Sometimes the game is simple. It can be stripped bare to its base components. Sometimes it just hurts to lose a game. Julio Cesar felt this so viscerally on Wednesday night that all he could do was apologize to his teammates and fans, then trudge off into the night, back home. He walked past his car, through the departing fans, with only his thoughts for company.
I would eloquently describe this as being ‘gutted’. And in a basic way, I know just how Cesar felt. As I’m sure does anyone who has ever played a game in which they were so personally committed that to lose felt like abject failure. Or, something approaching that for a while. And to suspect you had some hand in that failure? Thoroughly disconsolate.
That’s why I enjoy hearing of reactions to that feeling like Cesar’s ‘stroll of shame’. Sometimes I don’t want to hear the carefully rehearsed answers about ‘giving it our best shot’, or ‘manning up’. Sometimes I just want to see a player look like they got punched in the stomach when they lose, just like I do.
That feeling of dread, as air rushes from your lungs and blood from your face. There are a few precious seconds when your mind completely clears, before being replaced by a gnawing, persistent conscious that demands answers for what just happened. Maybe it was you; if you had just pressed a little tighter, ran a little harder, been a little better. Or chances are that, like Cesar’s, there were a number of things that could have led up to, affected and altered the outcome; you were just one of them.
It affects us all differently. I have a friend who used to get so nervously excited before our midweek, pick-up games that he would often vomit before, during and after a match. Such was his own personal investment in his performance. I’d like to think Julio commiserated in much the same way I do – a slowly sipped pint of consolingly strong beer. Perhaps two, or three (if it emerges he took a bath in Cristal, don’t send me a link). And so the feeling passes, you rationalize and prepare for the next game.
For those of us who have given up a portion of their emotional well-being to this trivial pastime, moments like these develop into a common bond we can share with our sporting idols. It is purely and solely about the game. No doubt later they will shatter that illusion by demanding to leave for a rival team, or admit they just do it to get girls (maybe). But when we connect on a base level of winning and losing, it is an immediate connection we can all share.
Sometimes the players just really want to win and don’t. Sometimes the game is simple.