I was watching the Seventh Inning of Ken Burns' Baseball the other night, and the focus was the 1951 "Shot heard round the world" of Bobby Thompson. The wonderful writer, Doris Kearns-Goodwin talks about how her Dodger heart was broken (she also documents this in a lovely memoir, Wait Till Next Year) as a result of the now infamous homer Thompson belted off Ralph Branca on October 3 of that year.
One of the other witnesses of that episode is Manhattan Paelantologist named Stephen Jay Gould. Gould contextualizes the passion of the fans of those New York teams in those days saying, "I loved the Giants, and hated the Dodgers with a hatred only love will know."
Aside from the fact that this one swing by Thompson so powerfully catapulted both Gould and Kearns-Goodwin to opposite poles of the emotional spectrum, that is one terrific line. For, it explains love and hate, for me so simply.
When I really heard the line--the other day for the first time, really heard it--I immediately thought of the first time my heart was really broken by a girl.
But right after that came the Immaculate Reception. That would be the Raiders/Steelers playoff game in 1972 On December 23, when on the last play of the game, with a lead of, Jack Tatum, the Raiders free saftey spiked an errant pass tossed by Terry Bradshaw. That was the end of the game, except...
...except that the ball deflected off John Fuqua and running back Franco Harris ostensibly picked off the errant ball before it hit the ground. Harris easily ran the ball in for a score, when the universe pretty much thought the Raiders had won the game 7-6, when Harris scored, and the universe collapsed on me.
Mind you, I am telling the above mostly from memory for I cannot bear to watch replays of that game and play. I did double check some stuff on Wikipedia (I remember a spike, they say a collision). But, I could instantly see how like my heartbreak, was Kearns-Goodwin's.
Then I thought about the ball scooting between Bill Buckner's legs in 1986, and I thought about Bucky Dent's homer in 1978--both incidentally at the expense of the Boston Red Sox, and how burned those poor fans probably were.
But, kind of like Hemmingway and his line, "better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all," without that horrible sense of loss that goes with defeat, goes the incredible joy of success. Like that the Red Sox got in 2004 when they returned to broken heart favor to the Yankees.
For, without that pain of loss, we could never know the joy of our team's winning.
I hope the holiday, the coming and subsequent New Year are nothing but winners for all of you.