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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, December 09, 2023
Jim Dayton

Column: Reflecting on the highs and lows of being a sports fan

After the Packers were walloped by Seattle last Thursday night, it seemed like an appropriate time for Wisconsin sports fans to take a step back and let out a prolonged sigh.

As a Milwaukee native, I’ve experienced the highs of a Super Bowl victory and the lows of having to watch the Bucks self-destruct for the past decade. However, the past week-and-a-half has been a particularly gut-wrenching experience.

The Brewers, who had been in first place in their division since April 5, lost nine in a row and saw their 1.5-game lead turn into a four-game deficit as the stretch run begins.

The Badgers looked well on their way to scoring a major victory against LSU, and then the second half came around and we all know what happened there. Then the Packers’ highly praised offense looked pedestrian as the Seahawks thoroughly dominated Green Bay in the NFL season opener. That’s 11 losses in 10 days.

Sports are highly emotional entities. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t spend 10 hours in front of a TV on Sundays or willingly pay $9 for a lousy beer while sitting in the outfield bleachers. The most ardent fans live and die with their teams. It’s why we collectively refer to teams as “we” or “us” even though we have no direct effect on their performance.

Constantly losing temporarily takes that emotion away. As fans, we become numb to the result. Instead of taking it game-by-game, our egos get crushed with a belief of “maybe we aren’t as good as I thought.” Apathy suddenly replaces the traditional roller-coaster wave of emotion.

Wisconsin easily defeated Western Illinois Saturday, but the Badgers had a slow start and were expected to dominate. The LSU loss still stings a bit, so I’ll take the first victory with cautious optimism. Likewise, while the Brewers finally won Friday night, it doesn’t fully undo a week of horrible baseball.

As Wisconsin improves throughout the season, the tangible possibility of playing in the Big Ten title game will replace the disappointment from LSU. The Brewers will inevitably string together a few wins and make the division race interesting. That’s when the emotion returns.

When the narrative of losing gives way to the potential of a playoff run, everything becomes magnified. The victories are so much sweeter and the losses all the more upsetting. Sports can be a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately affair, and suddenly fans completely forget about the recent losing streak or disappointing loss.

Being a fan is what makes normal people turn irrational. We’re compelled to yell at our TVs when players a thousand miles away make a mistake. We feel the need to superstitiously wear a lucky piece of clothing that hasn’t been washed in weeks to give our team the best chance at winning.

That irrationality can turn into impatience and overwhelming demands, but at their core, sports are just games. They’re entertainment. And when we’re lucky enough to get caught up in the anticipation and excitement of a winning streak, there’s no better feeling as a sports fan.

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