Take it from another long-suffering sports fan, when it comes to losses, there's gradation to devastation. Especially-crushing defeats can be particularly shattering to children since they haven't matured enough to gain perspective.
However, there are things you can do to brighten their mood following a heartbreaker. Here's how to help your kid cope after their favourite team suffers a notably tough loss:
Remember The Pain and Empathise
Age has (hopefully) made shrugging off a tough loss easier for you than it is for your kid, so try to remember why their reaction may seem dramatic.
- Unless you're exposing your kid to postmodernism early, most of the stories they're familiar with result in the protagonist emerging victorious.
- For young kids especially, the team is a collective of heroes. They're (hopefully) not yet jaded by scandals, contract negotiations and greedy owners.
Saying "I know how it feels," and sharing an anecdote about a tough loss you watched as a kid lets them know that though they're upset, they're not alone, and things will be all right.
Get Them Active and Engage in Imagination
Exercise always seems to work its endorphin magic, so if your kids are blue following a defeat, suggest going outside to toss an actual ball around.
The other benefit to that? Backyard sports are a canvas of athletic imagination and revenge: A place where real-life rivals are vanquished, and the good guys always manage to conjure up last-second glory.
Hell, my own sports team is undefeated and has won several hundred big games on my childhood turf.
Point Out the Fallacy of Curses
One of the most refreshing aspects of being a fan is the enduring optimism that comes with it. You have to believe that the next play, the next game, and the next season will go your way.
Even when streaks of bad bounces stretch on for decades, curses aren't real and time is the only truly infallible opponent. It's what supplies fans with their ability to endure the sucky seasons. However unlikely, eventually even the most downtrodden franchises slay their demons and seize the moment, at which point any accumulated suffering makes the payoff that much sweeter... right?
If your kid seems resigned to pessimism, point to real-life examples of historic losers defying expectations.
Remind Them of the Bigger Picture
Sports are, at their best, awesome, triumphant and fun. To paraphrase former Chief Justice Earl Warren, "The sports page records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures."
Of course, Mr Warren fails to account for fans of the players trying to stop said accomplishments. There's nothing celebratory about getting posterised.
Yet, despite ridiculous budgets, edgy posturing of star athletes, and the shiny, hype-revving veneer, athletic accomplishments largely stem from a pretty trivial premise: Humans playing games with inanimate objects of varying shape. Also, remember that most of sports' most iconic moments owe their influence to factors beyond a game's outcome.
So, after a loss, remind your kid that their self-worth and identity are comprised of much more than the emotional sting of a lone match.
In short: Ball is life, but it's also only a game.