The fireworks go off, the celebratory music begins. The home crowd cheer, confetti rains, and the trophy is held aloft. A moment in time captured forever.
But the movie always ends there.
It never shows us losers, their changing room, their next 24 hours. Soul-crushed men staring blankly at walls, at floors. Of the tears, collective and individual, shed by those who came so close, but left empty-handed. We don’t see conversations with loved ones, the words from partners which, while good-intentioned, seem empty and comfortless. The sleepless night or strategic hangovers – the kind which makes something else hurt for a bit, rather than a broken sporting heart.
No script tells us how this bit is meant to go.
Despite the result, or how we got there, this BlackCaps team can be called anything but losers.
These men are heroes to some, manifestations of lost dreams for others. They are cricket fans, who all would’ve dreamed of winning a World Cup at Lord’s, the Home of Cricket. How many of them would’ve had countless backyard matches in their youth with the World Cup on the line? And they got to live it, in the most incredible way imaginable.
Or unimaginable. Sport gives us the highest highs, and some low lows. But is there such a thing as a high low? Or a low high? You can literally not come any closer to winning a World Cup, but is there any comfort in that? Or does it make it all the more painful to have been so close you could taste it, yet be left with only the sour aftertaste of heart-breaking defeat?
And it was the same back home. Tired eyes, sustained through any combination of caffeine and sugar, focused intently on run rates, and wicket counts, and mathematics. Eyes peeked through fingers, trenches were forged through manic pacing, neighbours were woken with emphatic enthusiasm. Nausea rose and fell, as did hope, in a negative correlation to finger nails.
But then, everything and nothing all at once. Once the moment sunk in, it was like a plug had been pulled. A nation collectively exhaled, collapsing metaphorically to their knees (perhaps literally for some), wondering how. How? Why? With stinging eyes, through tiredness, or tears, or both, we pondered the cruel sense of humour of the sporting gods. To come this close, to have had such a different experience than four years ago, and still miss out? What wicked sins we must have committed to be victim to such a spell.
The sun rose, but spirits did not. We must take our lead from our captain, from our players. Let the feeling land, but remember that above all else, sport is made for the best of humanity – passion, camaraderie, patriotism, fairness, respect. Pride. How can any other emotion dominate after watching that match, when a scrapping team of underdogs did everything they could, and in the end, didn’t even lose?
Over a month of highs and lows, of challenges and celebrations, underpinned by a passion for the team and love of the sport. As our men clapped through their tears, pained and drained, but showing their respect, I could only think of one lyric* to sum up what I wanted to say to them:
I’ll be there if you’re the toast of the town, or if you strike out and you’re crawling home.
You’re our team, BlackCaps. We could not be more proud of you, for everything. Another hell of a ride. Thank you for letting us live it out with you.
*It’s Taylor Swift. @ me all you like. I know how uncool I am, believe me.
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