Amy Donaldson: Peyton Manning helped me see that enjoying the journey is what being a sports fan is all about
But 15 seconds into her favorite new song, I freaked out. I switched back to the game. I listened as Manning threw an interception, and then a guy named Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal that broke my heart.
I turned off the radio and sharply suggested my daughter not make any noise. When I got home my husband was eager to discuss the game and I warned him not to go there. I could not consider what might have been; I could not discuss what went wrong.
As my family moved on around me, I was sinking.
Everything was painful, especially watching San Francisco run away from Green Bay.
And then I saw a picture on Twitter that reminded me why fans subject themselves to the long-distance disappointment of loving a sports team — year in and year out.
It was a picture of Manning talking to Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis more than an hour after the game had ended. Manning, his wife and son had waited until Lewis finished his lengthy media interviews so they could congratulate Lewis, who will be retiring at the end of this season.
Being a fan offers us a break from reality (sometimes too much so). But for a few hours, even the most unathletic among us can be part of something special. We can watch athletes do things no one thought they could and feel an appreciation, a connection. It inspires and moves us to do a little better in our own lives.
In watching something special, we feel like our lives are enriched, even just for a few minutes.
Intellectually, we know we really don't have an impact on what happens on the field of play. But emotionally, we wonder, we hope and, just in case, we believe.
And the smartest fans learn something from the games, from the players, from the wins and from the losses. As I looked at that picture, I felt silly for refusing to talk to my family after Denver's loss. If the man threw that interception could muster sincere congratulations for one of the men responsible for his crushing disappointment, certainly I could keep the game in proper perspective.
Life is full of big disappointments mitigated by small victories. We win more than we lose. Some of us hurt more than we smile. We all make mistakes; we all fail.
But if we just keep playing, continue learning and find a way to see the blessings in the bleakest moments, we can, on occasion, feel the exhilaration of some magical moments.
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