There have only been two national championships of teams that I follow during my lifetime. In 1984, when I was about 3 months old, BYU won the national championship in football. In 1995, the Braves won the World Series. Outside of that, for every team I follow, each season ends the same way, in some sort of heartbreak.
There was the heartbreak of Jimmer's senior year, when we went from a potential #1 seed, to losing our only productive big man, to come up one shot short of the elite eight. There was every year in the '90s, except 95, when the Braves, even with the most dominant pitching staff, arguably ever, couldn't produce when it really mattered. I remember demanding my dad play catch with me after his Padres knocked the Braves out of the playoffs one year. Then there's the Jazz. We were often on family vacation during the playoffs, as they would extend into the early summer. When the Jazz finally broke into the finals, they would give us a sliver of hope, only to be posterized by MJ, again and again.
You would think with all that heartache, I ought to just give up sports. But if it doesn't hurt to lose, it wouldn't be so amazing to win. And although each season, the sports gods can only declare one team a champion, I have found that sports can deliver little moments of relief from the many difficulties of life.
Take for example the basketball game between BYU and Utah State last night. With the game tied, BYU had the ball with only seconds remaining. The initial shot by Carlino came up short, and Cusick was in the right place at the right time for the put back and the two point victory. A great moment in sports, big rivalry game, a down to the wire finish, with a gamer winner at the buzzer. However, I imagine it being an even bigger moment for his family, who earlier in the day found out that his father had cancer. There are little things that can provide an escape from the more difficult aspects of life in the way sports can.
I remember the season opener for BYU football in 2009. They were playing the #3 ranked team in the nation, the Oklahoma Sooners. BYU was a huge underdog, and yet they somehow pulled off the upset. At the time my pops had recently joined the ranks of the unemployed, and wasn't having much luck in the job hunt. I remember that one of my first thoughts after the game was gratitude that my BYU blue through and through dad would have a little something to cheer about during that difficult time.
Clearly in sports, for every winner, there is a loser. Just as elated as I was that BYU had beaten Oklahoma, they could have easily had lost. Had they lost, I would have counted my blessings, put the game into perspective, and moved on. But they won, and I got to, for a moment, escape the stresses of medical school and taste the sweet victory.