You know who you are. You’re a fan of teams who in your entirety of your existence have never won a championship. I assume in a few cases, people have the experience where none of their teams have won a championship while they’ve been around. Or ever. And if you fall into that category, I feel for you. Because I’m right there with you.
I’ve heard before from some people that once your team wins a championship, you don’t hang on the wins and losses as much. It isn’t so much do or die and it doesn’t sting so bad when a loss happens. I have yet to experience the life of a fan who can say “Well, get’em next week/year.” I can understand how it almost seems kind of petty to get riled up when your team loses. Yet, sometimes even when I try to downplay it, I get a sick feeling in my gut. Maybe it’ll pass, maybe it’ll get worse. Who knows.
I’ve been an avid, lifelong fan of West Virginia University football and men’s basketball. If you know much of anything about those programs, you know there has been a fair share of recent success for both of those programs. But, and I can’t reiterate this enough, there have been some absolutely stinging and demoralizing losses mixed in with that success. As a student at WVU, I want both programs to be successful while I’m here. I want championships, whether it be conference or national. Those aren’t necessarily farfetched things either, especially with the basketball program.
WVU always seems to fall short when the spotlight is turned to them and they get into the national conversation. It sucks. Every. Single. Time. I should be used to it by now knowing the history, yet my want for the program to win and do well tends to get in the way in the immediate aftermath of a letdown. I get over things pretty quickly once the first few moments pass but the emotions definitely take center stage initially.
The reason for those emotions is simple. Having come so close to the pinnacle and falling just short. 2007 Backyard Brawl and 2010 Final Four come to mind. That’s what makes the letdowns when WVU fields better teams so painful. The disappointment from losing in the first round in 2016 NCAA Tourney or having an undefeated season come to an end at the hands of Oklahoma State in football this season, it never doesn’t suck. It doesn’t matter if you expect it or not either. It’s getting your hopes up and as soon as you do watching it all crash down. Now, I can’t say I know how it felt to be a Cubs fan until this year’s World Series. The Steve Bartman debacle is probably one of the most crushing moments in sports history. I haven’t experienced anything like that… yet.
WVU isn’t the only one who has gotten me up just to tear me down either. The Carolina Panthers in last season’t Super Bowl lost in a demoralizing fashion. Von Miller teed off on Cam Newton with a vicious pass rush and turnovers cost Carolina a chance to go 18-1 and win their first championship. Now this season after having a one-loss regular season last year, are 3-5 and having to dig themselves out of a huge hole just to have a glimmer of hope to make the playoffs. In 2013 the Panthers went 12-4 in the regular season only to get ousted by the San Francisco 49ers at home in the divisional round. Super Bowl 38, Carolina lost to New England on a game winning kick by Adam Vinatieri to lose by 3.
It is a never ending cycle. Be good for three or so years, nearly reach the top, collapse, and wait another few years or so to even have a shot at being near the top again. It isn’t fun. You think it’s finally going to be the year. Your team will finally end the drought. Then you get your ass kicked and have to start from square one.
I have to give it to Cleveland Browns fans. That team has been bad, other than 2006, for as long as I can remember. The fan loyalty has to be among the best in sports to stick through being terrible so much for so long. Through all the draft picks that have failed, the carousel of quarterbacks, and a horrible front office, I’m not sure I can do that. Cheers to you, Browns fans. Your team sucks but your fan base does not.
I still think the most painful experience as a fan is being able to almost taste a championship just to have ripped out from underneath you. We all know what that’s like, but it’s particularly painful for those of us who have never gotten to experience championships.
For all of those fans who can’t seem to catch that last break to win it all, I feel for you. Though, this is what sports is about. It always has been and always will be a roller coaster ride. The emotional connection we have to our teams is what makes sports more than “just sports.” And when we finally get to experience being at the top, it’ll be oh so sweet.