Why do the people who schedule athletic events make springtime such a challenge for sports fanatics like me? Somehow I found myself balancing NBA and NHL playoffs, the NFL draft, the run for the Triple Crown, a Rangers pitcher flirting with a no-hitter and a former NASCAR champion making a lot of enemies. To further complicate my life, I gave into peer pressure and added The Voice to watching American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Castle and General Hospital. Thank goodness for two TVs and Internet capabilities or I would have lost my mind.
This was the year NBA record books were rewritten. For the first time ever, the Knicks, Celtics, and Lakers were all missing! As if the playoffs aren’t nail biting enough, a record eight of the first round games went into overtime! For my cousin Ann, her Memphis Grizzlies went into four straight overtimes with the Oklahoma Thunder, another NBA record! Another rarity was the first round of the NBA playoffs found all three Texas cities participating. I was thrilled as finally my Houston Rockets were showing signs of being champs again. I dug out my T-shirts from ’94 and ’95 and wore them for the games. I couldn’t find the shirt with an Interstate 10 decal for the Rockets and Spurs playoff series in the 90s. That should have been my “sign”. Game six was a “win or sit on the couch the rest of the playoffs”. The Rockets played with the look of rats lost in a maze, then looked like they had finally found the cheese. The Trail Blazers, Willard, who up until then had air balls, planted hit feet and hit his first three-pointer — on the buzzer! Rockets lost 99-98. There was no game seven. Coach Kevin Hale and I both buried our heads in our hands. I repacked the keepsakes and wondered what the heck happened to the Interstate 10 shirt. Cousin Ann’s torture was ended when her Grizzlies lost their game seven. Sadly for Dallas Mavericks fans, despite being four and one all-time in game sevens, the most Mavericks shots successfully made were during pre-game instead of during the blowout by the Spurs.
Things got interesting in the hockey playoffs too when I started a challenge email to some of my Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers fans with a cc: to a couple of friends in New England. I simply put, “Well, well, well….. It’s the NY Rangers vs. the Penguins. Now what I want to know is WHO will win in this series AND in how many games ——— and will then hopefully meet the Bruins.” Little did I know that the innocent email would have more impact than Putin’s advancement into Ukraine! Two of the New York gals got a little zealous with their trash talking about the Penguins. It was good stuff like: “The Rangers can hold their own against the Penguins if they show up to play. I think they beat them twice this season and lost one game in a shoot-out. Personally, can’t stand Crosby or Malkin so I hope the Rangers kick butt.” “I’m certainly not looking forward to watching Crosby whine because he hurt his widdle pinky finger or got a boo-boo when someone dared to touch him. But he does possess an extraordinary amount of talent, and has the potential to do a lot of damage on the scoreboard. Hopefully we can contain him.” One of my guy friends responded, “Really, you ask me this? You know I bleed Black and Gold and I always will….Nuff said.” However, another Pittsburgh fan got her feelings hurt with the written attacks at her team. I quickly wrote everyone else an apology and encouraged deleting future threads. It was a long series going seven games with the Rangers moving on to the next round and me making a mental note not to ever do that again.
I find it really is hard to be a fan. It is a huge emotional investment and a crap shoot on the outcome. The hardest part is accepting that your team may not always win and dealing with it when they don’t. One of my favorite NASCAR drivers still hasn’t won this year. The other day someone posted, “He should be winning by now. Three more races without a win and he loses a longtime fan.” I immediately responded, “You’ve got to be kidding… you would dump Matt just because he didn’t win??? Hate that mentality… a true fan stays for better or for worse… like a marriage.” I wish schools had a course on sportsmanship. Unfortunately, kids are impressionable and our professional athletes can be a terrible example of a good sport. What message do the kids get when they see players kicking over Gatorade barrels, putting fists into dugout walls, brawls on the field or ice and deliberately crashing a car into another car after the race? It’s time to put respectably back into sports and be reasonable in our expectations as fans — of all ages.
My parents taught me that winning or being the best isn’t the requirement. Yep, I was lucky they felt that way since I was the one who fell off the vault, missed the balls in outfield, hit tennis balls over the back fence, knocked a windmill off a miniature golf course, did face plants in the snow ……