Wednesday, November 3, 2004

The Tragedy of the Closet Optimist

When I was about ten years old, and only just learning the fine art and discipline of what it means to be a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I remember a game that would forever define for me the importance of being steadfast in the face of despair. As I recalled, the Eagles were down by 13, and with a minute to go in the 4th quarter, all seemed lost. Then, in the final 20 seconds, they scored two touchdowns to win the game. I never could recall exactly who we played, or what year it occurred in precisely, and I barely knew the rules of football well enough then to grasp the statistical miracle of this event, but I remember that the jubilation of my family at this wonderful feat taught me to believe in the impossible. I hate that stupid game, vaguely remembered but for its glorious finish. Because nearly 15 years, and a fair share of well-earned cynicism, later, I still watch Eagles games to the bitter, excruciating end because no matter how bad, it might happen again.It just might happen again.

That's kinda how I felt last night.

I was so hopeful that Kerry would pull it off last night (Have I mentioned I was rooting for Kerry? It may have slipped my mind). I got a little worried when both of the Carolinas went to Bush, but I stuck it out. I had a pint of Ben & Jerry's on hand in case things started going really bad (a tradition started in 2000, when Christine and I slurped down Bovinity Divinity with crazed gusto), but I didn't really feel terribly compelled to utilize it until late in the night, when Florida fell.

I don't have to tell you that it was pretty much downhill from there, as the deficit of the Ohio result got larger and larger. To put it bluntly, I couldn't believe that so many people could vote for a person who got so many things so terribly wrong. It wasn't possible. So I stayed up until 1:30 am, sometimes ranting semi-coherently about provisional ballots, sometimes staring at my diminishing pint of Primary Berry Graham, sometimes catching quick snoozes in commercial breaks, but never, ever really believing it was over. Not even this morning, when the networks had the gall to turn their attentions to other things. Ballots can be counted. Touchdowns can be scored. It has happened before. It can happen again.

But it won't this time. We all know that now. And if I allow myself to get a grip for about three seconds, it may not be the end of the world. It's just a huge letdown.

But if you really want irony and cynicism, consider this: I related my football story analogy to a fellow liberal Pennsylvania football fan. "Which game was that exactly?" she asked. I confessed not really knowing, and spent the better part of a lunch break searching articles, stats, Google, anything that would give me the details of this long exalted game. I don't know whether it was someone else's story warped by my young impressionable mind until it became my own, but the Eagles game with the miracle finish, the game that so formulated my philosophy on football and so much else, that game...never even existed.