Watching your team lose is never fun, but it is part of being a sports fan. We just kind of get used to it, I guess. If you follow a baseball team closely, for instance, even the very best teams are going to lose four out of ten games. And only one football team in modern history, Arsenal in 2003-04, has finished a top flight campaign undefeated.
Teams lose. That’s what they do. There is always tomorrow, or next Saturday, or next year.
But watching your team completely unravel, completely fall apart, complete disintegrate right before your eyes – that is something else entirely.
We have all been there at one time or another – that moment when you realize that things have gotten so bad that you are not even sure you want to tune in next weekend to watch them (but you do anyway, of course). Complete disaster. Dark tunnels. No way back.
This was Arsenal on Saturday afternoon at about 4:55 UK time. The team is broken. And at this moment it looks like it is going to be broken for a very, very long time.
And this was, surely, Australia on day four at Durham. The Ashes were already staying in England, but there was still hope for 2-2; hope for momentum into the one-dayers; and momentum into Ashes Part 2 in Australia this winter. Sure, there was still a lot wrong with the squad, but things were looking up for Australia and their supporters. And then Stuart Broad. And then collapse.
Completely failure. Unscalable cliffs. No way back.
Except, there is one way to change everything – and it is really simple: just win.
Australia: force the follow on and win by an innings this week at the Oval and all is forgiven.
Sport is a simple equation: 1) Win and all is fine. 2) Lose once and there’s always tomorrow. 3) Lose twice and the world is ending. But win, just bloody win, and things immediately start to look better – and it all reverts back to #1. The darkness is forgotten. And supporters regain their hope.
There will he an inquest at Cricket Australia after this Ashes series. Heads will be called for and heads will roll. But if Australia can win this week at the Oval a great deal of the pain will be forgotten – and many Australian crickets will be forgiven.
Whether that is a good thing or not is up to you.
But winning is always better.
Some Arsenal fans will hope for them to crash out of the Champions League – a wake up call for the manager and the board. And some Australian fans are hoping for the 4-0 rout – so a similar wake up call is delivered to the players and coaches and selectors.
But I simply do not understand that.
Our team winning is why we all do this. We are aching for unblemished victories in our daily lives – yearning for pure moments when everything, EVERYTHING, is going to be okay – and sport is one simple way – maybe the only way – that we get such moments. Ever. At all. And therefore cheering for ones team to lose is anti-sport. It destroys sport. It renders all of this meaningless.
Winning is always better.
And so, Australia – and so, Arsenal – just go out there this week and win. Win to be forgiven, win for your fans with the shitty jobs and the rotten marriages, win to create meaning in all of this trivial bullshit that is modern athletics, win for your teammates, for the players that came before you, win for us all.
There will be plenty of time for inquests and finding joy in losing campaigns later – this week, just this week: all you have to do is win. Just win. And everything will be better.