Kubler-Ross alive and well in sports pub

For those of you who doubt the legitimacy of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross model, aka "the five stages of grief," you weren't at a local sports bar last weekend.

The suffering I witnessed by Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks fans was a testament to how sports grief inhabits a special place in the Kubler-Ross theory.

For instance, I spied a gang of Seahawks fans Sunday who exhibited the Kubler-Ross tendencies to a tee.

The Seahawks began the game as if they'd spent the previous night eating meatloaf sandwiches in a vodka sauna. You couldn't have dialed up a more lethargic group of 300-pound monsters.

The Atlanta Falcons pounced from the opening whistle, gashing the Seahawks for two early touchdowns to take a 20 to 0 lead at halftime.

Seahawks folk hero Russell Wilson couldn't hit an aircraft carrier. The vaunted Seattle defense looked hungover from said sauna and meatloaf extravaganza. Hope dwindled with each snap.

As this was happening, the gaggle of Seahawks fans at the sports bar began to visibly come to terms with their grief.

It began with denial.

"No freakin' way, bro. This can't really be happening, can it?"

Beers were drank.

Then came anger.

"(Expletive) refs! What is Pete Carroll doing going for it on fourth down? We need a score!"

More beers. Maybe a round of shots.

Then, depression.

"We came so far, only to have it end this way? Life is darkness. Emptiness."

Beers, etc.

And, finally, acceptance.

"Hey, bro. It was a helluva season," they said, manfully clapping each other on the shoulder. "And we're gonna be good next year. Wilson's a rookie and our defense is gonna get better."

Now, the grief journey is one that has seen people manage the loss of pets, relatives and being laid off from a job of 20 years. It's a process that seems to work for us. We are a tough species because of the way we process grief in this way.

However, there's a certain cruelty to sports grief. It stems from the fact that a big game not only puts you through the Kubler-Ross gauntlet once, but perhaps multiple times in a three-hour period.

Case in point, these poor Seahawks fans.

They scaled the Kubler-Ross model in the first half of the game only to climb to the top of it near the middle of the third quarter.

What happened was, the Seahawks apparently yakked up the meatloaf and vodka from the previous night and came out of the tunnel in the second half intending to play the game for which they bank millions of dollars.

They jumped on the Falcons and never relented. The Seahawks fans were jubilant in the way you can be jubilant only after touching the depths of Kubler-Ross.

They jumped in the air. They hugged each other, and strangers. They cursed loudly at the Falcons, not realizing, or caring, that the Atlanta team was separated from them by a plasma screen, high-definition wires and nearly 1,800 miles of geography.

But then, Kubler-Ross reared her cruel head again in the late fourth quarter.

The Falcons managed to gain possession with just enough time to score, leaving the Seahawks doomed.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, known for coming up small in the playoffs, appeared to have a full heart and clear eyes when he took the field with this game on the line.

He chopped the 'Hawks secondary to pieces with a series of surgical throws to put the Falcons in position to kick a 49-yard field goal for the win.

I then watched the Seahawks fans, already damaged emotionally and psychologically from the first half, experience the stages of grief once again. Except this time the stages came in rapid succession.

The kick was good. The Seahawks lost.

The Seahawks fans filed out of the bar, seemingly in post-traumatic shock.

Such is the cruelty of sports. I've experienced the lows of the Kubler-Ross roller coaster, only to have my spirits lifted and then crushed again.

Why do we do this to ourselves? In the end, is it really worth it?

That's a question only diehard sports junkies such as myself need to answer. All I know is, I'm glad I wasn't one of those Seahawks fans last weekend.

But I know my time's coming.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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