The sports teams I have rooted intensely for include the Kansas State University Wildcats, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas City Royals, and the Washington Nationals. I tell you about those first three so you can truly know that I know losing in sports. I have lived 0-for-Autumn, an uncanny number of first round play-off losses, and "mathematically eliminated" from the play-offs...in August. I understand when someone talks about "next year's high draft spot" they are displaying a fierce sense of optimism - which inevitably follows a coach's tears on the news.
Because I have rooted for these teams, I also know how sweet a turnaround can be. When my beloved Wildcats finally beat those Cornhuskers, I didn't stop smiling for a week. I have been known to tell people, as they mock me for my hometown teams, that the joy of the turnaround makes it all worthwhile. I'm not actually sure I believe it, but there is a certain amount of glory when your (horrible) team is over-performing and everyone who sees you makes note of it. They want to share just a teeny bit of your excitement.
Last Fall, Connor played soccer for the first time. Judging by the score and the extra man that nearly always got to play, Connor's team was awful. They might have scored fewer than 5 goals the whole season. It was almost a blessing when Connor broke his arm and we no longer had to sit on the sidelines. I was having fun messing around with my camera, but I could see it was starting to get to Connor.
I know losing, and this losing was bad.
Spring season, the boys picked up right where they left off. Only now, rather than mostly taking it in stride, they seem to be a little upset about the situation. One parent complimented her son and he retorted "how can even say good-job when we lost 15 - 0"? I was never more thankful for my own non-complimenting policy / very specific complimenting policy. I could very sincerely say to Connor "I noticed when you stuck with the ball and kept trying to push it toward the goal!".
Parents, now, were also starting to get annoyed that the talent wasn't leveled a little better. The coach of the other team from Connor's school actually came up to me and started apologizing about the game, but I just smiled and said "Connor gets over these things pretty quickly. These things just happen." That is because I have a strict policy of not criticizing volunteer coaches. I have no idea what it takes to coach a soccer team. I'm going to do my best to not make it more difficult. Also, it's not this guy's fault Connor's team stinks, and he's always SUPER NICE to Connor at practice, as is Connor's own coach.
But last Saturday, Connor missed the game due to two conflicts. I emailed a friend with a son on the team and she emailed back that she thought they won, though she wasn't certain! It must have at least been close enough that the boys' were in it, and must have scored several times.
At first, I was really excited for our team, hoping that it portended great things in the future. Connor would love for his team to win - or even score! But then I immediately thought - oh man, that team must be worse than our team. Poor kids. That must be awful. And I realized I was wishing the other team would've won.
I guess some of us are just supposed to root for losers. But did you hear the Royals were in first place?