"You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow."
Dark clouds hover over our psyches in the wake of a less than optimal result on Sunday. The clouds that are hovering over Tottenham are as black as the comments on my Twitter timeline. Top four ambitions have all but vanished with nine matches left in the season. As fans, we feel pain. This hurts.
I can't claim to be a follower or even a scholar of Buddhism, but I remember enough from my liberal arts college background to recall that the Buddha emphasized in his teachings the link between desire and suffering. We want to feel happy and to avoid pain and sorrow, and yet we constantly put ourselves in positions that set us up to experience the very things that we try to avoid. We pin our happiness to things that we, frankly, have no control over whatsoever, in an attempt to wrangle meaning out of chaos. And further, we let the resulting feelings that spring from this framework of understanding define us, and we collapse into grief when our expectations are not met.
A three-nil loss to Manchester United is not pain. It is not suffering. It does not define who we are or how we feel about ourselves unless we assign meaning to it.
The Man of the Match for this Sunday's match against Manchester United is the feeling you get when you realize that it's okay to let go. It's the exhalation of breath that you realize you've been holding since July. It's the moment you accept that your lofty goals are not going to be realized, and that it's okay. It's the knowledge that it's not only all right to fail, but that even failure can carry an echo of glory.
It's the good book you've been meaning to read for weeks now but have never found the time. It's the science experiment you do with your children on a Sunday afternoon in April. It's a bike ride on the trail around the pond. It's that piece of Rumi poetry that you never really understood until this very moment.
And in sporting terms, it's the moment you realize that wonderful move by Andros Townsend is in itself an extraordinary piece of skill and is not in the least lessened by the fact that he (again) fired it over the bar from 20 yards. It's the game that doesn't matter, that shouldn't matter in the overall final standings, which makes it that much more fun to watch. It's that save by Hugo Lloris. You know the one. THAT one. Wasn't that great? Was that not in and of itself worthy of appreciation and joy?
The Buddha would have us stop watching sports entirely, or at least to watch only with an appreciative eye towards the beauty of the game itself, and not look beyond to the score, to the winnings and losings and the emotional attachments that come with it. I cannot bring myself to do so. For me, part of the joy of sports fandom is attaching myself to something to which I have no control. I have no confidence that Tottenham Hotspur are going to play well. How can I? If I knew with certainty that Spurs were going to go undefeated and win the league, would it not lessen the emotional impact?
I could never be a Buddhist. I cannot fully sever myself from the emotionality of fandom. But I can temper my expectations, and not fully tether myself to events that are neither within my sphere of influence nor itself impacted by my emotional response. Or if I can't do that, I can certainly not snap at my kids when the final whistle blows. I can exhale.
And paired with that comes an equally powerful emotional response, but one that is the antithesis of the crushing despair felt by the jilted sports fan: hope. It's the hope beyond all rationality that comes with the belief that even though bad things happen, often frequently and without a sense of respite, someday good things will come. Maybe even to Tottenham Hotspur.
Next season. Just wait until next season.