I was born in Philadelphia and lived just outside the city until I went off to college a couple of years ago, and it’s hard for me to remember a day that ended with me being happier than I was Sunday night. Maybe when I was 13 and watched the Phillies win the World Series but hey, it’s the same deal. One of my earliest concrete, happy memories is of watching the 2001 NBA Finals in my parents’ room as a five-year-old, followed by that string of Eagles NFC Championship games in the early-2000s (which, as history remembers, ended with a loss to the Patriots in the 2005 Super Bowl). And watching with some college friends in an upstate-New York sports bar on Sunday, it felt like that kid for whom those memories—which, as happy as they were, all ended in disappointment—had finally gotten some closure.
And while all of what I’m about to say may be completely obvious, sports are a narrative medium—just written as they go by athletes and coaches. And as a narrative, they also invoke this ultimate synecdoche; i.e., teams become a synecdoche for their cities, and a proxy for the way those cities’ people view themselves. They represent a community through, as Austin mentioned, this “lore” that surrounds them and the specific ethos that they exhibit. And when that sense of community combines with a compelling overarching narrative (here: The Legend of Nick Foles), it just makes it all the more enrapturing.
So like with video games, it’s all a participatory narrative. And almost like a long-running TV show, people tend to participate in it for years. Imagine if show that represented your community ran for two decades, with all the peaks and valleys that a team of writers could make, and finally paid off in something that not only resonated narratively but with the core of what you identify with as a person.
And sure, it’s not yours, per se—a participation in something fueled by another person’s time and effort and work—but all stories are that way. Every time you read a book or play a game, you’re leaving yourself and becoming part of something else, something larger than an individual, something that someone else’s experience built. I think being overjoyed at a sports victory is just another form of that narrative engagement, which arises in so many different forms that I think it’s impossible to separate from just… being human.
(Oh, and all that said, one more time, fuck Tom Brady.)