Last week, New Zealand lost a game of cricket. Sort of. We didn’t lose, but the other team won. I know you understand this and the reason I know you get it is because you’re a football person.
This happens all the time in our game. Sometimes it’s a tie, either on the scoreboard or the points table. And what do we do? We fall over ourselves to come up with some sort of contrived tie-braking criteria such as goal difference, who got the fewest yellow cards, or lining the goalkeepers up for target practice from point blank range.
Let’s face it, at some point or other we’ve all been the victims of this kind of neoliberal rubbish some drongo in a suit dreamed up to avoid two or more teams making like dirty pinko commie leftie wowsers and sharing the Jimmy Connors.
And how do we react when it happens to our beloved football teams? We role-model the highest levels of sportsmanship, grace and maturity and we get the hell over it! Stiff upper lip old chum!
LOL, jokes. We act like a Nat who just found out how MMP works. “You mean you have to get 51% to lord it over 100%? When did that become a thing? 22 years ago?? SHUT UP!!”
Whether it’s France’s golden goal in the Euro 2000 final or Sweden and Denmark’s ‘biscotto’ four years later – I’m not over it, I refuse to get over it, and if the perfectly valid grudges I hold against those three countries and their entire populations are still burning strong in 34 billion years when the human race has been extinct for 33.9 then I don’t see anything terribly unhealthy about that.
As John Kirwan said on the mental health awareness ad – “hardening up is not what you need to do” – and we can laugh but he’s right. Seriously – if you will allow me to be serious for once – sport and depression do go together and it can kill. I speak from experience here. Taking a sporting loss hard, especially when there is a feeling of injustice, might not be all it seems on the surface. It can often be a symptom of, or a trigger for, complex emotional anxiety and distress that needs to be handled with care.
Telling people they knew the rules before the game, they need to be better sports or they should get over it isn’t necessarily helpful. Often people are much harder on themselves than you can ever be on them and reinforcing the belief that what they are feeling isn’t ok could only be fuelling their self-loathing. It might be “only a game” to you but it might not be to them.
You might be reading this and thinking “oh don’t be ridiculous, they are just being silly” – and maybe they are. Maybe they are not though. Why would you want to risk the possibility of adding to someone else’s distress, however inadvertently, just so you can get a few cheap likes and feel all superior on social media?
It costs you nothing of any real value to keep your smug reckons to yourself and just let people feel what they feel.