My mom's dream for me was to become a Classics professor at Oberlin. In her wildest dreams, I'd wear tweed and marry a fellow professor and have one child named Olivia or Otis and write about contextualizing Aristotelian religious imagery or something. She wanted this for me, very badly. That's not what happened.
My dream for me as a very small child was to be a trash man, so I could ride on the back of the truck. I'd wake up early in the morning and hold on tight to the back of a garbage truck with one arm as we sped along the roads I grew up walking along. That's not what happened.
Last night, my alma mater could have held on against a Kentucky team playing like All-American bats straight out of NBA hell and gotten to its second Final Four in two years to take on a Wisconsin team they'd beaten once this season. They could have gotten to another national title game and this time they could have won, bringing home the first national title for Michigan basketball since 1989. That's not what happened.
And it sucks. It sucks really, really hard. It sucks because goddammit why doesn't anyone call anything the way I want it called, it sucks because Jordan Morgan, it sucks because I care, it sucks because I kind of hate how much I care, it sucks because the season's over and something that made me happy is gone again, like it is every year. It sucks because this thing, this sports thing that I have chosen to devote brain space and emotional energy to over "familial ties" and "knowing how economics works" makes me feel like I've been hit by a very large truck.
Caring is hard. Caring about sports, which is governed by inanimate objects and the whims of people who are not you and will never be you, is harder, and to be honest, kind of stupid. Despite our efforts and sabremetrics and weird voodoo rituals involving which section of the couch we're sitting on and despite our deepest, darkest desires, sports don't give a shit about what we want. Sports are ephemeral. Sports are without motive. "Wanting it more" doesn't matter. "Getting it done" doesn't matter. Shit just happens in sports, and in life, and there's nothing we can do about it.
On Easter Sunday seven years ago, my mom went into a coma for a month. An alcoholic for my entire life, her appendix had burst and she needed to be able to recover without going into shock from withdrawal. I watched this every single day she was in the hospital while I waited for someone to call me and tell me she was dead:
We sucked that season, due to injuries, bad defense, and a hilariously predictable offense. Penn State did not suck that season, due to not sucking and Michael Robinson. But after a Steve Breaston return and Mike Hart getting a first down and the vagaries of late-game play calling in the Big Ten, Chad Henne threw a ball to Mario Manningham and created a moment I held onto during the most painful period of my life. I've written about it before, and I must have seen this video at least 200 times, but it still gets me.
For some Penn State fan, this is cruel madness. Lloyd Carr got two seconds added onto the clock and Penn State's kicker kicked it to Breaston and a team that won the 2006 Orange Bowl in triple overtime lost to a Michigan team that couldn't hold onto a lead with a fucking grappling hook. Sports don't care. There's no narrative, there never was.There's just what happened.
We do this sports thing for Mario Manningham against Penn State, for Auburn's field-goal return touchdown, for the moments when knowledgable people were proven oh-so-wrong and for Kentucky hitting a game-winning three with 2.3 seconds left against Michigan yesterday. We do it because we care when we shouldn't, we do it because the joy of sports can help you come back from the tragedy of real things happening to real people, we do it because goddamn, sports are fun sometimes. We do it because this world doesn't make any sense but did you see Manziel's Pro Day? He may be small but maybe, just maybe...
Somewhere, some Kentucky fan is watching that shot over Michigan, and it's helping them get through something that they feel like they can't do by themselves. They'll watch it at work sometimes. They'll watch it when they're at home. They'll watch it when someone tells them that their kid is failing out of school or their parents can't take care of themselves anymore. They'll hold on to that moment, because that moment is when the Sports Gods looked down and said, "Fuck it, let's do this" and everything, for one second, was okay.
Sports don't make any sense. That's why we do it.