Saturday, while running some errands. My fiancee said she didn't quite understand the extent of the grieving over Junior Seau. Considering how she has only lived in San Diego for 4 years, I could understand.
With the exception of a 3 year stint in Washington DC myself, I have lived in San Diego all my life (I am 31), and am die-hard San Diego Sports fan.
I admittedly don't follow football too closely. I catch a game or two when we are bad, and catch a few more than that when are good. I listen to sports talk, so I absorb more than most casual fans.
However, just opening my mouth to try to explain why Junior's death has had such an impact on San Diegan's, I found myself becoming emotional.
Sports fan psychology is fascinating. When the team is doing well, we are walking on air. When the team is doing poorly it can color everything in your day in a negative light. It fills us with emotion and it is real.
San Diego has long had a problem with identity. While other cities have a championship somewhere to hang a hat on, San Diego has nothing except our heros. The men who actually love the city. They love the San Diego teams they played for, and they give back. They appreciated us as fans, something the rest of the country considers a joke, a national sideshow.
Junior Seau was the football embodiment of all that was good about our city. He kept the faith in the worst seasons, and he lead us to the promised land, even as we lost in spectacular fashion. He also contributed to the well-being of the least fortunate of us. He was the total package and a shining example of what San Diego was: kick-back, loyal, friendly and fierce.
The San Diego Sports curse is something we all joke about, yet we only do so because it is too painful to take seriously. Its hard to not have an inferiority complex when the only thing you can hang your hat on are the men who somehow still love you despite your failure to win anything. Too often when we loose our native sons, they end up with contempt for the city and *US* as fans (Cole Hamels and Adrian Gonzales come to mind), when we have guys who love the city we cherish them.
When Junior took his own life, with him we lost one of our precious few living icons of success. Someone we could point to and say "He is one of the best ever".
It was as difficult to describe my love for Junior Seau to my fiancee, just like its hard to describe why I get so emotional about a particular baseball, football, or college basketball season. I grew up with him, he gave us someone to cheer for. I think, the seriousness and conviction I had in my voice explained why I felt the way I did, even if it is, somewhat irrational.
We loved you Junior, we thank you for loving our city, for giving back, for being so generous with your time. We thank you for still being someone we can hang our hats on, and we are sorry that life became too painful for you to bare.