There was a time last Thursday whilst watching my beloved USA men’s soccer team take on Germany that the trademark Cleveland sports hopelessness consumed me– a feeling I have been plagued with for much of my life. It seems to have been rooted in my DNA through The Drive, The Shot, and The Fumble. And, since my birth, the more recent 1997 World Series, The Decision, the infinite Browns draft busts…the list of defeatist folklore could go on, but I won’t waste any more space on it in an environment dedicated to positivity.
After being a fun sponge post-USA’s heartbreaking last gasp draw v Portugal only a few days earlier, I needed to reassess and start to practice more of what we preach here when it came to my sports viewing. But there I was on Thursday, and at around the 55′ minute, Germany’s Thomas Müller sniped an unstoppable laser, and the USA were down. All was not lost, however. The US could still advance if Portugal beat Ghana in the other simultaneous group match with a lower goal differential than the US; the same applied to the Ghanaian’s. Alas, just a timid 2 minutes later, Uncle Sam’s old nemesis Asamoah Gyan put the Black Stars level with Portugal. One more Ghana goal would see them advance on goal differential, and my ugly despondency struck as fast as the Müller snipe. Subsequently, I boozily berated countless group chats with negative ho-hum, training my mind inevitably to accept the pending defeat, in true Cleveland sports fashion. But then something strange happened: Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Portugal, the US held the German’s to just a goal, and we advanced out of the group on goal diff. I slammed a
concoction of shock and glee Red Stripe with my American comrades and new found Deutsche-speaking ones.
Looking back, I realized how hypocritical I’ve been throughout this World Cup in writing for a blog that thematically and proudly feeds off positivity. But it’s also been a friendly reminder that all of this is still a practice in the state or character of being positive. Being in an unhealthy, pessimistic mindset not only harshed my own vibes, but of those amongst me; it’s
almost as if I forgot to enjoy what makes sports beautiful– human spirit, kinship, the party. Look no further than the optimistic American Outlaws anthem to observe it: I Believe That We Will Win. And, even so, winning isn’t everything. Witness the Irish fans from this loss to Spain, singing their hearts out despite a 4 – 0 loss. Liveliness and an upbeat attitude play the trump card, and that looks a helluva lot more fun than dawdling out in distress via an early exit.
They say that writing down your goals leads to greater success; so let this be mine. Today, I start to NOT be negative, at the very least, my sporting friends. Baby steps. Because conscious positivity is harder than working out.
I think when it comes down to it, you have to remind yourself this: it’s a game. When I step back and maintain that sense of perspective and awareness, positivity is easier to come by; the emotional rollercoaster is less a vomit drenched ride, and more a carefree ‘no hands Ma!’ one. The older I get, the more I discern that the investment of energy and time into something I virtually have no control over is futile. Consciously continuing to remind yourself that you oversee your own attitude, relationships, health– basically anything in which you’re in the drivers seat– can lead to a greater (and less stressful) gratification of our competitive pastimes.
Sports (normally) boils down to something you never had control over initially, which is your place of birth. One of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Cat’s Cradle, had a term for this realization in the invented religion of Bokononism: granfalloon. Or, simply put: a group of people (fans) who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist. I would similiarly argue that there are more noble characteristics in which you should judge your fellow humans than that of the latitude and longitude of their creation. Two of the world’s most transparent comics/social critics– Bill Hicks and George Carlin— agreeably state it more…bluntly.
All that being said, I still love me some athletics. The winner of the World Cup, soccer, and all of sports– as long as you maintain your rationality and positivity– is humanity. I can’t wait to try and beat Belgium tomorrow and toast with my best friends– win or lose. Baby steps.