(via The New Ultras)
Sports are cruel. Even as a fan, they can be excruciatingly heartbreaking. I would like to say that the triumphs affect me more than the failures, but that would be a lie. I am hung up on the 2004 ALCS more than I am on the 2003 ALCS. I stress over the the 2008 NBA Finals more than the 2010 NBA Finals. I could go on, and on, and on, but you understand; Hindsight is 20/20. Losses create more questions and scenarios than winning does. As an athlete, the effect is more than likely multiplied tenfold. In this day and age, with several all day sports channels, websites and the non-stop conversations that occur on social media, the pressure is always on the stars to win while winning convincingly. No matter the team situation, no matter the front office suits, no matter the opposition you may come against; if you don’t win, you have failed. Of course, the expectations are not this large for every franchise and federation, but I stress, the margin for error is extremely small and it shrinks the larger the organization and/or star is. No two athletes are the same and everyone takes losing differently, but that is why I can understand why Lionel Messi retired from the Argentinian national football team.
If sports existed in a vacuum, free from all outside influences and variables, ten times out of ten, the best team on paper wins. You can have all the intelligence, strategies, and athletic ability in the world, but once you step on the playing surface, variables affect the game. Crowd noise, momentum, hot and/or cold streaks are things you can prepare for, but are much harder to stop in real time. Coupled with injuries, weather, officiating trouble, a game plan that was prepared days and weeks in advance, can go right out of the window. Not to mention (if you want to believe in it or not) how crucial luck is in deciding the final score. You need that four leaf clover in your pocket sometimes, because routine plays and Hail Mary’s alike can end up haunting you for the rest of your life.
The Gonzalo Higuaín one on one. The Nicolás Otamendi header. The Sergio Agüero chance. The Messi penalty kick. All of these are chances, that on their day, these players put away. Very easily, no questions. They have done way more spectacular at the club and international level before, but on that night things did not go their way. It is a recurring theme. The 2015 Copa América final had chances for Agüero, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Higuaín that you would expect them to put away, but were missed by the finest of margins; as did the 2014 World Cup Final. Messi (x4), Higuaín (x2), & Rodrigo Palacio, several great chances to win or tie the game that just didn’t make it into the back of the net on that day. This is not to say that Argentina is the only team with unfortunate luck, both Chile and Germany had attempts you would expect them to put away as well, but for some reason they hit the bar, hit the pole, or rolled just wide of goal. The point is, if any of those chances go in, this isn’t a topic of conversation, nor am I writing this article.