Sunday’s epic Super Bowl collapse by the Atlanta Falcons, a team I grew up living and mostly dying for, has caused me to question, again, why I even bother to follow sports.
In the 35-plus years I have been a sports fan, my favorite teams have reached the top of their respective heaps exactly seven times. That’s a pretty bad winning percentage when you consider my rooting interests include two major cities and four college programs. If I were only a fan of, say, the New England Patriots, I’d have nine Super Bowl appearances and five championships to look back fondly upon. If I only liked Boston sports, I’d have an additional three World Series champions and four NBA titles to brag about.
Life’s not that easy for most of us–in both sports and the world in general. Though never much of an athlete, I’ve been a sports fan since the age of 11. Like most fans, I’ve weathered a lot of misery over the years.
Outlined below are the teams I have followed, which I am chronicling more for therapeutic purposes than for your entertainment. Maybe this list will remind you of some of the heartbreak you’ve endured with your own favorite teams, the moments where you’ve sworn you are never going to watch another game? Or maybe you’re a Tom Brady or Duke basketball fan, and are therefore unfamiliar with emotional pain?
At any rate, here are the teams, in no particular order, that have methodically sucked some of the joy out of my life. Read about them if you dare:
There was a time when I spent most of my waking hours thinking about University of Georgia football. They were my first sports love, starting with those great Herschel Walker teams of the early 1980s.
Unfortunately, the Dawgs haven’t returned to those glorious times since. With money, tradition, great facilities and access to a bounty of high school football talent, Georgia football is one of those college programs that should be great, but seldom is. The Dawgs have won only two Southeastern Conference championships since Herschel left school in early 1983. Since that time, just about every major college within driving distance of Athens, Ga., has won at least one national football title. Georgia fans must harken back to 1980 for the only time their team finished a consensus #1. Even then, it required having the greatest player in the history of college football to get them there.
Georgia still produces some very good teams, and they have a promising new coach in Kirby Smart. Maybe 2017 will finally be “The Year” that fans like me have desperately craved?
Atlanta Sports Teams
The Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995, one of my all-time favorite sports moments. Even that accomplishment is tinged with disappointment, as the Braves won 14 straight division titles and only won the championship once during that time. Their one World Series triumph came against Cleveland, so does that even count?
The Atlanta Hawks and Falcons have had their occasional shots at glory. The Falcons have a tradition of following up each good season with a terrible one. The gut-punch they suffered from the Patriots on Sunday night could set the franchise reeling for the next few years, if history is any indication.
I could write a book—and have written a few blog posts—about the agonies of being a fan of “Ol’ Misery.” Truth is, following my alma mater hasn’t been all that bad. The Tigers have had several good football and basketball teams over the years. They’ve just never clawed their way to the top.
A lot of Mizzou fans like to drone on and on about how the program is cursed, as the Tigers have suffered more than their share of soul-crushing losses in football and hoops. However, Missouri athletics also raises far less money than the powerhouse programs in college sports, so dashed dreams seem to be built into the formula. The Tigers will have good teams again (they’re currently dreadful in both basketball and football), but championships are not very likely.
Kansas City Royals
They may never get credit for it, but the Royals pulled off one of the greatest miracles in baseball history by reaching the World Series in 2014 and 2015, and winning it all the second time around. The Royals are a small-market franchise with a limited payroll. Somehow, after decades of failure, they developed a home-grown team with incredible chemistry that came within one game of winning two straight world championships. The Chicago Cubs are America’s darlings for their 2016 title, but they spent a ton of money to get there. The Royals did it the hard way.
You need to have endured the 29-year run of mostly horrible Royals baseball to appreciate how far the franchise has climbed. The Royals’ success in 2014-2015 made all that suffering worthwhile with a rare sports moment in which the underdogs finally came out on top.
Kansas City Chiefs
Atlanta Falcons fans should be glad they don’t live in the football purgatory the Chiefs have inhabited for decades. The Hunt family, who have owned the team from its beginning, keep following the same risk-adverse formula: draft defenders, offensive linemen and the occasional running back, then sign a free-agent quarterback who lost his starting job at one of the elite franchises (49ers, Patriots). This approach has earned the Chiefs a few playoff appearances, but little more. The team has won exactly four playoff games since winning the Super Bowl in January 1970.
This spring, the Chiefs could trade up in the draft to get Clemson’s all-around superstar QB Deshaun Watson in the first round. I can’t wait to see which nose guard they decide to draft instead.
My dad went to West Point, so I have always cared about the fortunes of Army (or, as Lou Holtz once stupidly called it, “The University of The Army”). All too often, the football Cadets have been bad–very, very bad. But, hey, they finally beat Navy last year and went to a bowl game, so hope springs eternal.
North Carolina Tar Heels
This is the one time I got it right in selecting a favorite team to follow. My mother’s family are all Tar Heels, and thank God for that. Carolina basketball won national titles in 1982, 1993, 2005 and 2009, and has appeared in many Final Fours. I only wish I liked Roy Williams just a little bit better. I’ve always thought he was a bit of a fraud.
Those are my sports fan misadventures, most of them grim. How about you? Do you have any teams you can’t help but pull for, though a little part of you dies each time they let you down?