By VERLYN KLINKENBORG
Published: October 2, 2007
By now we have all seen photographs of Mets fans mourning the historic collapse of their team. Perhaps you were there for the final loss of the season on Sunday, weeping with them. The grief is real. So are the tears.
If you've never mourned a sporting loss, it's easy to assume there's a kind of sweetness in sadness like this. The game is immortal, even if the players are not. Spring training will resume about 10 minutes after the final out of the World Series. And what would the joy of winning be without the grief of losing? Try telling that to Mets fans who had to pull their caps down over their eyes and choke away tears.
Sweet it may not be, but there's a lot to be said for sporting grief, especially the long-season variety. The suffering is collective, no matter how personal the sadness may feel. This year's collapse of the Mets is equaled -- to the extent that baseball ever equals golf -- by Greg Norman's self-destruction at the 1996 Masters. But Norman fell to pieces in a couple of hours, not a couple of weeks, and the loss was utterly personal. It was shattering to watch, but it was less likely to make you weep than to make you brood about hubris and mortality.
Sunday's grief was of an utterly different kind. It had about it the futility of tearing up a season's worth of scorecards, giving up not only on all the long months since April but on the postseason, too. It was saying goodbye to an audience that contained yourself and to a team that contained -- to many people, above all -- Willie Randolph.
So the world is a complicated place, and in our own lives -- if you allow yourself to love or hope at all -- we are going to have real chances to grieve for things that will make this loss feel like nothing.
But right now it feels like something. Life's true griefs will eventually make you tougher, more understanding, more tolerant, more compassionate. If you let them, they'll teach the proportions of human happiness. Perhaps that's the real beauty of sporting grief, even after a season like the Mets just had. It doesn't ask you to grow as a human being.