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Coveting the Result, Overlooking the Journey

Why do we watch sports? Why has football become such a cultural pastime? Why is the Super Bowl a national holiday? Why are college football coaches some of the highest-paid public employees in the world? 

Why?

It's a complicated question, to say the least. It's not one that could be completely answered by one blog post.

But understanding why we watch sports, why we spend an exorbitant amount of money for a shirt with someone else's name on it, why we pay $9 for bad beer, and why we'll fill a 70,000 seat stadium weekly for a 2-14 team is critical to understanding what we value, and why. 

We say that we love sports for the entertainment.

Maybe we do.

I think that's a part of it. That's the easy part to admit, generally.

But pure entertainment isn't the full answer. 

We love sports, often times, because it's all we know. It's become a part of us we can't quite explain, but we can't quit. 

The most common answer, though, and one that speaks to a broader issue among us, is that it's something separate from the rest of life that we can, for a brief period of time, pour ourselves into. And yet, when it's done, we can leave without (too much) emotional scarring. 

In the end, I think it comes down to one thing. One thing that  can't quite describe everything that makes up fanhood, but encompasses much of it. 

We are so competitive. 

It's a cultural thing, really. You can point to capitalism, imperialism, natural selection or whatever else as the origin, but there's no denying that we are competitive. 

When we watch sports, we can take on the identity of a team and live competitively through them. 

Think of all the things we do, as fans, to associate ourselves with a team. We buy t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, scarves, and ACTUAL JERSEYS to wear and prove our loyalty. We buy coffee mugs, flasks, rugs, golf balls and flags with the team logo. 

I mean, we can even buy Andrew Luck masks, in case nobody was fooled by the No. 12 jersey on the middle-aged, 290-pound guy from Fishers.

It gets to a point where we start talking as if we were a part of the team. "We" won this weekend. I can't believe "we" lost. 

Why? Because we want to be a part of something. We root on a team and we feel like we are winning when the team wins. When Andrew Luck does something amazing, we are in awe, but we also have a sense of pride that OUR quarterback did that. 

It's a wonderful thing, that competitive spirit. It's what makes wins so sweet, and losses so bitter. 

But it also, in it's own way, is a horrible thing. 

That competitiveness means that all of our focus goes to the result. We care about who wins and who loses, and little else. If a Super Bowl isn't won, a season is a failure. If a game isn't won, that week is a failure. 

If a quarterback doesn't win a Super Bowl, he is a failure, or at least, appreciated much, much less. 

We covet a certain result, and if we don't get it, the journey to get there lays forgotten on the wayside. 

If you win a Super Bowl, a commemorative DVD gets made, detailing the season and the trek to becoming champions. If you lose… not so much. 

That mindset has condensed the Polian/Manning era into an over-simplified number: one. 

One Super Bowl. One ultimate victory. One success. 

The rest? Lost in a sea of missed kicks, dropped passes and defensive miscues. 

So, naturally, we ignore them. 

How silly of us. 

We're competitive, sure. We love the wins, and hate the losses. But what we truly love about sports isn't the winning. If that were so, we wouldn't have watched in 2011. Cleveland would have been overcome by riots years ago. Jacksonville, well, Jacksonville never would have had fans to riot. 

We like the winning, and we tend to over-value it, but that's not what we truly love. 

It's all the little things, the little things that make up the journey. There's a journey within every play, plays that make up the journey of a single game, and a string of games that make up the journey of a season. 

Without the journey, what good is the result? 

Even if the result isn't the one that was desired, the journey isn't useless. It's something to be savored, especially when most of the journey is more up than down. The Colts had one of the most positive decade-long journeys in NFL history. There were far more smiles than frowns during that period, and even the frowns and the tears helped shape Colts fans and Indianapolis into the football haven that it is today. 

In the end, it's not the one Super Bowl that made this moment so emotional, it's the 14-year journey that we all took together. 

So don't forget to appreciate the journey while it's happening. The perfect throws, the not so perfect throws. The close wins, the lopsided wins. The interceptions, the sacks. The losses, the disappointment. It's all part of the journey.

Once it's done, that journey will most likely be forgotten. Of course, that's under your control too. 

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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