To the pain

There are worse feelings in the world, but I can’t think of any right now.

On a cold, blustery night, I walked up a hill and didn’t feel a thing. My dad and I reviewed the 20 or so plays that, had they turned out differently, the result could have been favorable. I tried for a long time to compare the feeling to something not sports-related. The best comparison was losing my job last August. I was in the same fog at the time. It could have been 24 hours or a week before it really hit me.

In the case of the job, things did end favorably. I was employed again within three weeks. This game’s going to take until September at least.

“I hate football!” I yelled repeatedly during the fourth quarter as the football gods continuously showed me signs that it was not the Titans’ night. My love for football and the Titans manifested itself in a fierce rage. I yelled at the top of my lungs for the entire game. I said things that my friends would recognize if they were with me for games like the AFC Championship game against the Raiders. Yeah, they would have pissed themselves. I yelled at the Ravens, the Titans, the refs, the fans standing in front of me who left before the final Titan drive. Ultimately, it mattered not. It’s just loving that much that’s scary. It’s the uncontrollable frenzy it causes at moments like a rare home playoff game that’s slipping away.

I have a unique memory of the 2001 loss to the Ravens. 2001 was a difficult year. Any year where being alive at the end of the year being top of your “Pro” list on December 31 is that way. It started with the loss to the Ravens and continued with the worst championship games and Super Bowl in my recollection. Later that year I found out what real struggle was like when I spent nearly three weeks in a medically induced coma. I had to fight to distinguish hallucination from reality before I could fight for my life. September 11 helped clear things up a bit. At the end of the year, I defeated the staph infection in a battle about a thousand times tougher than any Ravens/Titans game. Maybe football was a little less important.

Last night I found out that I’m still emotionally involved.

The Ravens have to be happy that they selected John Harbaugh instead of Jason Garrett. Garrett looks like that rookie pitcher who gets figured out his second time through the league. Challenging a Bo Scaife catch that was the difference between a 46-yard field goal and a 51-yard attempt was something a veteran coach might not do. Look at Sunday’s challenges, almost all lost, for comparison. When Derrick Mason caught a low pass later in the quarter, he called a quick run play before the Titans could react and challenge. The Titans did not lose to inferior coaching.

I thought about changing my blog to Zach on Puppies because sports can be too harsh. The pain of defeat is a lot worse than the glow of victory. That’s easy to say when victory is elusive.

As a Titan fan who can’t fathom next September, I can intellectually consider that the team may bring back all 22 starters from this year. Then I think of the Missouri Tigers, who brought back most of their major contributors from last year and had a setback. Nothing’s guaranteed, folks. Enjoy the moment, like fans in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Arizona, and Philadelphia are.

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