You hear it when your team loses. You hear it when you enthusiastically discuss your team's prospects in front of someone who doesn't care for sports. You hear it whenever your competitive nature takes over your emotions and common sense.
"It's just a game."
I've used the phrase a couple times myself. I made the mistake of saying it to my dad while we were on a family cool-down walk right after the Jazz lost in the NBA Finals for the second year in a row. I say it to myself at night when I'm trying to block painful memories long enough to escape into the solace of sleep.
If only it were just a game. If only my emotional state didn't depend so much on properly working knees and ankles. If only a couple of lucky shots and bad calls didn't have the power to haunt me for days—years, even.
If only I didn't love watching the game so much.
There are days when sports triumphs send you flying and refuse to let that smile on your face droop. Everything feels so right in your world that even world peace seems possible.
But other days, you feel angry. Frustrated. Depressed. Sick to your stomach.
If it was just a game, those feelings would dissipate on their own. But they don't.
Those are the days that, if you had a magic lamp, you would wish to be free of the burden of caring about sports.