The Trials of Being a Passionate Fan of a Bad Team

The Trials of Being a Passionate Fan of a Bad Team

The stage of going through a season as a fan of a team that always disappoints.
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Last week, I wrote a piece on how horrible the organization known as the Washington Redskins have become, letting an epidemic of instability take over the organization and dealing with a defiant owner who makes himself look like an incredible simpleton.

Even though I'm not a Redskins fan, I know what those fans are going through. I'm a UVa football fan.

Stop laughing.

Look, it's been three years since UVa has had a winning season and eleven years since UVa beat Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. To say it's hell being a UVa football fan is a gross understatement. I have to give myself pep talks before games just so I can find the motivation to put myself through another game. And let me tell you, it's hard. Especially when you're offensive coordinator is obsessed with running the ball twice and then throwing a screen on third down! It's even worse WHEN THE ASSOCIATE AD KEEPS SCHEDULING TEAMS WE ALL KNOW WE CAN'T BEAT JUST BECAUSE REASONS...

Sorry. I promise I'm not crazy.

Many people ask why I keep going back when I know I'm going to get depressed, and tell me that it's just a game. Here's some advice, telling a passionate fan of a bad team that it's just a game, after a loss, is not the best way to get them to realize they're a bit too impassioned. It's like telling someone who is in a fight to calm down.

It will only enrage them even more.

For those of you who don't understand what it's like, let me take you through the experience. Let me help you contemplate what we go through so that you can act accordingly the next time your faced with a bad team's passionate fanatic.

1. We Build This Year Up As Our Year

Every year is started out with hope and belief. We look at the rosters, we analyze preseason practices, and we build our hopes up that this will be the team that finally does it. We become invested in the group of players who have come together. To us, these players don't just play for themselves and their dreams of becoming better athletes. They represent us and our dreams.

Sure, there are teams where you immediately know that no matter what, the team won't succeed. We all have that place in the back of our minds where we know our team is not going to do well and they're not as good as we think. Yet, we'll find a way to convince ourselves that they can do it.

It's like playing the lottery. You know the chances of actually winning are slim and none, which will make the victory that much sweeter when you OVERCOME THE ODDS.

2. Season Starts...And So Does the Pain

When the actual games begin, the pain starts.

In the first game of the season, UVa squared off against UCLA in the Rose Bowl. I, like many others, had myself convinced that the Cavaliers could pull off the upset. They drove the ball down the field and scored a field goal on their first possession. Then, they stopped UCLA and got the ball back. The over excitement was overflowing.

It didn't last long.

UCLA proceed to have their way with my Hoos, romping them 34-16. Now, what I just did for you was I made it seem like it was a fast execution. Oh, no, this was not fast at all. This was a slow-moving, long-winded beat down of my hopes and dreams. It was a solemn call back down to reality from my euphoric place of celebration and happiness.

After the build up from the preseason, the long fall back to Earth is a painful one. It feels like your dreams are smashed into pieces as the reality sets in that your team is bad. Very bad. All that confidence you felt has now turned into depression and sadness that you have to sit through more games like this.

3. Heartbreak

There are going to be those games where your team shows up. They compete with a team they may not be as good as, but dang it, they're giving it all they got. Finally, hope for the season.

On Saturday, I got to go see UVa take on the ninth ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. What I expected to be a blowout turned out to be a shootout at Scott Stadium. With 1:54, UVa scored a touchdown to go up 27-26. It was our destiny. It was, at long last, our time to have some luck go our way.

Then, this:


Heartbreak city.

I still can't fully bring myself to get past this moment. From tears of joy to tears of utter frustration and devastation.

Sometimes, being a fan of a bad team hurts worse when they play well. In the end, they give you a glimpse at what you could be. They tease you with how well they play, only to come up on the short end of the stick. As a fan, I'd much rather be blown out than beaten at the last second and have that moment snatched away.

With either one comes the inevitable reaction as we travel down the rocky year.

4. The Anger

As the season continues, your sadness turns into anger.

The anger makes you do stuff you probably will regret later on, but don't regret at the moment. Your team is so bad, the anger just can't be held.



That anger, however, doesn't just turn into violent actions. See, most people have that filter between their brain and their mouth that helps them to not say stupid things. When you root for a bad team, you risk losing that filter and say stuff that makes absolutely no sense.

Fans will call for coaches to be fired, saying things like, "I could do a better job coaching this team." Clearly, you absolutely have no shot at being anywhere near as good of a coach as a fan, but some actually mean it. They're brains are so decimated by their anger, they'll believe anything.

