You may not remember where you put your keys or what you had for breakfast. But if you’re a sports fan, you probably know exactly where you were when your team won it all because, unlike the blur of our modern daily lives, sports moments are rooted in time, and place. Victor Wishna explains in 'A Fan’s Notes.'
It was an exciting double dose of football here on Sunday. The red-hot Kansas City Chiefs flashed just enough firepower to dispatch the overmatched Arizona Cardinals and continue their march to the No. 1 seed. Across the state line, Sporting KC survived a nervous final stretch to advance to the MLS Cup Western Conference Final.
How does it all end? We’ll just have to wait and see. And that, really, is what makes being a sports fan worth it.
"There is a time and place for everything." It’s a cliche, but in this age of Netflix — of 24-hour access, internet-in-your-pocket, diversions on demand — it’s more like "anytime, anywhere."
Sports is about the only form of serial entertainment that you can’t binge. Oh, how tempting it would be to fast-forward to every new episode of season 56 of the Kansas City Chiefs. Enough of all this Super Bowl foreshadowing — just tell us if they make it already!
Instead, sports fans have to wait for each weekly installment. Sometimes in Major League Soccer, where playoff matches are divided into home and away legs, you have to wait a week in the middle of the game. (Yes, soccer is different. I like it.)
And any true sports fan who dares to record a game does so at considerable peril, essentially hoping to stop time long enough to get home to watch before news of the result seeps through.
Aside from certain national tragedies and triumphs and, well, my wedding and the births of my children, all the moments that my mind marks to a specific time and a place are sports memories.
Favorite sports memories are so powerful that researchers in the UK have been using them to trigger other once-lost recollections in patients with dementia.
The association of sports to time and place is so profound that many people remember the greatest athletic feats as if they witnessed them in person, even though they didn’t. They’re indelible. It’s why those moments have names like "The Catch," "The Play," and "The Shot."
I remember exactly where I was when I saw “The Shot”; specifically, Michael Jordan’s final championship-winning jumper against the Utah Jazz. I was in the hospital, recovering from surgery, and — okay, maybe it was the morphine drip but — I was so happy for Jordan, the Bulls, the city of Chicago, all of us for getting to see it. I was just so happy!
Okay, it was definitely the drugs. But it’s still about the only moment I remember from that whole ordeal.
"Live for the moment."
"Seize the day."
Those are cliches, too. More than that, they’re really rallying cries against our natural inclination to be complacent, to look ahead, or to just tune out.
Life is uncertain — oh hey, there’s another cliche — but I know that, too often, I live like I know what’s happening. I anticipate the answers I want to hear. I prejudge what others are going to say or do. I don’t listen. I don’t reassess before I react.
So now the Chiefs prepare for the game of the season against the Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City next Monday night. And a week after that, Sporting travels to Portland for the conference final — well, the first leg of it anyway. And I’ll be watching, just to see what happens next.
And maybe the fitful piquancy of sports can be a small reminder to pay attention.
Victor Wishna is a writer, editor and sports fan. He lives in Leawood.