Sports, unlike life, leaves little room for gray areas, ambiguities or shadings. Sports serves up winners and losers, casualties or claimants of a "final" score.
So it is that a particular sadness creeps in when a team with rich expectations finds itself on the short end at championship time.
How could this happen, fans want to know. How could we, of all teams, possibly lose?
Much of Monday's conversation seemed to focus on teams not coming to Super Bowl XXII, scheduled for Jan. 31 in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, rather than those that still have a hope. Fans of the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers--weekend losers to supposedly lesser teams--spoke in low tones, muttering darkly about what-ifs and might-have-beens.
Sluggo's, usually the world's most cheerful cheeseburger joint, felt like a tomb Sunday after the Washington Redskins established the fact that they, and not the Bears, might be seeing Sea World in a couple of weeks. Sluggo's, on La Jolla Boulevard, is owned by Norm and Sheila Lebovitz, who until a couple of years ago had been lifelong Chicagoans hopelessly in love with the Bears and the Cubs.
On the roof of Sluggo's is a satellite dish poised to bring in nightly newscasts from WGN and WBBM, both Windy City TV stations. Every Tuesday, a truck from Chicago brings in wieners, buns and pickles, just to ensure that Sluggo's franks pack in that special aroma of authenticity.
A few weeks back, three buses carrying 112 people left Sluggo's parking lot en route to Los Angeles for the Bears-Raiders game. A whopping cheeseburger of a party was planned for Super Bowl week. Now, the Lebovitzes are shocked that the party, as well as any Bears hurrah, has been postponed. Indefinitely.
Wild and crazy quarterback Jim McMahon, whose antics in town might have provoked headlines, and running back Walter Payton, whose Sweetness of a career won't be winding up here, will have to see Sluggo's another time, another year.
"When you leave a place," Sheila Lebovitz said sadly, "you miss your mother, your father, your familial group. The Bears are part of that group. Life gives you these great loves, but when you leave, you don't lose them. Somehow, they just get sweeter. The Bears are like that. We cling to the joys and forget the pain. But today, we are in pain."
Lebovitz said one transplanted Chicagoan watching Sunday's loss put his head in his hands and cried when Payton fell short on the game's final drive. A grim quiet settled in. For a moment, the only sound was his whimpering voice and the grease on the griddle sizzling away softly, much like the Bears and their dreams.
Film buffs who left Chicago for San Diego are no doubt frustrated by the length of time it takes movies to get here. Experts say that Chicago as well as four other cities--New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Dallas--are "platform" cities, where films are unveiled before being launched to the rest of North America.
San Diego, alas, is no such city and won't be for quite some time, if ever, in the words of Andy Friedenberg, director of the local Cinema Society.
As a result, Friedenberg and many other San Diegans make periodic trips to Los Angeles to see movies they'd rather not wait to catch. Right now is a particularly good time for such trips. Showing in L.A. but not in San Diego are "Moonstruck," "The Dead," "Ironweed," "The Lonely Passions of Judith Hearne" and "September," all contenders for this year's Oscars.
Friedenberg goes to Los Angeles willfully but with much regret and even a little anger. He said there's "no good reason" why San Diego's timetable for seeing such films can't be advanced.
"There's nothing good about having to go up there," he said. "We should see them right here--there's no sense having to wait. Of course, their theaters are beautiful, and there's a sense of true excitement in going to the hub of the film world, but why go up there when we could have them here?"
Friedenberg said none of the aforementioned films is scheduled for local release any time soon, except for "Moonstruck," which opens Friday in area theaters.
Fresh Out of Ideas?
In an article on pop singer Jackson Browne, Rolling Stone magazine once posed the telling question: Can romance survive the shadow of the Apocalypse?
Hank Schneider, who lives in Escondido, seems to think so.
Schneider has founded the Romance Emporium, which isn't so much a lonely hearts club as it is a telephone number for lonely hearts, or un lonely hearts just wanting some groovy ideas on romance. For a toll charge of $2 and a call to local number 976-6555, those interested can hear Schneider's tips on how to improve romantically.
"Thank you for calling San Diego's most-romantic person," Schneider starts out in dulcet tones that bring to mind blue velvet and soft candlelight. "Have you ever tried the horse and buggy ride through the Gaslamp District? How nice this would be, just like the hansom cabs in Central Park . . . Ride around downtown San Diego, seeing it from a totally new perspective. Hold hands. Laugh. Enjoy something really different-- together . When is the last time you did that ? Romance is only as limited as you make it. . . . "
Of course, if your date is a San Franciscan, please refrain from jokes about the 49ers leaving their hearts on the turf at Candlestick Park.
You might find your Sweetness leaving you a yard short--with no next year to wait for.