Thursday, April 16, 2009

The losing tradition

I've been a sports fan for as long as I can remember, and I've been lucky to have my teams win or be in the mix for championships a few times. I've watched my favorite baseball team win a World Series and attended a men's college basketball national title game victory by my alma mater. Although they came up short, I've watched my favorite football team compete in two thrilling Super Bowls.

More often than not as a fan, though, I've witnessed a lot of losing. The Reds have made the postseason just two times (1990, 1995) since I've been old enough to remember. (I was alive for most of The Big Red Machine's glory days of the '70s, but I was too young to notice.) There have been the insults to injury in strike years--the best record in baseball but no playoff berth in 1981; in first place in 1994, the year of the canceled postseason. There was the failure to clinch a playoff spot in the last series of the 1999 season and the loss in the wild card tiebreaker game. To add to the heartbreak, I had playoff tickets in hand that year.

Despite their legendary ineptitude as a franchise, the Bengals have qualified for the postseason five times in that same period. Of course, they also had fourteen consecutive seasons with a non-winning record, and in 2005, their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1990, their starting quarterback had his knee blown out in the first offensive series. So much for the wait of a decade and a half.

Then there's the Blue Jackets. Until this season they had never had a winning season and were the only active NHL team never to qualify for the playoffs. Granted, they don't have the history of my other teams--the club's inaugural season was 2000-2001--and I don't have the history with them. This is only the third season I've seriously followed them, but again, I've seen plenty of lousy games.

Anyway, you can imagine that I was excited to watch their first playoff game tonight and am pumped up to know I'll be attending their first home playoff game on Tuesday. (It's killing me that I'll be out of town at a film festival when one--and hopefully two--playoff games will be played.) In my adult life there have been precious few postseason games for my teams.

Tonight's first period was thrilling but scoreless. The second was tense and started to dredge up that "here we go again" feeling. The third brought the familiar resignation and acknowledgment that the worst fears would be realized.

I wonder, half-seriously, if experiencing all that losing as a fan exacts a toll and colors worldview. Doesn't it indirectly reinforce that one's hopes will be dashed and efforts will be unsuccessful? I can't say but it might explain some things.

In sports there's always the next game and, if necessary, the next season. I suppose that taking it a day at a time no matter what the previous one brought is the only way to approach life too. Perhaps there's no rational reason to be hopeful, but holding out for the promise of what might be to come is important.

(For what it's worth, I didn't intend to sound so beaten down in this post. I'm OK. Really.)



At 12:48 PM, Anonymous LittleWit said...

Watching all the losses does color world view. However, I think it's the little glimpses of the under dog coming from behind to beat the dynasty. When that happens for some it's a sign that there really is a good reason to be hopeful that things will turn out alright. ;)


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home