The feeling of defeat is an adjustment of expectation, the release of hope. There are brief moments of rage, but anger fades into the gray background of the droning, soothing mantra: it is only a game. It is only a game. It was, and always will only be, a game. This is the mantra of the defeated. It was only a game. It is also the truth. Those who are caught up in the feeling of victory are oblivious to the truth. To be an active fan of a sporting contest is to construct a great and fantastic lie: that the outcome of the contest matters, in a personal and emotional way.
So it is. We have all chosen this lie, or have become ensnared in it. The feeling of defeat is the price we pay. We pay it every season. The oscillating nature of the Dodger's ride through the NL West this season brought Dodger fans very close to the feeling of defeat several times. Many may have embraced it fully, when things looked their darkest. I did --- or came close --- or maybe I only experimented with it, without ever fully giving up. I did watch those two games in Arizona after the eight game losing streak with some dim hope for the season, for the chance of victory at the end.
What comes after the victory at the end? Always the goal is to keep playing, to never stop, through the regular season and the tiebreakers and the division round and the league round, until the World Series, when no matter who wins or loses there are no more games. Maybe we could play Japan! No, it has to end eventually. What if the Dodger beat the Cubs, and then the Phillies and then the Red Sox and then hoist the trophy with all the flags on it --- what feeling will that be? I guess it's a feeling of complete and utter delusion. The delusion that it was all important, that we have invested ourselves in greatness. This is not a criticism: for from a distant and impersonal enough perspective anything will appear unimportant.
We are deep in the delusion now, we Dodger fans, anticipating the games against the Cubs. I love the feeling of the playoffs. Especially before the first game, when anything seems possible. Later on we may shake our heads sadly and lament that the Cubs were just too good, but right now we wait for the moment when we can see the potential and hoped for 2008 Baseball Champions of the Universe Los Angeles Dodgers take the field, and to cheer them as if they were us, holding our fates in their gloves.