The Golden State Warriors defeated the Toronto Raptors 106-105 on Monday.
The team will have another chance to win the NBA Finals in Game 6 on Thursday, but for many fans in Toronto and across the country, that doesn’t make the loss any less devastating.
Toronto was one basket away from clinching the franchise’s first championship title in its 24-year history.
According to Dr. Kelly Doell, it’s completely normal for fans to feel miserable.
“The team has gone beyond the imagination of the fans.”
He works as a sports psychologist, guiding athletes to develop mental skills — like focus and drive — which can help them excel at their sport.
In Doell’s view, it might even be worse that last night’s winner was decided in the final moments of the game.
“It’s kind of like if you have a lottery ticket and you’re matching the numbers and you have the numbers match up until the last one and you need the last one to win the pot,” said Doell.
Doell says an emotional roller coaster — like the game last night — can take a toll on both your physical and mental well-being.
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Doell also speculates that most viewers probably drank alcohol during the game, which would also contribute to the “hangover” feeling today.
“It’s not a typical viewing experience, and having a couple of drinks compounds it,” he said.
“Your system has been really stressed, and the next day [it could leave you] with an emotional and physical hangover.”
Olympic high jumper and sports psychologist Dr. Nicole Forrester agrees — last night’s game probably left fans in a state of over-stimulation.
“If you think in terms of the physiological responses that might happen, it’s the old adage of ‘fight or flight,'” she said.
“You’re going to have an increased heart rate, you’re going to have adrenaline surging through your bloodstream… You may have increased blood pressure or heavy breathing — the gamut runs really, really high.”
Forrester likens this to the physiological reaction many of the Toronto Raptors players likely had on the court last night.
The difference, she says, is that they’re professional athletes, and they’ve been taught how to manage the side effects so they don’t get in the way of play.
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“It’s not necessarily the stress itself or how much stress you’re being exposed to, but rather how you cope with the level of stress you’re experiencing.”
To this end, fans can employ techniques similar to the ones Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry likely used last night to stay calm and focused.
“Learning to take a deep breath into your diaphragm and very, very slowly exhaling to calm your nerves… you’ll see athletes do that when they’re in the process of playing,” said Forrester.
It also helps to put things into perspective. In this case, it can be helpful to remind yourself that the Raptors have two more chances to win.
“There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful… This has been a very successful season for the Raptors,” she said.
“Just take a moment or two to enjoy it all… It’s an exciting time to be part of it all.”
Both Doell and Forrester agree that the best things fans can do is support one another through the journey.
“The Raptors this year have especially brought people together. You celebrate together and you lose together,” said Doell.