Gloating laughter and naked schadenfreude, the unabashed declaration of joy at others’ misfortune, makes me a bit uncomfortable. That said, the idea of misfortune is applied inappropriately when people talk about professional sports teams. Professional football players make at least several hundred thousand and on average millions of dollars a year, sometimes for sitting on a bench all season long. Even the players on the teams with the worst records come out of their games with quite a fortune every year. NFL franchises typically make much more. And then there are the fans. Oh, the misfortune… when a city’s team wins a game? This kind of misfortune is the same kind of misfortune suffered when a movie doesn’t turn out the way viewers like. It’s not substantial.
So when I see people write about “a cruel season for Lions fans who have suffered enough” over previous losses, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Don’t get me wrong: Lions fans have suffered. The people of Detroit have suffered cold winters without health care or sufficient infrastructure. They’ve suffered through a joke of a mayor who left office in legal disgrace. They’ve suffered rounds of layoffs. All that, and people are calling the fact that some well-paid guys in tights can’t hold a ball cruel suffering?
All this suffering, all this joy, all this drama is in our heads. It’s cultural, and we can choose to be the buffeted flotsam of culture or we can surf it. Let’s stop taking sports so seriously and surf its waves instead. Let’s recognize that a perfect storm like the Detroit Lions’ impending 0-16 record can be awesome to behold. Perfect ugliness on the field has its own beauty. A perfect mess can inspire merry laughter after an initial gasp. Let’s recognize the absolutely winless season of the Detroit Lions, to be accomplished come Sunday, as the exceptional achievement of perfection that it is. Let’s have fun with it.
Roll around in it with these shirts, buttons and stickers. And if some sports fan can’t see the good humor in it all, then that’s their problem, not yours. Glee out!