We sat in the bleachers long after the stadium cleared out.
Within minutes, a cycling swarm of seagulls descended on the stands to feast on the trash left in the walkways.
Janitors emerged, sweeping the birds back up into a spiraling, screeching frenzy.
Only twenty minutes earlier, a deafening roar had filled the stadium. The home team had won.
My friend, on the other hand, had lost.
He’d flown in from the east coast. I’d bought us game tickets for his birthday, and his team had lost. Badly. Hence, by proxy, I’d lost, too.
I tried to console him. “It’s just one game, man.”
He didn’t even shake his head or shrug…too broken for such exertions of energy.
“No, man. This happens every year. This is just the beginning of the implosion. It happens every year.”
As my old friend sat in sullen despair, questioning the meaning of life and existence of God, my mind shifted gears.
I looked out at the trash in the stadium and the wheeling gulls and the work crew going about their labors as though we weren’t even there, and I replayed the whole scenario in my mind.
My excitement for the game had been building for two months, ever since I bought that ticket for my friend’s birthday.
We’d swaggered into the stadium confident, drunk, and happy, certain that his team…OUR team…would win. Certain that the sheer force of our reunion would COMPEL our team to win.
Then we sat and watched our guys lose.
We sat impotently while the home team routed us, while the fans in the stadium danced and cheered. Our section was supposed to be for the visiting team’s fans, but that was in name only.
When the game was done and my friend and I sat in defeat, the home team fans filed out into the city for a night of continued revelry, leaving behind only trash and fading echoes as evidence that they’d been there at all.
Soon my friend and I would go, as well — last reminders of the despair of the vanquished.
Then, the stadium would be cleaned, and in the morning empty and ready for a new game.
The joy of the victorious will have faded. The despair of the defeated will be muted.
Then, we’ll prepare for next week’s game. Hopes and anxieties will build. The stadium will wait in silence.
Then the day of the game will come.
Some will cheer. Some will boo. One team will win. The other will lose.
Hopes will be realized and shattered.
When it’s done there will be losers crying over their loss and celebrators dancing to their victory.
Seagulls will descend like locusts.
Brooms will sweep away the crowd’s memories.
And so it will play out again…and again…and again…
And what it is and what it’s worth is entirely up to each spectator to decide. Each will tally their own score when all is said is done.
It’s always been this way, and it always will be this way.
I don’t know what, if anything, the game or the cycle of games means. I only know that, whatever the thing is and for whatever it’s worth, you can see it all unfold from the nosebleeds.
P.S. For those curious, the game was the Eagles vs. the Seahawks. My friend is a die hard Eagles fans. They went on to win the Super Bowl that year in one of the greatest underdog stories in sports history.