Weekend Links with Jon Marthaler: Why do we love sports when they cause so much pain?

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • January 26, 2013 - 9:36 AM


Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you every weekend. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?


My cousin Travis is a Seattle native and is an enormous Seahawks fan, and so I vicariously experienced some very Vikings-fan-esque pain a couple of weeks ago, as the Seahawks blew their playoff game at Atlanta. Here are some of his texts: "Please make the pain go away." "I hate everything right now. Stupid football. Stupid Seahawks." And finally, the coup de grace, as he came to terms with the reality of his situation: "Stupid sports. Why do you make me care about you so much?"

It's an interesting question, and one that came to mind again last night as I stormed out of a local arena in anger and frustration. I cannot imagine another pastime that so regularly makes so many incandescent with rage and abject with misery. What other hobbyists experience this? I can't imagine that big-game hunters are driven to drink by their pursuit, that woodworkers can feel personally humiliated because of a particularly fiddly cabinet, or that board gamers regularly experience feelings of hopelessness and wretchedness. And yet every day I'm back for another quarter, half, period, or inning, ready to get my hopes up (and open my wallet) without reservation.

I tried to console my cousin by telling him that the horrible pain is what makes the victory, when it finally comes, that much sweeter. The problem with that, of course, is that it's far, far more likely that this will never happen. It is much more likely than not that the Vikings will never win a Super Bowl in my lifetime, for example; they've avoided doing so for more than 50 years now, and there's no reason they can't make that a century. Victory is not something that comes around if you just wait long enough. Cubs fans have been waiting since 1908. In England, Preston North End won the first two Football League titles, in 1889 and 1890; they're on a 123-year losing streak since. I'd like to pretend otherwise, but the Vikings are only 72 years behind, and show no signs of not aiming for the overall title.

There must be a reason I keep coming back. There must be a reason that I keep on getting my hopes up, time and again. There must be a reason, because if there isn't, then I'm just completely and totally insane.

*On with the links:

*The NHL season opener drew the league's best non-Winter Classic regular-season ratings since 2002. Way to show your disgust, hockey fans!

*A new study found that chronic traumatic encephalopathy - CTE, the brain damage that's turned so many former football players to suicide - may be detectable in living patients. If confirmed, this could be a huge step forward in identifying athletes who are at risk following their playing careers. It also could be the first step towards understanding the effect that football at all levels has on the living brain. And if, as seems very possible, it turns out that playing football at any level causes brain damage of this type, it may be the first step towards the end of football in America.

*Kind of loved this: Brian Scalabrine took on all comers, one-on-one. In a result that is not surprising to anyone who is not a moron, Scalabrine slaughtered every one, including beating three radio DJ's one-on-three.

*And finally: I suppose the answer to my question above is this, the Butler-Gonzaga buzzer-beater last week. If you haven't already, however, keep an eye on Butler coach Brad Stevens. He's on the left-hand bench. You can pick him out because he's the one that appears to be supremely bored by the whole event. I'm not sure if he's a Jedi, or what.

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