Losing is never fun. Sure, everybody can't win, otherwise nobody ever would, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with for anyone involved. Nowhere (besides divorce court) are those first two sentences more true than in the world of sport. Whether as an on-field participant or an interested spectator, there is an emotional investment in any athletic competition. As an ex-athlete and current sports fan, I've gotten very familiar with the concept of losing...including the fact that not all losses are created equal.
See, as you may know, I'm a Cowboys fan. Whether you know that or not, you probably know that they lost yesterday. (Social media has made it possible to be highly informed about things which you may not care about, especially such popular topics as the Cowboys losing.) Sure, people I haven't talked to in months made it their responisbility to let me know about it anyway, but what they may not know is that they caught me on a relatively good week.
Yep, I've seen worse. Damn right I have. In any long-term relationship, like being married, having a friendship or being a sports fan, you're going to see a wide array of highs, lows, surprises, disappointments, and plenty of the just plain screwy. It's part of the whole wonderful dichotomic balance between yin and yang and all that good sh*t. As stated before, the context of a loss can have profound effect on the emotional response to it.
The entire idea that losses can be quantified on some kind of scale may seem ridiculous to the nonfan. Of course, I minored in the ridiculous, so to that end, here is exactly that, a scale to measure the emotional intensity of a defeat. It will include defining criteria, methods of coping and common recovery period, all of which combine with other factors to form the DEFCON, or defeat context.
As an added service to humanity, there will also be suggestions for concerned parties for dealing with the affected party during the recovery period as well as keywords which an outsider can pick up on and immediately determine the proper personal protocol. (There will also be recent anecdotal evidence for the insiders.) Aight, without any further introbation:
-Simply being outmatched by the other side in that day's events in a fair, indisputable, and uncontroversial manner.
-Losing to a nonrival in a regular season game.
-Losing to break a short winning streak.
-Losing early in the season.
-Minimally impactful losses.
Ya can't win 'em all (isn't that right, '07 Patriots?), and this is the category for your regular old loss. This flavor of loss is the easiest to swallow because it's the least damaging. (Of course, all losing tastes like motor oil, bad underarms and Miller Genuine Draft, but the aftertaste fades relatively quickly.)
Methods of coping include slightly increased intoxicant consumption or possibly even just moving on with your slightly dimmed day. Concerned parties can assist by simply not rubbing it in.
Common Recovery Time: 12-24hr
Keywords: early, oh well, next time/week, better team, outplayed/coached
Anecdotal Example: 9/17/12 @ Seattle.
-A lopsided score.
-Putting up a fight, but being beaten in the end by a clearly superior opponent.
-Losing to an equal or near-equal opponent through questionable means, such as a non-critical missed call or a poorly-excecuted play or 2.
-Losing a hard-fought game to a equal or near-equal opponent in the closing minutes.
-Underperforming against a slightly inferior opponent.
This variety of loss is a little harder to take, but still managable. Many of these come in the form of close games decided against your team, but can also be any loss at all to a clearly inferior opponent. Blowouts also often go in this category...nobody wants to see their team get run out of the building.
Methods of coping include increased intoxicant consumption and/or mild to moderate sexual healing. A short period of isolation is also helpful. Concerned parties can assist by aiding in the pursuit of these things.
Common Recovery Time: 24-48hr
Keywords: sucks, almost, blowout, last minute/play/shot, ref, drop, one more
Anecdotal Example: 10/14/07 vs. New England.
-Losing to a rival team in a regular season game.
-Losing a season-ending game to a heavily favored opponent.
-Losing by a wide margin to a team thought to be inferior.
-Losing through mildly noteworthy means, such as a rare play, an extraordinary effort, or a clearly missed call.
-Losing a game and a non-critical player(s) for a short period.
-Losing a game with moderate playoff implications.
Here's where we get into hurt-piece territory. These sting for a while. Here is the territory where remote controls and other small, semi-disposable items are in danger of becoming collateral damage. Whether you just came up short against a hated rival, find your team getting 21'd by the Browns in the first quarter, or just saw the season end (in theory or fact), you'll remember this one whether you like it or not.
Methods of coping include heavily increased intoxicant consumption, extended isolation, moderate to severe sexual healing, and removing oneself from the sphere of competition for a while. That means no E!SPN or sports sites for a couple of days. It'll be hard, but no harder than what you will experience by seeking them out. Concerned parties can assist by not bringing it up for at least that long.
Common Recovery Time: 36hr-1wk
Keywords: "...", jobbed, lucky, refs, can't believe, over, what?!
Anecdotal Example: 10/19/08, @St. Louis (and a week earlier @Arizona...what a season 2008 was, right?)
-Losing a season-ending game to an inferior opponent.
-Losing to a hated rival in a highly convincing fashion.
-Losing a non-critical player(s) for an extended period or a critical one for a short period.
-Losing a game with heavy playoff implications.
-Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory through an unexpected twist of fate.
-Referee-assisted losses through either many small errors or one huge f*ckup.
If you thought DEFCON 3 was bad, you don't want to find yourself here. While most of these involve the total death of a season, some of the worst examples of this involve loss zombification, where a team is technically still in contention but still realistically dead. Also in this category are blowouts to rivals, as you will have to hear about it until next time they play.
Methods of coping include temporary but complete isolation from the sporting world as well as all others discussed in this article combined. As these will not take effect immediately, an extended recovery program is advised. You will also do well to avoid discussion of the event, as it leads almost directly to confrontation. Concerned parties can just stay out of the way for a while...this level or above has been known to cause people not to be responsible for their immediate actions.
Common Recovery Time: 72hr-1.5wk
Keywords: next year, draft, screwed, kill ref, fire, cut, trade, new, hate
Anecdotal Example: 9/12/10 @Washington
-A season-ending loss to a hated rival.
-A once-in-a-lifetime play ending a significant game the wrong way. (further reading: 2000 Super Bowl)
-An especially disappointing loss in a championship game.
-Losing both the game and critical player(s) for a significant period.
-A truly unique experience in frustration and despair.
These are the games that stick with people for generations. Any Red Sox fan worth their crimson stockings knows what happened in the '86 World Series. (I do and not only am I not even a serious baseball fan, I wasn't even born yet.) If there are more than 5 Utah Jazz fans, I'm betting they don't wear Jordans. I still might punch Patrick Crayton in the face if I ever see him. These are the single worst moments of being a sports fan...but then again, it's what you signed up for when you agreed to be one.
As far as coping goes, nothing but time will close that wound and there will be a scar. There are entire generations of sports fans who still cannot bear to speak of certain names, dates, and concepts because of events that took place decades ago. (Mention the Tuck Rule in any participating Oakland area bar for a free stabbing!) Try not to break anything irreplaceable. Concerned parties just have to wait it out with the fan in question...after all, if you're lucky, there will only be one or two of these in an entire lifetime.
Common Recovery Time: 1wk-?
Keywords: the 7 or so you can't say on television.
Anecdotal Example: 12/28/08 @Philadelphia.
Hopefully, you at least enjoyed this look at the types of losses more than living through them. If you're going to be a sports fan, you have to do it through winning, losing, and history made doing either. As a Cowboys fan, even the most successful season I've ever seen contained 3 losses (and eventually, a crushing 4th), so odds are I have not seen my beloved 'Boys take an L for the last time. However, at least after yesterday, I can say it's not so bad. After all, there's always next time...except when there's not.