Every sports fan has felt it at some point- the dejection after a playoff loss, when the finality of a season is fully realized, nothing to look forward to, every dream deferred. Yet, there's the promise of next year that sucks you right back in. And so it continues. You get over it, eventually, once the team starts up again. There's that promise of a better day, a triumph that will lift you off the mat.
It's different for the athletes, who have to deal with the fact that they had control, that they had the opportunity to change the outcome. Fans like to pretend they have some sway in the performance- with cheering, booing, or following all the right superstitions. When it comes down to it, though, cheering and maybe giving a boost to the home team is all you can do. It's that separation that lets a fan move on. They were let down by the team, and not by themselves. The pros have to consider what they contributed, what more they could've done. It lingers, pops up in your head when you don't expect it. And eventually, they motivate themselves and move on, ready to do more when they have the next opportunity.
The problem is, I don't have another opportunity.
Yesterday I played my last game of high school water polo, and we lost in the sectional finals for the third straight year to the same team (and no, it's not lost on me that I've done a small-scale Early 90s Buffalo Bills in my own athletic career.) We lost 12-9 this year, 8-7 the year before, and 12-10 the year before- all close games. And that makes it even worse, because every decision I made, every action I took during the game more important. I didn't play particularly well, and neither did my team. We were better than this. We got down 4-1, early, got back to within a goal, and then they broke it open. We just didn't have it. Worst of all, though, for me and my two fellow seniors, we don't get another chance at it. It's done. No redemption. I'm jealous of my younger teammates who have the opportunity to make things right. For me, I just have to move on with my life, ignoring pangs of regrets and telling myself that there's more to life than high school water polo, there's more to life than sports. Eventually, eventually...