For years, I’ve been saying that it’s tough being a fan. The loss, the heartache, the cyclical hope. Nothing compared to a hurricane or other legitimate tragedy, of course. And I mean it in jest. However, losing hurts. Your team losing hurts.
I was never a true die-hard fan, truth be told. I’ve never owned season tickets. I’ll never make it to the Super Bowl. A flat-screen at the local pub is probably the closest I’ll get to any packed stadium for a championship game.
Without a doubt, I love sports. There’s a purity to much of it, and I believe it brings out the best in people. My wife and I have kept the kids rolling through athletics for much of each year (with soccer, my favorite, being the default activity). At this level, as an assistant coach, I can connect with the kids, encourage them, and see correction for obvious errors or tactical problems. Last year, my son’s soccer team, Orange Crush, ran the table going into a state tournament. His head coach brought out the talents and best use for each sixth-grader, and the results were an awesome 13-0.
The other day, my daughter’s squad pounded their opponents 5-0. There was no attempt to run up the score. The other team simply didn’t have much of an attack (despite my daughter’s letting them through on a hilarious defensive whiff).
Contrast that with what happened that same night, a continent away…
The USMNT basically phoned-in an effort against Trinidad & Tobago–a game that should’ve put the Yankees in the 2018 FIFA World Cup for a ninth consecutive tournament. The American side lacked hustle and cohesion. Going by the highlights (or lowlights) our men didn’t look ready to compete on the world stage. Aside from Christian Pulisic’s goal, this seemingly rock-bottom showing paved the way for a much-needed housecleaning at US Soccer. And while us fans had so much hope for 2014, with Klinsman at the helm, we’ll be watching 32 other countries try to advance in this mother of all tournaments next year.
And these guys…
For years, I’ve been a fan of University of Tennessee football. Under Phil Fulmer, there was enough success (one national title, a .750 winning percentage) to keep Rocky Top happy during lean years. Then his offense got stale, he was canned, and a carousel of coaches has made the fan-base reminisce about the winning days in the rearview mirror. To become accustomed to such success is, inherently, a problem. Losses become crushing, embarrassing, disheartening–especially against the same squad every year, or just when your team appeared to have gotten its act together (see US 4, Panama 0).
Spikes of success, a packed stadium and ‘Believe’ banners aren’t enough to influence a miracle touchdown grab or stoppage-time goal down. It can be said a true fan wagers a lot of emotional capital on an outcome he or she can’t influence. At the end, half the players who walked on the field will walk off as so-called losers. Moral victories are a nice sentiment, but they’re hardly enough to sustain the faith in next season, for the next tournament.
So I’m turning in my expectations card. I’ll watch the Super Bowl, I’ll catch highlights of WC ’18 and I might make it to an MLS Sounders game next season. If the Mariners make it to the playoffs or Seattle gets a pro basketball team again, great. Call me a sports curmudgeon or fair-weather fan, that’s fine. I’ve got too many other things to worry about than a ball making it into a net.