When sports transcends common sense, it often means basking in the mindless euphoria of victory.
But in Vancouver on Wednesday night, the ticking timebomb of fan disappointment went off with a resounding crash, at great cost to far too many people.
Being a fan means suffering more than your share of failures. In the National Hockey League, for example, there are 30 teams, but only one Stanley Cup champion. Defeat, and blighted hope, are sure to visit the teams and fans of every other team, to lesser or greater degrees depending on expectations.
In the case of the Vancouver Canucks, and their over-the-top fans, the outcome of Wednesday’s Game 7 (a Boston Bruins victory, 4-0, and the subsequent celebration of a cup win on Vancouver ice) was devastating.
For the players, who are hardened to the fickle nature of the game, loss often brings a resolute rededication.
For fans like the thousands who rampaged through downtown Vancouver on Wednesday night, the outcome becomes an excuse for excess, destruction and outlandish emotion.
Why would players, whose livelihood and professional status is determined by success in games, have a better response to loss than fans?
The easiest answer — and, maybe, the only one that matters — is that rampaging fans are simply idiots.
They are so intent on living in the moment that when the moment turns in unexpected ways, they have no coping mechanism except to express their frustration through violence and destruction.
The players have devoted huge chunks of their lives — and the greatest portion of their dreams about professional success — on the outcome of games. Yet they manage to keep perspective despite the seemingly impotent end to their endeavours.
The fans, who in this case did little more in sacrifice to the cause than to buy a jersey and fly a car flag, behave like they were the ones whose commitment, sweat and perseverance were dashed on the rocks of defeat.
And so chaos ensued in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday night, just as it did in 1994 when the team lost in similar fashion in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The mob mentality seemed as infectious as the flu.
Businesses were damaged and ransacked, cars were destroyed and fires set; public and private property was destroyed.
It is not a situation typical only of Vancouver, unfortunately, but it is too close to home to ignore this time. And it happened with too much fierce abandon. It left a black mark on Vancouver, diminishing much of shine acquired from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Public resources were required in expensive fashion: police, emergency services personnel and hospital staff were all forced to handle extreme situations and hundreds of extra workers were called in.
The cleanup will cost millions of dollars, some of that private money, some of it public money.
In the end, costs to private enterprise — business owners and insurance — will be borne by consumers.
Taxpayers will be asked to contribute their share. No government in a western nation, federal, provincial or municipal, would normally budget public funds to be spent on riots. It’s just not a common enough occurrence, except in the case of large, contentious events like international political summits. Some public money meant for something else will be diverted, compromising needed programs, or forcing tax hikes in the future.
All because a hockey game was lost.
Cheer all you want, but when the game is over, stop your pouting and go home.
To do otherwise is both infantile and expensive — and has nothing to do with sports.
John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.