It’s just a game.
That is what we get told at least. Anyone who has been a part of a team or fan base knows it is not always that simple.
Since becoming a journalist, I have done a better job of keeping my emotions in check during sporting events than I did growing up. There are clear rules in place for being objective but it was starting to be about more than that.
Everything that happens in a game is going to have no effect on my life, right? I just want to sit back and enjoy the sport for the competition.
I grew up crying over Alabama losses as a 10-year-old kid but when I witnessed the Kick Six and Deshaun Watson to Hunter Renfrow in person, there was nothing. I thought letting your emotions get the best of you because of one game was a little too much.
It did not take long for me to figure out that was a lie. Whether it was the US Men’s National Team missing the World Cup or the New York Yankees losing to the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs, I still showed some emotion from time to time but got over it pretty quickly.
However, it was not until Sunday night when I found out the pinnacle of heartbreak as a sports fan. After grueling through a seven-game series and fighting back from a late deficit, the Philadelphia 76ers were in position to go to overtime with momentum and a chance to save their season.
And that’s when it all came down on top of me.
Front rim. Front rim. Back rim. Back rim. Net.
The somehow inevitable quadruple doink shot from Kawhi Leonard ended the Sixers’ season and sent me into a puddle on my apartment floor. I couldn’t even bring myself to watch “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night so you know it was a big deal.
Seeing your players give that much effort and that much heart to walk off the court in tears was crushing. In that moment, it was more than just a game.
And I know there is someone out there who is saying it’s not your season or they are not your players. I know that because I have said things like that before.
There is no “we” when you are referring to a sports team. You’re not on the court with them and you’re not on the team.
But that’s what makes sports so special.
That loss Sunday hit every Sixers fan the same way. We were never more of a community than we were in that moment.
We cared about the players on the court, we cared about the coaching staff and we cared about each other. People we have never met in person were the only people you wanted to talk to in that moment because they understood what was happening.
Sports affect more than just the players and the coaches getting paid by the team. It affects the entire community as a family.
So, yes, people will continue to call out overreactions and continue to say it is all just a game. But you have to go through it just once with your fan base, your community and your family to know that it is so much more than that.