Schadenfreude is one of those $5 words that every person should have in his or her back pocket to pull out in the event of a party emergency.
Use it at that point of the evening when the room might be catching up to the fact that you are totally faking it, and really have little to offer the conversation.
Just drop an “Oh, that is so schadenfreude of you,” or a “You know, your schadenfreude is showing” or even, “Have you tried the new schadenfreude IPA?” Whatever feels right at the moment.
If you insist upon being a slave to the true meaning, find a way to employ the word while talking about taking joy in other’s misfortunes. Turns out that schadenfreude is just a German way of getting around to the fact you might be a little bit of a jerk for taking pleasure in another person’s pain.
Sunday’s Super Bowl party will present a perfect opportunity to put the concept to use. With former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leading the San Francisco 49ers into the big game, Atlanta might be slopping over in Super Schadenfreude (there, I’ve exhausted my quota on that word for the next decade).
There are people — I know, I’m married to one — who would take great glee in any misfortune Shanahan encounters Sunday evening in Miami. They would watch primarily to see him lose. The more inglorious the loss he might suffer at the hands of Kansas City, the better. And if he happens to get a cream pie in the face as he leaves the field afterward, perfect.
To some embittered souls locally, the whole point of Sunday’s game, next to selling more Doritos, is to deny the man who called a couple of unfortunate plays Feb. 5, 2017, during the great Falcons collapse of Super Bowl 51. The thought of Shanahan going on to glory so relatively soon after such an epic loss galls them. Why should he enjoy a giddy celebration while the rest of us are left with the hangover that won’t go away? Why should some other team benefit from the hard lessons he learned at the Falcons expense?
Trying to take the higher road here.
One might suggest that there is other fault to find in that blown 28-3 lead to New England. Like a missed block here or a penalty there or one defensive stop at the end or a command from on high or from behind center to just run the stinkin’ ball. Shanahan was just a convenient soft target.
One could say that it is a waste of a perfectly good national football holiday to invest so much negative energy into it. A Super Bowl without Bill Belichick is such a wonderful opportunity to relax and explore the positive aspects the game rather than focus on the grim imperative of defeating evil. Cheering for hardship rather than a highlight is a waste of a good time.
If nothing else, try this for a drinking game at the Super Bowl party: Every time during the broadcast that mention is made of Shanahan’s previous Super Bowl experience with the Falcons, numb yourself with a stiff shot. You might make it into the second quarter before requiring an intervention.
Granted, Shanahan doesn’t exactly make it easy to travel the elevated path. His very presence at the Super Bowl forces those left behind to relive the experience of that night three years ago in Houston. It’s another punch in the arm, right on the still painful bruise.
He said, “I’m pumped that we are here. Just being excited to be here is only temporary. If you can win it, that will last forever.”
And you reflexively add, “Not that Atlanta would know. Thanks.”
Instead of a little contrition or confession, Shanahan arrived at the big game saying, “The way (the Falcons loss) came down on me personally, I didn’t react to that the way people would expect. Because there were definitely parts in that Super Bowl that I would love to have back and stuff I was very hard on myself (about), but the whole narrative of if I would’ve just ran it, we would’ve won, I know that wasn’t the case. I know what went into that game and all the stuff that happened, so that stuff didn’t bother me.”
And you want to pull out a fistful of hair and scream, “Be bothered! Be very bothered! That was exactly the narrative, and it will be the narrative until the sun dies!”
But Sunday might be the perfect day for high-minded people to retire old grievances. A time to realize that anything bad that might happen to one former Falcons assistant over the course of this Super Bowl won’t change a single twinge from three years ago.
It is so much healthier to cheer for rather than to cheer against.
So, that said, one last thought for Super Sunday.
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