As a hardcore sports fan, I bleed my team’s colours. I’ve come to understand the darker side of sports fanaticism very well. Following a sports team passionately can be very rewarding socially, as you get to know other fans, share the experience of watching every game and celebrating every great play with high-fives and cheers. When the home team wins a championship, fan loyalty is finally rewarded as, customarily, fans take to the streets and jubilantly celebrate the successful year their team has had. Most times, parades are planned, banners are raised and a trophy is put on display for all to marvel at.
Of course, as a 22-year-old Winnipeg Blue Bomber fan, I have yet to experience these feelings and events first hand or, at the very least, at an age where I could understand and appreciate the significance of what’s going on. Nevertheless, I have remained a loyal and optimistic fan who keeps faith in the coach and his team, no matter what odds they face. But, as hard as I try, every so often, it all becomes too much to handle. Saturday, Oct. 2 was one of those days.
That day, my Blue Bombers were in Vancouver to take on the BC Lions in a game that was a “must win” to keep their playoff hopes alive. After taking an early lead, the Bombers faded in the second half and ultimately lost. Moments later, my cell phone stopped working. At first glance, these two events don’t seem like they would be related, but they are.
As the game went on, and the Bombers’ lead started to shrink, the frustration within me slowly started to grow. It has been a rough year for the Bombers and their fans, but the same can be said for almost every season in the past 15 years. Like most sports fans who consider themselves hardcore or diehard, I schedule and emotionally invest my daily life around the Bombers. I go to every home game and spend my free time discussing the team on Internet forums. After having to deal with the yearly disappointment of another championship-free season, it starts to weigh down on your spirit. It quietly crushes your soul and makes the days following a loss miserable.
So, as I paced around my basement, in utter disbelief that we had managed to lose again, that our playoff chances were basically kaput, something inside me began to buckle. The anguish of the loss peaked and I truly felt like I was on the brink of insanity. With no way to release this inner-tension, cell phone in hand, I slammed it down hard on the table. Immediately, I realized that the phone had broken and felt embarrassed to have erupted in such a dramatic fashion in front of not only my girlfriend but also my mother.
As my mom tried to get me to sit down and chill out, she told me things like “it’s only a game” and “you’re not a part of the team.” But that’s not how it is. First off, it’s more than just a game. When you’re a passionate fan like I am and your team loses, you know that the rest of your week is ruined because everywhere you look there are constant reminders of the loss. In newspaper articles, on the Internet and especially through interactions with friends and any person who has the gall to ask you, “Boy, did you see that game last night? What a doozie!”
When you’re known to be a passionate fan, you’re almost seen as a team representative, so every conversation starts to feel like a press conference:
“Well, we just couldn’t contain the quarterback all night and he burnt us bad. The play calling could have been way better in the fourth quarter, but it really comes down to execution. We just couldn’t get it done.”
What’s worse is when hardcore fans stand-off against one another, both claiming to know the special formula for success that will turn the team around in a jiffy. “We need to fire _!” “_ should be cut!” Everybody is an armchair GM after a bad game and everyone thinks that they’re infallible.
As the seasons add up and our last championship win is only something I know through watching clips on YouTube.com, it sometimes feels like the only thing that keeps me coming back for more is the knowledge that other fans have been through much worse. Twenty years without a championship is horrible, but 14 teams in the NFL have never won the Super Bowl. The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup in over 40 years and, even worse, the Chicago Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1907!
And when that doesn’t help things, I just try to stay focused on the positive, on the future. Some of the most incredible moments in recent sports history have involved teams who finally taste victory after decades of coming up short. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox broke the 86-year “Bambino Curse” by winning the World Series in dramatic fashion. Just last year, the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley cup since 1960-61 season, way back in the pre-expansion NHL era.
I know in my heart that the Blue Bombers are going to reach the promised land again, on a brisk night in November. And when that day finally comes, you will find me down at Portage and Main celebrating with my Blue and Gold brethren.