The Art of Losing

I’m not a baseball fan- never have been, yet I find myself drawn to this 2016 World Series. I mean, I’m not drawn in enough to actually watch, but enough to pay attention to what’s going on. This is a World Series of losers, loaded with historical significance and a desperate notion that for one of these teams, it’s finally their time. As the fan of a fellow possibly cursed sports team, I can’t help but wonder what it feels like to have a real chance to become champions.

You’ve got Cleveland (of “Mistake-by-the-Lake” fame,) who up until this year could boast about… mmmm… well, they cleaned up the lake. Good for them. They allowed Lebron back into their hearts and the gamble paid off. I don’t pretend to follow basketball, but I was happy for them. Why? We’re sisters in steel, great towns of the early 1900’s and all. Cities like ours have to stick together. Unless the Bills are playing the Browns, I’m fine with Cleveland winning things. And as it’s been more than 50 years since the Indians won something, I’d celebrate them winning it all this year.

BUT, then there’s Chicago, by no means a loser town, and perhaps not the place that comes to mind when one reflects on curses of the sporting world. Somewhere in my brain, I’ve registered that “the Cubs are bad,” but aren’t the White Sox, too? Maybe? Am I close? I might have heard it on sports radio, once. Not visiting the World Series since 1908 PLUS a curse caused by a goat? Well, they just about won my sympathy there.

So, who’s a girl to root for? I’m just happy to see two Great Lakes teams hogging the national spotlight. I may be a New Yorker, but I’m smart enough to know no one wants to see another Yankees World Series.

What it really got me thinking about is, who has the most to lose by winning? That may sound backwards to someone from LA, Dallas or NYC, but to someone born and raised with a never-winning, once gloried professional team like the Buffalo Bills, there’s a comfort in losing. There’s a charm in being the forever underdog. It’s why I can’t help but root for the team that hasn’t been in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs 18 times. (I made up the number, but yes, I’m talking to you, Detroit.) Once the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians win the 2016 World Series, what does that mean for the legions of fans who have devoted their lives to waiting for the big one? Are the Boston Red Sox a better team- more special or interesting because of that one time they “broke the curse” and won the World Series in 2004? Does anyone even remember that? Does anyone even care? Were they good the year after? Are they good now?

I didn’t expect the Bills to win today against the Patriots, even though the game was at home. It really had nothing to do with Tom Brady’s return, because I knew the Bills would get in their own way somehow, like they always do. They did. I didn’t even watch the game, so I can’t point to a specific moment when it all went wrong, but it was there. I’m willing to bet they gave up midway through the game, barely showing up for the second half. Am I close?

As another year passes and the chances of the Bills making the playoffs fades, I am comfortable. I know this song and dance. I know what to expect, and I’m good at it now. Fans have already turned on our quarterback (who, I am still backing, by the way. That’s another post.) A major member of the coaching staff has already been let go, nice and early in week 2.5. People are calling for the heads of the Ryan brothers. “REBUILD,” they say. Burn it to the ground, and start from scratch! It’s what we do here. And come September, we will all be shiny and new with hope, thinking maybe THIS is the year we will play in just one sweet playoff game, enough to erase our own curse. The Super Bowl is a big idea. One step at a time.

If we did make it to the playoffs, and holy shit- if we returned to the Super Bowl, who would we become? What about the baby boomers like my dad who’ve already committed to the idea of, “probably not in my lifetime, but maybe in my child’s?” If we won one time, then who are we? A team that was mostly horrible for 25 years, and then pulled it out one time? That’s not legendary, that’s boring. Brcause I am a realist raised in Buffalo, New York, I also would assume we’d go back to being horrible in the following year after this hypothetical championship. This is how we’re programmed and truthfully, I’m not sure I know how to be a fan of an elite, winning sports team.

There’s something to be said for being the team that never gets there. It’s a sick (but always surefire) rush of hope and excitement at the beginning of each season. No extra point, touchdown, or “W” is ever taken for granted because there is never an assumption that we’ll go all the way. In my opinion, that’s an awfully boring way to root for your favorite team. Let’s give ’em something to talk about.

 

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