I will be the first to admit that I have been extremely blessed in the sports fulfillment category in the last few years. Since April of 2003 I have watched Syracuse basketball, New York Giants football,Boston Celtics basketball,and New York Yankees baseball win championships. I even had the pleasure to assistant coach , two state high boys basketball championship teams. If Al Davis were to get a hold of my recent resume he would probably grab me around the neck and beg me to explain to him how I "just win baby." However in all the joys of watching my die hard teams win titles over the years, I would trade every moment and title, including the Giants Super Bowl upset of the undefeated Patriots, for just one Stanley Cup.
In saying that ,I know now what I have never had the privilege of knowing in over two decades of watching these games we call sports; the concept involved in being a die-hard fan makes no logical sense.
Loving a sports team makes less sense then casual dating. By my own observation 90 percent of relationships end. If you calculate every relationship from the flimsy to the marital and add them together I figure 1 out of 10 times a relationship lasts forever. More than half of marriages fail. Then you must factor in that at least 4 out of 5 relationships that start never make marriage. So my rough non-concise estimate is that only ten percent last.
But when it does last it is well worth it. Falling in love,being in love,and staying in love is a reward that keeps on giving. A time honored gratification. But when you think of the idea of how many times dating will end badly it really makes little sense in the manner we as a society date.
If I told you that nine out of ten times you go get a Slurpee at 7-11 the bottom would give out and you would be doused in wet mushy colored sugar. you would fore-go Slurpee's and even 7-11 due to the temptation of a Slurpee altogether. Well by my estimation loving a sports team ends worse more times then dating and love does. But there must be a reason that we keep following our sports teams right?
When the Giants won the Superbowl three years ago life just went on as normal around me the day after. Sometimes when significant things happen in my life I am perplexed,even frustrated, that the very next day no one cares. People still go to work,still cut you off in traffic,and still stuff their faces at McDonald's no matter how affected you are by a recent death, break-up,or even a sporting events outcome. How can you drive, eat or work after that? Don't you know that life is not supposed to ever be as it was again? That next day I wanted to yell at the people who were talking about other things. Did they not see the game? Do they not understand I'm on cloud nine ? Don't they care that I literally blacked out for a second when David Tyree made that catch.They didn't .
I coached my last high school basketball game that day. A few select fathers still thought I was incompetent. Funny because when I coached 18 State champions I was coaching the same way and the parents loved me. In spite of being 24 hours removed from My first Giants Super Bowl in over 7000 days, these two fathers still harassed me from the crowd. And they still reported me when they got wind that I swore under my breathe just loudly enough for the player next to me on the bench to hear me.
It's funny because I am pretty sure its the only time in six years of coaching that I used profanity out loud.(Still no excuse for swearing while coaching a christian school team. It's not like I was coaching Mcquaid or somebody.)
Looking back I attribute my meltdown that day to the previous evenings events. Didn't these people know they were not allowed to pick on me less than 24 hours after my Giants pulled that upset off? Didn't they know that this range of emotions was not healthy for a human being to deal with? Didn't they know I loved this football team so much that I literally fainted after a watching a play in that game? Didn't they know they had no right to try to bring me down from this natural high? This behavior by them was fine after a regular season week 10 loss to the Bengals. But today? Not today.
I think I was so angry that they didn't know I deserved a one day reprieve from there biased cruelty, that I let out an expletive in protest. I'm even sure that during the day at some point these two fathers had cut someone off in traffic while eating a McDonald's Big Mac on their way to work. Life continues as usual.
My point is this. For 17 years I watched and suffered waiting for another Giants Superbowl and when the ultimate happened no one cared. I was texting my friend Jim a few weeks ago ,and asked him if he thought loving a team made any sense. I told him we spend so much time talking,debating, and watching and eventually maybe,just maybe the ultimate happens.
I almost felt guilty because I was whining to a Cleveland Browns fan. Is there any more harsh sports existence then being a fan of them?
I told him he would never accept what that team has done to him in a girl, so why is it OK in his sports team? If I told you you were gonna chase after a girl you were deeply in love with and 20 years later still be chasing her; and in the meanwhile she is going to do the following hurtful things to you: Fumble your feelings on the 1 yard line; years later actually disappear for 4 years without hearing from her; date another city; come back and blow a 17 point playoff lead; mire in obscurity for the next 8 years,would you consider staying with this girl? And all this for the hopes of one day having that one moment with her where everything is perfect, until the next day when everyone forgets and she is back to fumbling away your feelings? It's nonsensical and irrational self injurious behavior. Yet as sports fans it appears we wouldn't have it any other way
The Buffalo Sabres have broken my heart again. Yesterday they blew a 2 goal lead in a playoff game, after losing their best forward to injury. The series is tied at 1 and for all I know Thomas Vanek will be back for tomorrow's game. But in the eternal pessimist state I have learned to live in as a fan of this team, he might as well have spontaneously combusted on the ice. He is done. The season is over.(And it did indeed end 4 games later) Woe is Buffalo. I have watched all 82 games this season and when he went crashing into the boards, hobbling off, I swear I sent a mass text to anyone I knew would listen stating " Nice season.See you next year."
But why are they gonna see me next year? Why would I continue to do this to myself? If a girl spent 18 years breaking my heart,dumping me time after time,and even crashing into the pew's after getting slashed from behind on the knee cap from a jilted ex-lover halfway down the aisle at our wedding, wouldn't I get the point that its not meant to be? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for 18 straight seasons, shame on me.
I came to a bitter realization yesterday that the Sabres are not gonna win the Stanley cup this year. Heck,they probably never will. I vowed to Jim in a text that it's time to start transporting the time I focus on hockey on other things. ANY other things.
Why do we care so much? Is it the relationships and bonds we build with friends and family as we follow our teams religiously? Maybe. Is it filling a void that nothing else can? Perhaps. Or is it merely unwavering insanity and self torture that we have learned to love so much that we can't fathom not feeling it? Probably.
Sure the ultimate goal might eventually come to you and your "Cleveland Browns" or "Buffalo Sabres" might finally give you the championship you yearned and longed for one day. When it does come though, the next day you will still get cut off in traffic, A Big Mac will still clog up your arteries,and your boss will still demand results. No one cares but us. See you at the game.
Addendum : November 2010: I will soon be writing an article about a man who was born the day after the San Francisco Giants last won a baseball championship in 1954 and subsequently passed away the day before they won the World Series last month. Their first title since the day before he was born. The cruelest of sports fates imaginable. Stay Tuned.