A kind of death happens when your basketball team loses in the Final Four. It’s not quite like biological death in that the humans who comprised the squad continue to breathe and all that, but the team itself no longer exists and never will again, and you feel as though you lived and died several times during the game. Even if there is a consolation match left to play, it’s entirely irrelevant and will likely include benchwarmers who never would have appeared in the championship game anyway, had the team gone that far.
This was to be a synergistic year for the Syracuse basketball Orange, in my mind. The last time they played in the Final Four was 10 years ago this weekend, when they won it all for the first and only time. I was in Italy when it happened, listening over the internet to the semi-final game in the lobby of our hotel in Siena and, two days later, to the final in some airless common room in our hotel in Florence. The championship game ended at nearly 6 in the morning local time when Hakeem Warrick blocked a 3 point shot by a Kansas player, and later that night I asked my girlfriend to marry me. As weekends go, it was a pretty good one.
Whenever my teams end their season with a playoff loss (as the vast majority of our teams do), I remind myself to be an adult about it and try not to care. Sometimes, I go so far as to declare that I’m done with watching sports, which, of course, is the opposite of not caring. There are plenty of reasons to abandon the pastime of watching other people get exercise and have fun, notably that it sucks up huge chunks of time, but not watching because your team probably won’t win the ultimate game is essentially about avoiding pain.
I keep watching because the joy of a rare title game victory trumps the hurt of watching the other fans celebrate year after year. Alas, there wasn’t perfect synergy this year as I had hoped, but I still have the memory of ten years ago, when the Orange were crowned national champions, and my girlfriend became my fiancé.