A Letter To Losers

Dear Athlete,

We see you out there, young man. We see you with your head cradled low. We see you daughter. We see the tears collecting in your eyes, eyes that you shield from us, so we cannot suppose weakness in your humanity.

We see your hand tremble, as you reach out in weedy approbation; to shake the very hand that snatched your dream from beneath your pillow.

Everything seemed so right, just one week ago. Now? Now, everything couldn’t possibly be more wrong.

All that you ever envisioned, at least as far as your young eyes can see into the future, is gone in a blink, in a jot, in a second.

Time is gone.

With time, you held in your hands the power to melt mountains, to turn steel to dust, to grind hard stone to meal. However, time slipped through your fingers –– right before us. We watched intently. We are witness. We saw it happening to you, right before our eyes. Yet we still not know how.

You molded time tightly in your hands, and in utter control of it, shaped it to your needs. But now it is no more, and you must endure watching it puff and waft gently into the ether of your youth.

Oh, it wasn’t your fault –– although you want to blame yourself. Blame someone.

You don’t owe us an apology. You don’t owe us a thing. The debt is ours.

That’s just the brutal irony of sport. Of life. All players want to play on. However, we find fairness in the integrity of the game. We honor the rule. The end comes when a whistle, a number, a clock, a buzzer –– a doctor’s report –– some contrivance, obstructs the path to dreams, and says, “beyond here, you may not go”.

And we don’t go.

We sense your pain, athlete, although we can’t really feel it. Not the way you do, anyway.

We do understand your frustration. We saw what your opponent did to you. We saw their shadow cast upon you. We watched things happen to you that wouldn’t happen again in a month of Sundays, or in a Blue Moon, rarely, and almost never. Your adversary strode unrelent-ingly, as if escorted by an entourage of divine hands, brushing you aside. Are they better? Or blessed?

That, too, hardly matters. Time is up.

Your opponent is respected, but we cannot love them. That’s for others to do. We allow our-selves only to marvel. We only admit to our shock, not awe.

We saw what they did to you. To us. Often, we saw it coming even before you did, and therein lies the woe. That’s the original sin of being your fan. We are not allowed to act on your behalf. We are only allowed watch. And talk. And talk we surely will.

Hopefully, we will talk with fondness, although that’s not guaranteed. We will rely on the human brain, programmed to recall good times more quickly than the bad. There were plenty of good times. And there will be more. For you and for us.

We will move on. We will likely move on even faster than you.

That’s because we feel no shame in letting you hold onto the baggage of what might have been, to let it reign over the realm of “what if’s” in our lifetimes.

As fans, we will satisfy our own longings again through others. We will claim our share of an-other family’s son or daughter for another term. We will exhaust them, just as we did you. Did generations before.

We will latch on again.

We will let them do all the work, like we let you. All the study. We will let them put in the extra shots, the laps, the sprints, the drills, like we did you.

We are parasites.

And as such, we are grateful you took us along for the ride.

– John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media.