On July 13th, 2001, I walked across the Clemente Bridge without expectation. I was only 12, but that was old enough to know that the Pirates were bad. And for as long as I could remember, they had been bad. It was a chance to see the new ballpark, enjoy a nice summer’s evening, and hope for a competitive game.
That game turned out to be one of the most memorable sporting events of my life. Pirates’ pitcher Todd Ritchie, a nobody’s nobody of a journeyman who played for five teams in his eight-year MLB career took a no-hitter into the 7th, and then into the 8th, and then into the 9th against the Royals. Luis Alicea (if you remember him, you have a better memory than I do) broke up the no-hit bid with one out in the 9th.
At that point there was activity in the bullpen. The Pirates couldn’t afford to give up a run because, despite their nine hits through eight innings, they hadn’t scored. Not only was Ritchie’s no-no gone, but now the Pirates ran the risk of not even getting a win from one of their most dominant pitching performances of all time.
Ritchie promptly induced a 4-6-3 double play however, and the Pirates went to the bottom of the ninth hoping to walk it off. After Brian Giles doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch, Aramis Ramirez singled through the left side of the infield and the Pirates won a memorable, if meaningless, game.
The game that evening marks the beginning of reflection and thinking about sports that is the foundation and inspiration for this project. What happened on the field is interesting, though not particularly so. What was fascinating was the way that what happened on the field impacted what happened to the people who witnessed it.
After the game, the crowd was just unbelievably pumped. People chanted, “Let’s Go Bucs” all the way back across the Clemente Bridge and throughout downtown. Such enthusiasm for the Pirates was unprecedented as far as I was concerned. With the win, the Pirates moved to 35-53. While palindromes are delightful, I hardly think a symmetrical record was the cause of said atmosphere. It was clearly the excitement, the energy, of a pitcher being two outs from history, and the team winning in dramatic fashion.
People who find sports uninteresting often point out the fact that what happens on the field is irrelevant. Whether or not the ball goes in this goal or that goal more times doesn’t solve issues of social justice or result in a change of government. There’s little logical connection between points on a scoreboard and how we live our lives, and this, sports detractors say, is evidence of their meaninglessness.
While perhaps theoretically accurate, the lived experience of sports fans everywhere is an incontrovertible piece of empirical evidence to the contrary. When we watch sports, we feel things. Sports produce a whole range of human emotion. It is this range of sports-induced human emotion that is the focus of this blog.
The root causes for the emotion we feel are diverse. Sometimes it is as simple as winning or losing. Other times, it involves the meaning and symbolism to a community, a place, a city. Sometimes, what happens on the field produces emotion because it reinforces or violates our moral code. By focusing on the emotional reaction we have to sports, we open up exploring the melting pot of factors at play.
It is the belief of all of us here at The Emotion that the relationship between sports and emotion is, in a certain sense, transcendent. Sports can serve as metaphor for life, not only in the war-like manner commonly used in clichés by athletes and pundits, but in a broader, deeper sense of capturing the full range of human emotion.
There is no place, to our knowledge, that regularly writes about or discusses sports in this manner, so in that regard, we hope to fill a niche. Our commitment is to write about these topics regularly, to cover a diverse group of sports and teams, from the Australian Open to the Detroit Red Wings. You can find full profiles of all our regular authors and their sporting allegiances here.
Our goal is to be interesting, to be funny when we can, but above all, to help ourselves and our readers think more deeply about how sports make us feel. Engage with us. Comment on our posts. Suggest topics you would like to see us write about. Emote.
It’s time for us to write about why we love sports in the first place: the emotion.