Sports Blog: Winning doesn’t stop the hurt of losing

Dr. Millen finds time to meet up with friends in the streets of Boston after the Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship in 2008.

Dr. Jonathan Millen

Associate Dean, Liberal Arts

My son cried himself to sleep on October 17, 2003. He was 8 years old. The Yankees had just defeated the Red Sox in extra innings of game 7 in the ALCS. Yes, that was
Aaron “bleeping” Boone night. I did little in the way of attempting to console the boy. The best I could muster was, “Get used to it kid.”

Being a Boston sports fan my entire life left me numb to losing. The only winning team in town had been the Celtics in the 80’s (the Larry Bird era) and I am not even a big
basketball fan. But at least when your teams lose in your hometown you are surrounded by kindred spirits. Misery, as they say, loves company. In comparison, being a  transplant brings little consolation. (For the record, I would have loved to adopt the Philly teams as my “others” but the relentless diatribe of the local fans made that impossible for both my son and me.)

So Jason went to school on October 18, much to his protest, and took it on the chin.

By now the rest of this story is familiar: 2 World Series Championships, 3 Superbowl Championships, a Stanley Cup Championship,
and an NBA Championship
(Ironically, I happened to be in town and attended the Celtics’ victory parade in 2008 – see photo). My son is enjoying an unprecedented run as a sports fan. He has celebrated a championship in almost every year since that fateful October night. He has seen friends at school quietly become Red Sox fans, Bruins fans, Patriots fans, and Celtics fans. He has heard the word dynasty used so often that it no longer means something special. He does not even take note when he sees a Boston hat, shirt or bumper sticker when we travel to other cities (as I still do); he is used to it now. He, like so many Boston fans, has come to expect greatness from his teams.

So you’d think we’d be satisfied by now. How many of us proclaimed, Now I can die in peace! when the Sox broke the curse in 2004? How many of us are still dizzy over the Bruins performance in last year’s unforgettable game 7? How many are smug with the Patriots run of Brady and Belichick that had seemingly come to an end? In a word: none.
Winning, I have come to discover, does not make losing any easier. Winning makes winning all the more important. We want our teams to be more than champions. We want them to be historic. Winning a world series was memorable (I was lucky enough to be at game two in 2004 – the Curt Schilling bloody sock game); winning two in four years is monumental. Winning a Superbowl was exciting; winning three in four years is epic. I know it’s early, but the Bruins this year look to be even better than last year’s team. And now the Patriots have given themselves a chance at absolute immortality.

Yet, as I watched the game yesterday (AFC championship, 23-20 win over Baltimore), I was filled with the same familiar feelings from my youth: the dreaded sense of pain that would come from a devastating loss and the overwhelming anticipation of a seemingly improbably victory. I am neither confident nor cocky about Superbowl XLVI. I have no predictions to make. Memories of 2008 still haunt. I can only hope that my son
and I will sleep as peacefully in two weeks as we did last night.

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