Sawatzke: The worst loss is one you don’t care about

As a sports fan, there is hardly a better feeling than watching your team win a big game (ex: Game 163). And there aren’t many feelings worse than that of a stomach-punch loss in a different big game (Vikings Conference Championship vs. New Orleans).
However, this summer I’ve been reminded that there is at least one feeling that eclipses the stomach-punch loss. That’s the feeling of apathy, or the fan equivalent of giving up.
To me, not caring about a win (and especially a loss) is much worse than feeling crushed after emotionally investing yourself in a big game. I don’t mind that feeling you get after a big loss. Ok, I don’t like it. But, it’s a great reminder that you cared about something. That you enjoyed the process. Even if the result wasn’t what you were hoping for.
Apathy, to me, is a sign of not being able to take any joy in the current proceedings of the team. And that’s a pretty crushing realization for a lifelong sports diehard. That’s why I’m doing my best to avoid it. Unfortunately, the Twins are making it increasingly difficult, and I’m worried the Vikings are set to follow suit.
With the Twins, I feel like I’ve crossed the halfway point to not caring. Twins losses haven’t surprised me since about week three of the season, but now they don’t even disappoint me.
“Oh, Brian Dozier decided to take the sure out and give up the go-ahead run? Yeah, that sounds about right. Oh well.”
But no! That shouldn’t be acceptable! I should be upset at Dozier for assuming he didn’t have a play at home without even taking a look at the runner. But, I’m not. Annoyed, maybe – but upset, no.
Luckily, I still care about the occasional win. Sure, it’s a lot less than when they chased down the Tigers back in 2009 and I was stealing someone’s internet in my college apartment so I could follow their every pitch on ESPN’s gametracker. But, it’s better than nothing.
When Joe Mauer hit a three-run bomb to beat the BoSox a couple of weeks ago? You bet I gave a big fist pump and a “that a boy!!” Granted, that might say as much about my Mauer-love as my love for the Twins. But, still.
However, even in the week and a half since then, things have continued to trend toward apathy. The pitiful Nishioka tryout that turned the Twins more into a traveling circus than a baseball team certainly didn’t help. Neither did the three straight losses to the Rays following that Indian series.
I don’t think I’ve completely lost my ability to care about them yet. But I worry it’s close. When I got home from city council last night and saw they led 8-1, the best I could muster was a “good for them” and wonder if any of my favorite players had done much (namely Mauer, Revere or Casilla).
Thankfully they had. And thankfully that was enough to make me smile just a bit. At least for now.
Going forward, I don’t think the Twin’s are going to give me much reason to stay tuned. And with a quarterback in Christian Ponder that just isn’t ready to carry an NFL team to anything beyond mediocrity, I know the Vikings won’t get me that much more excited. Luckily, it’s the NFL, where I have other options like Fantasy Football, Randy Moss, and the New England Patriots to keep me interested. None of those are as exciting as cheering for the team I’ve grown up loving – except Randy, maybe – but they are much better than having nothing to care about.
Luckily, for you and me, professional sports aren’t our only sporting outlet here in Monticello.
I can’t talk too much about the upcoming seasons yet, as I don’t want to pull an NBC and spoil my own prime-time event (the Monticello Times sports preview section, coming out the end of August), but I will say there is plenty to get excited about this season.
Storylines this fall will include: a Magic football team trying to continue its ascent to relevancy in an area and a state full of great football programs. A bright young coach (Kristin Otterson) replacing one of her mentors and one of Monticello’s best-ever coaches in Tom Cannon while her team tries to replace two Division 1 swimmers from the past year (Caley Oquist and Ashley Drazkowski). A girls tennis team that should have its strongest singles roster in years. Oh and a girls cross country team set to defend the first-ever Minnesota State High School League State Championship in school history.
No team can promise another championship this year, although a few will likely compete for one – especially at the conference level.
But, each team should provide plenty of reasons for both casual fans and diehards (aka parents) to care. Regardless of how the big games turn out, enjoy that they matter. Because in a weird way, a painful loss is better than a numb one.
Trust me – as a Minnesota sports fan, I would know.

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