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.
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.
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.
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.
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.