As I sit here typing this my heart is broken. Not like the time I fell in love in college and was rejected, nor like the time in high school when the prettiest girl in school barely knew I existed. No, the pain I feel now might even be worse. No, let me say, categorically, it is worse.
I have been a sports fan since I knew what sports were. Let’s put that time at 1980 and say that I have been a sports fan for 30 years.
For 30 years I have lived and breathed sports.
For 30 years I have supported, through thick and thin, my teams.
For 30 years I have skipped time with my friends, have canceled dates with the ladies and have forgone sleep and general merriment to support my teams. I have fasted. I have skipped shaving. I have worn the same shoes and socks. I have slept on the same side of the bed and I have even nearly burst my bladder on occasion in order to avoid letting the team down. All of this I have done wiling to give my team the best chance to emerge from their battles victorious (as an athlete myself, I cannot deny that superstitions play a part in my life).
What has this gotten me? Zilch.
I like football, and when I was younger there was nothing like following the San Francisco 49ers, the team of the 1980’s, as they dominated the competition like few teams have in NFL history as they won five Super Bowls in 14 years. So while it may not really be right to complain, I feel that I still have the right to, especially since football is actually my third passion.
What are my first two?
Baseball has been my life since a young age. I have played, coached and written about it basically my whole life. And in the last 30 years my San Francisco Giants have let me down time and time again including 2002 when they lost to the Angels four games to three after being a mere handful of outs from their first championship since coming to California in 1958 (the were six outs away in Game 6 before eventually losing that contest and then inevitably losing Game 7). Alas, the team still hasn’t won that first World Series on the left coast, and so for 30 years my cheers have gone unanswered.
Flash forward to last night. The San Jose Sharks, coming off the President’s Trophy for having the best record in the league with 117 points, the most in team history, lost Game 6 to the Ducks to end their 2009 playoff run at one series, this after losing in the second round in each of the past three seasons. This however, is the most disappointing loss to date after the record breaking regular season, and it marked just the fifth time since 1968 that the #1 overall team lost in the first round of the playoffs. I could go on and on with the numbers that explain what went wrong for the supposed powerhouse, but there is just one number that sticks in my head, and that number is 16. Those are the number of seasons that I have virtually bled teal from my veins (I didn’t begin to following the Sharks until their third season after I was turned on to hockey, ironically, by EA Sports NHL 1994 Hockey game. You gotta remember, I grew up in California where the only ice I saw was in my Slurpee).
So after 46 years as a fan of the Sharks and Giants, I’m left with nothing, nada, zip – not a single championship in which I could actually waive my finger in the sky saying ‘we’re number one’ and actually mean it.
So where does that leave me? The fan in me of course says to wait it out. There are certainly much worse things in life than not cheering on a championship sports team. Hell, I could spend the next nine years of my life describing how petty it is to really worry this much about sports, but the truth is I cannot help myself. Sports are as much a part of who I am as is my left pinkie toe, though I have no idea what use either really has at this point.
So with that I will have a few months to wonder if it’s all worth it, basically if the Sharks are worth the investment of time I put in each year. If you figure 2:45 minutes per game, with roughly 90 games a season, and yes I NEVER miss a game, that equates to roughly 250 hours of just watching games not even including time I spend reading, writing and talking about it. Is it worth putting my heart and soul into a team that never loves me back? If you are a suffering Sharks fan on this day, you too know what it was like for me back in high school when the prom queen didn’t even know my name. Almost two decades later, I’m still left with that feeling of emptiness in my heart, and unrequited love that continues to eat away at my soul.
Too melodramatic? Quite possibly. But that doesn’t change the stinging pain of a defeat that never should have been ending what was once a magical season 14 victories short of its intended goal.
Tags: Joe Thornton