Originally Published: February 26, 2010
There are no Universal Truths in sports, except that inevitably your team will break your heart.
But there ARE some truths that are … widespread. It’s the Plight of the Every-Team.
This doesn’t apply to teams with limitless pockets, your New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and other big-city teams with oodles of money to spend. It just applies to everyone else; the bottom-feeders just feel it harder because it’s never-ending.
Teams thrive on overhauls, because ultimately teams thrive on Hope. Hope isn’t just a tool to elect black presidents, it’s also the singular reason why teams maintain fanbases like they do.
For example: there’s no reason why the Buffalo Bills should still be selling out all of their home games every year; they haven’t been any good since the mid-90s! Any rational fan would look at that team, look at the city they live in, look at the money ownership is willing to spend on quality players and quality coaches, and they’d immediately switch allegiances to the Giants or the Jets or the fucking Patriots. Same for people in Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, Oakland, Detroit (considering the NFL); or people in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Toronto (considering MLB).
Why keep rooting for these perennial losers? Or, at the very least, these perennial Middle-Of-The-Road Finishers.
Hell, throw Seattle into both of those lists and I could very easily turn this right around back on myself.
In 20-some-odd years of being a Seattle Sports Fan, what do I have to show for it? A Super Bowl loss, an NBA Championship Series loss in 6 games, an underachieving 116-win baseball team, and a smattering of playoff appearances always ending in premature defeat. Shit, I wasn’t even a fan of the Huskies until I went to the fucking school! I can’t even pretend that I got to revel in a championship in my own damn lifetime.
So, why? Why in the FUCK do I stick it out? It’s the Hope, stupid; to borrow a tired line from 60 Minutes.
There’s always “next year”. That’s the mantra. Hell, if the Florida Marlins can go all the way, if the Giants can beat the 18-0 Patriots, if the Tampa Bay motherfucking Devilrays and Colorado motherfucking Rockies can jump up and get hot at the right time … then SHIT MAN, of course my Seattle teams could shock the world in any given season.
It’s a sort of blind faith. Not being a religious man – indeed, belittling it whenever I can – this seems like a contradiction of ideals. At heart, I’m nothing but a hypocrite.
No, not really. I’m just a fan, that’s all. And what do fans thrive on above all else? What brings us that Hope we so desperately need to keep coming back to the well year-in and year-out?
Oh yeah! Irrational fans (which is really a redundant term, when you think about it) love for nothing more than to see some motherfucking heads ROLL when the shit hits the fan and you’re confronted with a 100+ loss baseball season; or a 4-12 followed by a 5-11 season in the NFL. Everyone must go! Kill the GM, hang the coach, fuck all the players RIGHT in the ass – except Felix, he’s our future, now – and get some assholes in there who know what the FUCK they’re doing!
Oftentimes, you’ll see more fanfare the day a particularly brutal GM or coach is canned than you will when his replacement is hired. I still remember where I was when Bill Bavasi hit the bricks. Made me so happy I wanted to fingerbang some strippers.
At that point, it doesn’t even matter who you bring in to replace the losers you’ve ejected. It’s all in the process of overhauling the entire organization. Fans get upset when you don’t go far ENOUGH.
Which is why, for instance, this thing with the Seattle Mariners is so encouraging. They haven’t done a DAMN thing on the field to prove to us that they’re going to be a contender this year. BUT, from 2007′s 101-loss team, we have approximately 5 players: Ichiro, Felix, Bedard, Mark Lowe, and Jose Lopez. That’s it! Everyone else is GONE. Coaches, GM, and 21 other major league players, GONE.
Looking at it rationally, I’d have to say, “This team did pretty well for itself last year, but still it couldn’t hit and inevitably couldn’t do what it took to win over 90 games. Consequently, the hitting this offseason hasn’t been improved all that much, and everything else is kinda pretty much the same. They probably shouldn’t win more than 90 games and it wouldn’t surprise me if they found a way to regress.”
But, I CAN’T look at it rationally like that. Because I’m a fan. Instead, I look at all the changes we’ve made in the organization; I see the fucking losers who aren’t here any more, and I’m so overjoyed that it’s natural for me to overlook the areas where we’re deficient.
The same mindset can be applied to the Seattle Seahawks. Did Jim Mora get a raw deal? Probably, but still I didn’t really have any affection for the guy. What I want to see happen is a total overhaul of the organization.
Well, we’ve got the new GM, the new Head Coach. Now, it’s time to work on the players. Total overhaul, from top to bottom. Clean house, get rid of all the dead weight and the past-their-prime dead weight. Don’t Franchise the fucking Kicker! Don’t make Olindo Mare one of the 5 highest-paid kickers in the game! I don’t care if he only missed 2 field goals last year!
Of course, it’s tough with the NFL. Not as many trades get done as there are in baseball. You can’t take an entire NFL team and replace all but 5 players in a 2-year span (or whatever the equivalent would be). You can’t just dump salary like the Marlins do after they make a run for a World Series. Financially, logistically, it just doesn’t work that way.
The real mindfuck of the whole thing is what a crapshoot it all is. All teams – especially when confronted with a few consecutive years’ worth of losing – overhaul their organizations. You see coaches and GMs hanged out to dry all the time. You see veteran players cut or traded when they’re too old and too expensive to keep around. Teams are CONSTANTLY re-tooling things, and there’s really no rhyme or reason to their success if they actually manage to find success.
Why do teams like the Arizona Cardinals go decades never making a playoff appearance before finding some success as of the last couple years; meanwhile the Detroit Lions are constantly drafting in the Top 10 year after year? How is it Tampa Bay finds themselves working towards an AL pennant after so much futility, while Baltimore can’t seem to recover?
It’s all luck. You got to hope players you draft turn out okay. You got to hope when you trade for an Ace Pitcher, the ace plays like an ace and the prospects you gave away flame out. You got to hope for a few players who’ve just been sorta okay for most of their careers to dig deep and find a way to put up numbers they’ve never put up before. You got to hope your key players stay healthy, and if someone DOES get hurt, you got to hope that their replacement can fill their shoes without significant dropoff.
It’s insane. All this hope. Sports fans are like die-hard Lotto players who get WAY too excitable when the numbers are being called out. We live and die with every white plastic ball that shoots up that tube. Most of the time, that first number is off and we tell ourselves, “Well, we can still win $500 if we get the rest of the numbers right.” Then, the next one is off and we say, “Well, we can still win a couple bucks if we get the last four.” Then you hit on one and hop up and down in your seat. Maybe you get a couple more, and your heart starts racing, and you grip that ticket in your hand extra-tight, praying to God or Allah or Satan that you just get ONE more number …
Sure, sometimes fans actually get all 6 numbers. I’m sure Saints fans feel like they won the lottery; look at all the crap their team put them through in the last four decades. New York fans must feel like trillionaires with all the lotteries they get to win.
And sometimes, you can live an entire lifetime without that feeling of elation. You may see your team get 4 or 5 numbers on occasion, but that winning ticket is always JUST out of reach.
What can you do? Besides give up on sports entirely. Then, what would I have to talk about at bars?