I speak of that ineffable sadness after sex. Sex is glorious . . . and then it's over. What do you do—put your socks back on? smoke a cigarette? see who's visiting Jimmy Fallon?
We pray this will be the year, die a thousand deaths along the way, and then it is the year . . . And almost immediately was the year. And as the excitement dies down an unpleasant question asks itself—now what? For was that us on the ice? No. Was it a buddy, someone as interested in us as we are in them, someone who even knows we exist? No. The voyage was all, the voyage that made us sick and that we almost didn't survive. Now we've arrived and we're nowhere.
Some say postcoital tristesse has biological underpinnings. Maybe so, but what it is is a sort of emptiness. As good as sex is, shouldn't it be better? Shouldn't it change something? But the world doesn't change. Guys have thought that one over for centuries as they smoke their cigarettes.
But postcoital tristesse is worse in other sports. When you do it and it's over and they're gone and you're facing an empty room—how does that make you feel? When the hockey season ends the door doesn't click shut in quite the same awful way. The coach drives home where his neighbors TP'd his trees. The Stanley Cup shows up in your neighborhood bar, and then at Wrigley Field. There's talk it's going to stand in as best man at some fans' wedding.
Faulkner was right.
"The past is never dead. It's not even past," he wrote. In sports, the past is the best thing about the present. Thanks to the past, the Blackhawks didn't just win the Stanley Cup—they declared themselves a dynasty! The Bears didn't simply win the Super Bowl in 1986—they are the '86 Super Bowl champions and will be forever. "No one will ever take this away from us! We're the champs!" cried goalie Corey Crawford at the Stanley Cup rally in 2013. No one will because no one can. God cannot pry it from the city's hands.
Failure is equally ineradicable. In Wrigley Field it is 2003 and always will be. In Saint Louis, a flag flies over the bleachers for every Cardinals championship and 1926 is no more distant than 2011. But no flag flies for 1968—the year Lou Brock didn't slide—and none for 1985, the year of the infamous blown call by Don Denkinger. Their absence haunts. When the Cardinals beat the Tigers in the 2006 World Series, a fan asked on one of the forums, "Does this make up for 1968?" But nothing makes up for anything in sports. It's not like war, where you can lose a city one year but win it back the next.
If and when the Cubs win a World Series, a century-and-then-some of failure will end, but it won't go away. Hardened men will weep with joy and nine months later a cohort of children will be born. All will be told the tale of 2003 and file it in their souls.