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Frank's Place: An old lesson comes in handy

Jack Ramsay's last St. Joseph's team was going to win the 1966 NCAA tournament and validate what I already knew, that Philadelphia, my hometown, was America's greatest basketball city.

Jack Ramsay's last St. Joseph's team was going to win the 1966 NCAA tournament and validate what I already knew, that Philadelphia, my hometown, was America's greatest basketball city.

I was 16 and I was certain of that.

When it didn't happen, when Duke edged the Hawks by a mere two points in a taut second-round game the night of March 11, I reacted like a child half my age.

It wasn't fair, dammit. Once again they'd cheated one of the teams I cheered. They always cheated my Philadelphia teams. It was a conspiracy. That's what kept thwarting my obsessive desires. Conspiracies.

Hadn't St. Joe's loss come in Raleigh, N.C.? Wasn't that just 18 miles from Duke's campus? Didn't that constitute a virtual home game in a tournament when there weren't supposed to be any? Weren't the officials likely to be intimidated by the Blue Devils fans? And isn't that why they whistled three early fouls on both of the Hawks' stars, Matt Goukas and Cliff Anderson?

When Marty Ford's 35-foot heave at the buzzer fell short, all those hopes that had been inflating inside me for weeks exploded. The intensity of the anger that gushed out was something that, for all my sports suffering, I'd never experienced.

Two years earlier, the '64 Phillies collapse had stung too. But that pain was stretched out over 12 days, like a bout of the measles. This one was a sudden sucker punch, slamming me unexpectedly in the gut, leaving me breathless.

I needed to lash out at someone or something. Having listened to the radio broadcast alone in my living room, I chose a sofa.

In those years just before America became a disposable society, the sofa was like a family member. It was the only one my parents had ever owned, the one they'd had reupholstered and repaired more times than I could recall.

Lifting one end, I dragged it to the middle of the room, raised it as high as I was able, and, reminiscent of pro wrestler Argentine Rocca, slammed it down with a frightful howl.

For the rest of an existence stunted by my anger, that sofa wobbled and sagged. It was never the same. And neither was I.

I'd like to blame the bad behavior on bad timing. It came at a moment when surging testosterone, years of sports frustration, and teenaged self-loathing formed a combustible mix.

While I still can't - or more likely won't - acknowledge the version of myself that was capable of such a pointless outburst, there was an upside.

The incident resulted in one of those life lessons that those who play and coach always claim sports can provide.

It didn't take me long to recognize how pointless and harmful my action was. I'd damaged furniture my parents couldn't afford to replace. I'd acted like an irrational child. I'd embarrassed myself.

I swore I'd never do it again. And so far I haven't. Not on Black Friday. Not after Super Bowl XV. Not on this election night.

There were and continue to be angry protests in the wake of Donald Trump's unexpected victory. When a contest is that close and that bitter, losing graciously doesn't come easily.

At times like that, our heads are often no match for our hearts. You see it all the time in the games we play and watch. Even a spectacle of sportsmanship like the Olympics is not immune.

At the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, an event notable for the goodwill it fostered, two American wrestlers embarrassed themselves and their nation after difficult losses in their gold-medal matches.

This is how I described the scene at the Sydney Exhibition Center that night:

"Sammie Henson sprinted off the mat. . . . He slammed his body against a wall and lay there on his back, wailing in agony and flailing his legs like a dying insect.

"Brandon Slay reacted . . . by twice yanking his arm from the referee's grasp when he tried to raise both wrestlers' hands. The normally upbeat crowd . . . booed the 24-year-old Penn graduate with a Veterans Stadium-like passion."

Both men later acknowledged their inappropriate behavior, though it didn't happen any time soon.

Philadelphians, despite their negative national reputation, have gotten pretty good at dealing with defeat. Perhaps because we're so practiced at it, we seem as adept at controlling our emotions after painful losses as we are elated at victory parades.

We didn't turn over cars and riot when Joe Carter homered, when the Yankees beat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series, or when the Eagles lost two Super Bowls.

Instead, we acted out our collective anger with sports talk-radio calls, through internet venting and barroom moaning. We were, in short, obnoxious but not violent.

Most of those Philadelphia fans who didn't vote for Trump at the end of the long and divisive campaign are still licking their wounds, hiding their faces, or dealing with the despair.

But for the most part, they're not assaulting any sofas. And maybe we have our cursed sports history and figures like Gene Mauch, Donovan McNabb, Mitch Williams, and Bruce Froemming to thank for that.

Eventually, the rest of America will figure out a way to deal with the aftermath of this election. Until then, I'm going to forgo social media and cable TV news, and watch old movies and sports.

There's a lot to be said for just reclining on a sofa.