Amanda's View: Colosseum and memoriam

By Amanda Knox

Approaching Century Link Field in a throng of green-and-blue people, flanked by an ecstatic marching band, I couldn’t help but think about the Roman Colosseum, and how sporting events have been experienced by humans in the exact same way for as long as civilization has existed. The same spirit of adrenaline-spiked tribalism that motivates Seattlites to show up in droves to watch grown men skillfully kick a ball around motivated the Romans to show up in droves to observe the clashing of gladiator against gladiator, Christian slave against starved lion.

We are the same. As Tim Urban wrote recently on Wait But Why, if you were to swap a newborn from a Medieval farming village with a newborn New Yorker today, no one would know the difference. That’s because the modern human brain hasn’t evolved in over 10,000 years. Some evolutionary psychologists think our brains are the same as those belonging to humans from as far back as 50,000 years. For context, that’s the stone age, around about the time humans invented the needle.

It’s not often that I’m reminded of this fact. At the game, what triggered me were the rules and the rituals, the pomp and performance. Not being a regular sports viewer, I felt like a foreigner. The real Sounders fans knew how and when to hold up their scarves as banners, to call out the players’ last names during announcements, to call back during the marching band’s chants. I gawked at the parade of flag bearers followed by the parade of uniformed children escorting the players onto the field, at the fireworks which punctuated the beginning and end of each half, and at the Mad-Max-style flame-throwers blasting out of the tops of the goal posts. I thought: the only difference between us and the Mesoamericans from 2000 B.C. is that we don’t decapitate the losing team at the end of the ballgame. But we are totally those people. We live for the show.

This week, Chris and I had to say goodbye to our pet rats, Ruthie and Yoyo. They were both over two years old and had developed tumors, as rats do. Ruthie in particular was acting sluggish and her fur was standing on end—from pain, we guessed. On our way out to Kent (to one of the few remaining veterinary hospitals which accept non-cat-or-dog patients), we mentally prepared ourselves to accept that Ruthie and Yoyo’s time had come.

It didn’t come as a surprise, then, when the vet recommended euthanasia. What did come as a surprise was how casual and routine the whole visit was. How, when the vet picked up our babies’ cage to take them away, it didn’t feel like we weren’t going to get them back. When the vet asked if she could keep Ruthie and Yoyo’s cage for a litter of newborn weasels, Chris and I didn’t expect to feel so…empty.

We speculated about this on the way home. Was it because Ruthie and Yoyo were just rats, which, like fish, don’t ping our attachment instincts as much as cats and dogs do? But that didn’t sound right to me. I thought of how, back in the early 2000s, people used to cry out, “Wilson!” making fun of that scene from Cast Away. Except, I’d bet many of those same people, viewing that scene within the context of the film, would have bawled their eyes out, just like I did. Humans are attachment machines, whether or not the object of our attachment is sentient or cute or even alive. Chris and I loved our rats.

Only when thinking back to the Sounders Colosseum did it occur to me what was missing when we had to tell Ruthie and Yoyo goodbye: The process was unceremonious. Without even the smallest gesture of ceremony, it didn’t feel like saying goodbye.

It didn’t feel like saying goodbye until Chris tweeted their epitaph. He wrote: “2 years ago, I bought some rats for my book launch party. I made them a house out of copies of my book, ripped up pages as the bedding. When the paperback came out, Ruthie (full name: Notorious RBG) helped me navigate the maze of anxiety to find the Coors Light of peace. Yoyo (full name: Yolandi Vi$$er) chewed through my stereo cables, my cell phone charger, and my heart strings. Never thought I'd own rats. A lark became an unexpected joy. Today, I said goodbye. They're still close to my heart. RIP Ruthie & Yoyo.”

And it was a relief to feel tears in my eyes.

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