Oddities in sports havent dampened enthusiasm as a fan
- Matthew Sherman
- Lake Oswego Review - Sports
My biggest crisis as a sports fan happened a few months ago. Growing up I wasn't thwarted by labor strikes shortening or even cancelling entire seasons. Performance-enhancing drugs running rampant in most professional sports and the Olympics stung a little but didn't knock me off my stride. Neither did years of ineptitude by many of my favorite sports teams.
No, in fact, this crisis was actually due to an unparalleled run of success. Last fall, my San Francisco Giants, whom I have had an unrequited love affair with since I was 9, won the World Series. And they didn't just win it, they rode a brilliant homegrown pitching staff, patched together a bizarre lineup of loveable castoffs and won an inordinate number of close and exciting games en route to a truly unexpected title.
As a Giants fan for more than two decades, I have experienced more than a little bit of heartache. There was Barry Bonds' fall from grace, the team nearly being moved to Florida and multiple gut-wrenching playoff losses including two defeats in the World Series. The first of which was the first and only sporting event to make me cry. I was 9.
The World Series was the highlight in a crazy four-month span the likes of which I had never experienced as a sports fan. Just two months later, my Oregon Ducks put together an enormously entertaining team and advanced all the way to the national title game, which, to this day, still sounds ludicrous.
My San Francisco 49ers, after years of being a laughing stock, missed the playoffs by one game and nearly became the first team in NFL history to make the postseason with a sub .500 record, which, as Seahawks fans will tell you, is nothing to be ashamed of.
The Portland Trail Blazers also rose from the ashes with a likeable and competitive team.
I also won both my fantasy baseball and fantasy football leagues. In retrospect, this was more improbable than all of the previously mentioned things combined.
In the days leading up to the national title game, strange thoughts crept into my head. I thought, 'If Oregon wins this game, I'm going to have to give up watching sports. There is no feasible way that my experience as a fan can possibly top this, a World Series and a national title two months apart?'
If being a sports fan was a stock, I would have been insane not to sell high. I mean, in the past decade I had witnessed a Blazers team where Ruben Patterson was the voice of reason on the roster, a Giants team that had Bengie Molina as a cleanup hitter for much of the season, a 49ers team that, at one point, made me think, 'Oh, Ken Dorsey's back from injury, maybe we have a chance today!' and 27 ACL injuries to Nate Costa. Now this? It was unfathomable.
Of course, the Ducks lost the national title game, leading into the darkest and coldest part of the sports calendar. The six weeks between the Super Bowl and March Madness can be brutal.
But it was worse last year. Normally, I look forward to pitchers and catchers reporting in mid-February. And suddenly, I wasn't sure if I would care quite as much now that my favorite team had captured a title.
It was a bizarre mindset to be in, to be suddenly unsure if a pastime I have loved for 22 years actually meant anything to me anymore. I felt dirty. I felt like a sleazy guy who had been trying to get into the Giants' pants for two decades. Then finally my goal was achieved, it was the next morning and I was debating about whether or not I was ever going to call them again.
Normally, the offseason for a Giants fan is filled with activity and optimism. It begins with the hope that maybe they'll get in the running for one of the best free agents on the market. You start to think that maybe the 35-year-old long reliever they just traded for might be the missing piece of the puzzle. You worry about and dissect every minute move the organization makes. Would any of that mean as much to me anymore?
My fears were allayed quickly. I was hooked again from spring training, kept tabs on meaningless training games and pulled my hair out over front office moves that would likely make me look stupid in the near future.
Now, we're heading into one of the best times of the sports calendar with pennant races heating up and football just one month away. The last year taught me to appreciate these times even more because they're few and far between.
Tim Lincecum's rotator cuff only has so many pitches left in it, the Ducks might get nailed for violating NCAA rules and the 49ers … well, they're still starting Alex Smith at quarterback.
I've come to realize that if all of the oddities in sports during the past 25 years haven't irreparably damaged me as a sports fan at this point, nothing will.
Matthew Sherman is the sports editor of the Lake Oswego Review.