I've actually heard an angry fan scream at a college athlete that he would kill him. A few things need to be pointed out here. One, I'm a passionate fan, but to threaten a college kid because you don't like the way he's playing show's me more about the fan than the student-athlete. Two, let me just give you a loose depiction of what this fan looked like:

I don't want to be mean, but there is no way in hell a guy like this is going to get one shot in on an athlete in his 20s. This wasn't so much beer-muscles as much as it was angry fan just having no brain.

Still, as the season drags, this kind of stupidity due to madness becomes a norm. The only thing to calm this anger down is for the season to end.

4. The Season Ends and We Think We Get a Break

THANK GOD THIS DRECK OF A SEASON IS OVER.

You can finally get away from the continued negativity. Sure, there were probably some good moments during the season, but overall, you didn't have all that much to smile about. Looking back, we try to find things to make us laugh about, but it's more effective to just erase the horrible season from the old memory bank.

The problem is that when a bad season ends, there are still other teams with good season who make the postseason. We watch those teams, see them play well, and do this:

I feel you, Animal.

You never truly get a break. We follow the team so passionately that we constantly think about them. Even when they don't play, we can't help but compare them to good teams and just imagine what it's like. It stings and lingers with you. What should be a time to decompress doesn't truly come until the start of the next season.

Which means:

5. The Vicious Cycle Continues

We're fans. What else can we do?

When UVa started the football season this year, I tweeted: "I don't know why I always come back, I just love you too much UVa. #HOOS #BeatUCLA"

That depicts being a fan of a bad team. Our loyalty stays intact, even if we know what the results will be. We can't help it. Your heart wants what your heart wants.

If you have an encounter with a passionate fan of a bad team, you will undoubtedly deal with one of these stages, probably more. Please understand, it's nothing personal with you. We don't hate you, we don't not like you. You've just engaged us at the wrong time. We know you want to help, but it just isn't the right time yet. Just give us time, we always get over it.

Maybe.

Cover Image Credit: http://www.sbnation.com/2015/9/12/9316771/backup-notre-dame-qb-throws-game-winning-td-pass-breaks-this-poor-uva

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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Figure Skating Is A Mental Game

Being a competitive athlete, there's many downs but there are moments where it's worth while.

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I feel so anxious that it feels like someone is constantly breathing down my neck. My heart is beating at 100 mph. My insides are tightening up and my palms are sweaty. My legs are frozen to a point where they are numb. The smell of hairspray and the taste of red lipstick lingers. The feeling of the ice against my blades is music to my ears. I tied my skates multiple times so it feels perfect. I keep moving to keep warm.

"Am I supposed to feel this way?".

"It's okay to feel this way, it's normal. I would be concerned if you didn't. Nevertheless, I believe in you. You have worked so hard for this".

"I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, right now. If I don't do well, I failed everyone even myself".

"Don't think like that, you have prepared yourself well and you should have faith in yourself also. No matter what happens today, you should be proud of what you have accomplished in over the years you have skated. This is a lesson in life. If something knocks you down seven times, you get up eight times. That's what this sport has taught you. You are stronger than you think. This is your passion so let go of all of reality now and skate for yourself. Show everyone what you can do, this is your moment".

"Thank you, for everything".

She's right, you are stronger than you think. This is a mental game. If you tear yourself down, you're going to go down. Focus, you have to focus. As she said, you love this sport, the adrenaline and the feeling of being powerful. For once, you actually feel beautiful. Never mind that, but you are beautiful. Outside and in, and beautiful to watch. Skating is my escape from reality which is everything that I don't want, what I don't need. The pressure of being perfect, the mental breakdowns, the fear of failure, and the fear of getting hurt. Anything can happen within any moment but it's a risk that's worth taking.

Just forget it, there's no need to keep dwelling on the things that you can't change. This, right now, is all about you. This is your moment. Take it and never let go.

"And our next skater representing the Summit Figure Skating Club of North Carolina, Jessica Tran".

"Alright, do it to it".

I went out with a smile, the crowd cheering me on as I am getting ready to start my program.

"Breathe, take a deep breath. You got this, trust yourself".

As soon as I stood right in front of the judges, I was ready. The music began, filling the rink with a sudden shock. I turned on my character, my determination, and my love for skating.

Once the music stopped, everything stopped. It went by so fast that all I could really remember was the moment I finished. The heavy breathing, the sore arms, and weak legs. With a huge smile, I bowed to the judges and then to the crowd. I did it. I didn't care about the small mistakes that I did. I didn't care that I landed a difficult element. I didn't care that I fell on the easiest thing that I could do. All that mattered was the fact that I kept going. At the end of the day, medal or not, I'm still a winner.

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