Even for those who didn’t watch the game, the Facebook, friends’ status updates relay the heartbreaking story, “my heart hurts…and my bracket is shot,” “the crisis hotlines are now open,” and my personal favorite, “rock, choke, Jayhawks.” KU, the number one seed in the Midwest of the NCAA men’s basketball playoffs, was knocked out in the second round. The team many anticipated would win the national championship didn’t even make it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Just a week ago, the day KU snagged the Big 12 Championship, the status updates were much more, well, upbeat. “Way to go Jayhawks!,” “#1 team in the nation!,” and, of course, “rock, chalk, Jayhawk!” (I never really understood that cheer). Ah, but how quickly pride and enthusiasm transforms into disappointment and recrimination. You could see it in the tears of the KU players in the locker room after last night’s game. Not only did the loss of the game hurt, but also the weight of thousands of disappointed fans crushed their spirits. What a long trip home to a very cold Lawrence.
This was a great basketball team, though. They played a stellar season and brought home a Big 12 Championship trophy. It is sad that their short stint in the playoffs will sour all these memories, like one rotten egg can ruin an otherwise beautiful soufflé.
Why must this be? It certainly wasn’t the case with USA’s men’s hockey team’s loss in the final Olympic game. Tough as that final score was to swallow, it didn’t take long for fans (and hopefully players) to turn around and celebrate the silver medal and the accomplishment that represented. So what’s different here?
The difference is in the expectation. KU was supposed to win that game. They were the top ranked team. Most people’s brackets named KU at least in the Final Four. They should have won. Everyone expected it. And so when they lost, there’s no one saying, “Oh, well, but you played really well and good for you for even making it this far. You were at least in the top 32.” Instead, the overwhelming sentiment is, “Northern Iowa??? Who’s even heard of that school? How could you lose to them???”
It’s an old, well-worn story. We create expectations, should haves, and supposed to’s for ourselves, our friends, our children, and our basketball teams. How often do we say things like, “How could I/you have made such a stupid mistake?” In the first person this question reeks of arrogance, in the second person of judgment. It says, in effect, “Of course other people might make that mistake, but I am/you are smarter, better, more experienced, stronger, more talented than they are.”
And so instead of the satisfied disappointment of not quite reaching a summit but still making it pretty darn high, there is the bitterness and shame of failed expectations.
There is a remedy. Replace “maybe I should…” to “maybe I could…,” and “I know I’m supposed to…” to “It might be possible to….” Instead of living into expectations, recall and live into dreams.
And for goodness sakes, Jayhawks, don’t pay any attention to those silly Facebook status updates, especially mine.