Last week I wrote an article called “Welcome To The Tampa Bay Lightning Bandwagon” in anticipation for what I (and most other hockey fans) thought would be a long, successful playoff run for this regular-season record-breaking NHL team. It read a bit like a love letter to my favorite sports team. The Lightning then promptly got swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Since the losses, I have experienced some very real feelings of hurt, confusion, and disappointment. I may have shed actual tears. It was then that I realized being a sports fan can feel like being in an unhealthy relationship.
Do I need to break up with hockey?
It started out great, with so much promise. All lights were green, all signs said YES. This is it. They’re even better than you expected. Gradually you watch yourself step from ‘hopeful’ into ‘confident’. If someone were to ask what you’d change or what bothers you about them, you’d smugly grin and say, “Ya know? We’re doing really well. I couldn’t ask for more.” You cancel plans to spend more time with them, you stockpile their t-shirts, you consider a tattoo in their honor.
But then, just when you really put all your eggs in this basket, it’s like the basket is flung in the air, the eggs are everywhere and now it’s just an absolute mess.
Nothing really makes sense but you keep repeating that you still love them. You repeat it until you start to believe it yourself.
At that point, you realize just how much you’ve invested in this relationship. An ungodly amount of time, money, mental and emotional distress. The things that made you fall in love with them – their heart, their resilience, their focus, their drive – suddenly start to fall away. You notice the new pieces that fill their space – they’re careless, they lack motivation, they’re unproductive, they’re irresponsible.
You’re embarrassed by their behavior, their choices, their actions… but you grab from your excuse bin. They’re better than this, I swear! They’re never like this normally! We’re just in a slump!
You start picking up your bad habits again. Biting your nails or cursing or drinking more frequently.
And then it’s over. You wake up the next morning and the sun is still shining. How is the sun shining? You wonder if that really happened. You take a little longer to get out of bed. You dodge questions about them the next day but the nights are the hardest. Until you can wrap your head around it and get used to being without them, you push the happy memories back. You put their shirts in the back of your closet for now, toss on some monochromatic color, and start moving on.
’Til next season.
*I should shout out my wonderful fiancé who supported me writing this ridiculous article and wiped my tears after the Lightning’s embarrassing playoff performance. A testament that true love prevails, even after heartache.
photo credits: Top: CBS Sports writer Pete Blackburn on Twitter / Bottom: Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Lightning Facebook