Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sports Fan Kryptonite

This is the most dangerous sentence for a sports fan:

If (hopeful statement about your favorite team)...(pause) never know.

For example, I live in Athens, Ohio. I go to Ohio University. I go to school with a LOT of Cincinnati Reds fans and a LOT of Cleveland sports fans. For fan bases that have been deprived of championships (or simply winning, in Cleveland's case), that sentence has been verbally sputtered prematurely so many times that it makes the sports fan in me weep, because t's nearly impossible to avoid.

In most cases, I root for every drought-prone franchise to win - Chicago Cubs? Yup. pre-2004 Boston Red Sox? Absolutely. Detroit Lions? Matthew Stafford, let's win a ring. Philadelphia Flyers?........don't get crazy.

I want fans from everywhere to feel the joy I felt when the Steelers won the Super Bowl or the total euphoria that washed over me when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup (the second of those being much more rewarding.) But the Reds are 26-20, tied for first place in the NL Central, and I frequently have conversations with my roommate Tony that go a little like this:


Grant: I saw that! Another come-from-behind win too, that's pretty sweet. Think they can keep it up?

Tony: I definitely think so...I mean if they can survive until July, get (Edison) Volquez off the DL and call up (Aroldis) Chapman, they can move some guys to the bullpen and win 90 games. 90 games wins the NL Central, or at least gets the wild card spot...You never know.

The funniest part? As a similarly woe-stricken Pirates fan (Pirates haven't had a winning season since '92, Reds haven't won a World Series since '90), I completely understand his logic. Take, for example, April 18, 2010...just a little over a month Pirates had just finished a three-game home sweep of Tony's Reds, were 7-5 and were a half game out of first place. Conversation, please (note: ever since NBA teams started using "Los (nickname)" on their jerseys, we've called the Pirates exactly what I did in this conversation):

Grant: LOS BUCCOS! They win again!

Jason (friend from Pittsburgh): Dude, stop. You do this every year. Just stop.

Grant: But seriously! If they can sustain this pitching until June, they can call up (Pedro) Alvarez, stick him at third, move Andy Laroche - who's batting almost .400, by the way - to second, and have a killer lineup! Dude, you never know!

There was room for optimism in Pittsburgh. All the Pirates had to do was compete in their next series, a three-gamer at home against Milwaukee, a team Pittsburgh never plays well. Even if they won one of three, but genuinely competed with the Brewers, I'd have been one happy fan. Heck, 8-7 in the first fifteen games is 86 wins in a season!

Series result? 
Game one: Milwaukee - 8; Pittsburgh - 1. 
Game two: Milwaukee - 8; Pittsburgh - 0. 
Game three: Milwaukee - 20; Pittsburgh - 0.

So I've finally figured out that this is not only a problem, but a genuine disease. Attention championship-deprived sports fans: avoid the You-Never-Know syndrome. Symptoms include: throbbing headaches, misplaced hope way too early in a season and mindlessly believing that the plot from "Major League" could actually happen.

The You-Never-Know syndrome - the kryptonite of all sports fans. 

"But Grant, is there an antidote besides finally winning a title?"

I wish I had a better answer for you, friends, but there is not. However, if you believe you have the symptoms of YNK, there is a silver lining. 

You're completely normal. There's no way out, but having hope, even when misplaced, is better than having no hope at all. If you never have hope, you weren't a fan of that team in the first place. 

Because, for me, I'd rather have hope at 26-20, 7-5 or even at 0-0 than to start the season saying, "there's no way this is our year. I know it isn't."

So, winning-deprived fan bases, please keep the faith. Because you just never know.

Stay tuned for episodes three and four of the ABL podcast, when Rob Guliano joins me to talk about our favorite sports media personalities, and when Carter Rodriguez makes an appearance to fuel my sudden liking for the NBA playoffs.


  1. Better to have YNK disease than DGWDTHEFYS. Better known among the sports community as "Dear-God-Why-Does-This-Happen-EVERY-Freaking-Year-Syndrome"

  2. God damn pirates...