, touchdown and interception, it was an experience at once familiar and foreign, comforting and distressing. It was – to put it in stark, perhaps even devastating, terms – mature.

In short, I felt old.

Two days before Barack Obama stood in the front of the nation, proclaiming himself once again Our President-elect, I watched my Giants lose in wretched fashion to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And as Ben Roethlisberger took a merciful knee, rendering all hope of a positive outcome false, I made a quick, efficient decision: to move on with my life.

No doubt, important things were left undone. I was hungry, for example, so I walked downstairs, went for a walk, and picked up some Thai food. I then retreated to my dorm, set up a plate and some napkins on my desk, and devoured my curry-flavored dish. And Good Lord! – disappointing football outcome be damned – was it delicious. The spice was excellent, the naan fried to perfection, the peppers crunchy, the chicken well-prepared. Once I was done savoring every bite, I wiped my face, logged online, and checked the latest projections on Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight blog, before finally winding down with a book in bed.

I’m not yet twenty years old. Since I was five, I’ve derived much of life’s pleasure from the athletic achievements of superhumans I’ve never met, and likely never will. I’ve jumped up and down, and I’ve cried, and I’ve screamed, and I’ve moaned, and I’ve written, and I’ve been silent, just because a few men did or didn’t do something I could never and will never do even on my brightest, most spry day. I’ve experienced incomparable elation in Super Bowl victory, and three shameful, hiding days away from school in World Series defeat. I’ve won and I’ve lost with my teams. I’ve lived and I’ve died with their successes and failures.

So, as I stood in front of my television at one in the morning, beer in my hand, listening to MY President explain why he was the right choice, and why the right things will happen moving forward, I couldn’t help but feel…different. And the same. Sure, I had hoped for this outcome for many years, and I was delighted to see my prayers manifested as reality. But the elation I experienced felt distant, a feeling felt long ago. Which was strange and unsettling, because it hasn’t been all that long since one of my teams did what I had hoped and prayed they would. Just three years ago, the Yankees won the World Series. Just last February, the Giants won the Super Bowl. And just now, the experience of watching the victories of my youth was being replicated, one political, rhetorical word at a time. My vision and my hopes were coming to life, through the mouth of a superhuman man I will never meet, and whose talents I will not match even on my brightest, most articulate day.

We tend to use sports as a microcosm for life, as a prism through which to view the world around us. The quarterback is a field “general,” the conquering of insurmountable athletic odds as a reason for hope and inspiration. Finally, as I watched President Obama speak, I understood why my father looked so devastated (more devastated, mind you, than after any of the hundreds of sporting events I had watched with him) as he watched the Florida Supreme Court finally declare George W. Bush the winner of the 2000 Presidential Election.

Back then, I had asked him “What’s the big deal?” I cannot recall if he had a good answer to this question. All I know is if someone asked me the same question after last Sunday’s Giants game, I would have responded, without hesitation, that the deal was not very big at all.

But if someone asked me why I was so excited over a victory that aligned with my vote, I would not hesitate: I’m not always proud of my country. I am right now.

 I know what it feels like to be a patriot.

And guess what? Being a patriot doesn’t feel all that different from being a fan.

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