I've been trying to wrap my head around the extremely high emotions that came with the final game of the World Cup, and I can't. I mean, I like sports -- the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, really, I'm a sucker for it all. And yet, when I ran into my Dutch neighbor just after the game ended on Sunday I could tell he was really, really upset. Really upset. Likewise, I heard Spanish chef Jose Andres on the radio the other day and actually started to weep with joy just talking about Spain's victory. It's the depth of this passion that confuses me. I don't think I can come up with any comparison that appropriately contextualizes or translates the meaning of a World Cup victory for me (aside from assuming a kind of group think that can heighten any emotion but that seems kind of cheap and ungenerous). Anyway, today, on a friend's recommendation, I bought the current issue of Lapham's Quarterly, titled "Sports & Games." In it I found this excerpt from Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby:
"One thing I know for sure about being a fan is this: it is not a vicarious pleasure, despite all appearances to the contrary, and those who say they would rather do than watch are missing the point........The joy we feel on occasions like this is not a celebration of others' good fortune but a celebration of our own, and when there is a disastrous defeat, the sorrow that engulfs us is, in effect, self-pity, and anyone who wishes to understand how football is consumed must realize this above all things."
The whole excerpt is worth reading (it's not online but is on pg. 156 of LQ), and it certainly made me want to read more of Fever Pitch, but it also showed me how I won't ever really understand the joy or sorrow of sport in the way that Nick Hornby or my nephews do. So it goes. I probably get way more excited by new chocolate chip recipes than they do. We all have our passions.