The look at the zombies – formerly regular humans – walking out of the Nassau Coliseum to watch their final regular season Islander game ever in the “old barn” was frightening. I told myself not to look backwards for fear of emotional scarring, beyond the horror show I just witnessed on the ice.
To give a quick recap, the New York Islanders had the opportunity to create a magical night. All they had to do was win the game. It would have propelled them on a good high right into the playoffs and would have closed out a fitting end to their wonderful history. Also, our captain, John Tavares, whose jersey I proudly wore to the game, was on the verge of winning the Art Ross Trophy for most points scored in the NHL. That would have been the cherry on the hockey sundae. He did his part and scored a goal and got an assist.
But there was darkness to befall on us loyal fans. Dark clouds were building over the coliseum, or was that black smoke that blew over due to Northeast winds from the local garbage disposal incineration plant? The choice of music changed from the high-spirited rock music pounding the coliseum walls while we were winning, to the “watch your backside side melody” of the theme from Dragnet when we started our collapse.
So, we lost the game in overtime after we had three chances to win late in the game. To boot, our captain got beaten for the point total race by someone on another NHL team who was in second place going into the last game of the season. That mystery player somehow found a way to get all four points for his team, the last one coming with 9 seconds left to play to beat our captain’s record by one point. When you put both miseries side by side, the combination of despair accompanied by long blank stares (looking at anything other than the reality before you – such as a distant lightbulb’s housing apparatus) is too much for mere mortals to digest.
I drove home in a daze. I was surprised there were no traffic laws for “driving while losing?” Racing thoughts, what ifs, should-a, would-a, could-avs, if only this-if only that, and the granddaddy of second thoughts – it’s just uncanny, permeated my one-directional mind on the Northern State Parkway. I looked at other cars next to me, hoping they would just nip my car from the side to distract my pain elsewhere. Yes, a dent on my new car’s fender would have been much more palatable than the pain of the games’ outcome.
How am I going to shrug this one-off? How do I get pumped up going into the playoffs? If only………………there I go again………………..if we just would have…………………help me Dear God! I can’t take the pain!!!!!!!!!
Ok. Maybe an ice-cold shower will do the trick “if” I make it home? I know, how about a close clipping of all my toenails to try to see if I can escape one pesky toe nail shooting into my eye? I got it……I am going to drink that miserable carrot, beat and cumin juice my girlfriend has waiting for her in the refrigerator! That will certainly turn my stomach around and cleanse all the toxins as a result of the one point loss!
If you are a sports fan, you’ve absolutely faced this feeling. Losing by one point when everything matters is the worst feeling imaginable. I would rather lose 5-1 in a game over 3-2. Also, it is even worse when you lose by one point when you have the game in hand 99% of the way, only to choke at the end.
When we lose convincingly, we can shrug it off with some great clichés. We hear things like “the other team just brought their best stuff to the game” or “we gave it a good effort but were beaten by a better team today.” These lazy, lame excuses seem to work for us. We convince ourselves that we should be happy for the effort and not the result. We leave those games with resignation and placidity. There is no pain, no numbness, just a mild dose of disappointment which will easily drift away like a fleeting thought.
So, is it better for our mental health to have more decisive losses or closer hairline losses? I tried to look at the cost benefit side and seemed puzzled. On the one hand, losing by one point meant a more exciting game but a more memorable and impactful loss. On the other hand, a decisive loss with no drama is brushed away easily thereafter.
I guess to answer that is to look at one’s own personality traits. It would seem if you are risk averse, then a decisive loss feels better but the wins are more subtle. If you live on the edge a little more, than you look for a battle to the end and can accept the loss with a shrug.
However, I do not fall into these typical categories of personality traits. I love the element of risk, while at the same time I agonized over the loss. But at the end of the day, I get back up on the horse and put myself in a position to take the next risk to experience something special. I need heartbreak, fear, and risk to truly feel free and alive.
So are people like us masochist? Does that explain it? Or do people like me just need highs and lows in life to feel alive? It must be akin to watching a massive car wreck on the highway. As we slowly drive past the carnage, we squeeze our hands slowly away from our eyes to get a glimpse. We do not like what we see, but the next time back we will be looking for it again.
That sums up how it feels to lose by one point. It’s worth the devastation…for next time might be different.