A devastating defeat and a worst-to-first story for the ages summed up my 2013 as a sports fan.
When it comes to rooting for our respective teams, more often than not we are left disappointed at the end of a given season. Our teams do not win championships every year. Some of our teams have never won a championship at all. People might say it’s a little insane to care so much about something that is so completely out of our control. There is nothing we can do to influence the outcome of a game, despite what those Bud Light commercials say.
Why do we invest so much energy and emotion into something that we are unable to control? Why do we allow sports to mean so much? Why do they mean so much to me?
We hope for the chance that one day, those teams that we put our heart and soul into as fans will earn the right to play for a championship…and come out on top.
I have been a fan of Notre Dame football since I was a kid. My first memories go back to the 1993 team when I was nine years old. I remember Kevin McDougal, Derrick Mayes, Bobby Taylor, Ray Zellars and Lee Becton. I remember the Irish beating No. 1 Florida State in “The Game of the Century” to take over the number one spot in the country…only to lose to an underdog Boston College team a week later which dashed Notre Dame’s title hopes and put a stop to an undefeated season.
They didn’t win the title, but I was hooked on Notre Dame football from that season on.
I went close to 20 years before reaching that level of excitement again…until the 2012 season. Notre Dame over-achieved and won tight game after tight game on their way to a perfect 12-0 regular season which culminated with a road win over USC. I had never felt so good about Notre Dame. At that point I thought they were a team of destiny. When Alabama earned its rightful place in the BCS National Championship by winning the SEC title, I thought that was how it was supposed to happen. If Notre Dame was to end its championship drought, it had to happen against the powerful Crimson Tide.
Boy was I wrong.
On that night in January in Miami, Notre Dame looked like a shell of the team I watched all season. The Irish were a good team that played great for 12 games. Alabama was a great team that saved its absolute best for last. And there was no stopping them.
I was so convinced that Notre Dame would win that game because it was “destiny” that I never stopped to think if they could win. They were simply outmatched. And the disappointment I felt that night as Alabama continued to score and score while refusing to yield on defense was crushing. I had never felt so let down as a sports fan in my life.
Sometimes it happens….
Our teams play well and win…and win…and win. They suck us in and once we’re in, we think there is no stopping them. And then we get let down. It happens. Do I think the whole season was one giant waste? Hell no. I’ll never forget that season despite the loss in the title game. Watching that team every Saturday was the highlight of the weekend. It was a great experience.
Fast forward to July. The Boston Red Sox, coming off one of their worst seasons in years, are battling for first place in the AL East. They had a very likable team. The most likable since 2004. David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino. Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes. Then, eventually, Koji Uehara. This team was really fun to watch every single game. How do I know? Because John and I bit the bullet and ordered the MLB Extra Innings package in July. It turned out to be a great investment.
John was intertwined with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the middle of their first winning season in two decades and I was more hooked on the Red Sox than I had ever been. So we bought the package for the second half of the season.
Rooting for your favorite baseball team when they are in the middle of a pennant race is one of the most invigorating things that can happen to a sports fan. I was determining my nightly plans based around who the Red Sox were playing, who was pitching and what the standings were.
When Boston finally wrapped up the division and the best record in the AL in September, I thought we would be in for a wild ride in October…and we were. By “we” I mean Cody, the biggest Sox fan I know, and myself. For 16 games in October, the night consisted of drinking Genny Light and watching the Sox fight for a championship. Not a bad way to spend your free time.
We hung on every pitch, every hit, every strike and every out. My favorite moment by far, aside from the final out in the World Series, was Victorino’s go-ahead grand slam in the 7th inning of Game 6 of the ALCS against Detroit. Facing a possible Game 7 against Justin Verlander, Victorino delivered a towering shot into the seats of the Green Monster to give Boston a 5-2 lead before Koji closed it out.
Boston didn’t have an easy route to a World Series title as they overcame three of the best pitching staffs in baseball (Tampa Bay, Detroit and St. Louis) before clinching their first World Series in Fenway Park in 95 years. The clinching game was especially satisfying as Boston built a 6-0 lead through four innings and worked around a couple of jams before Koji slammed the door on the game and the season in the 9th. It was awesome. Euphoria.
Sometimes it happens…
Our teams win…and win…and win. And they keep winning. You can see chemistry developing and how the players interact with, and react to, each other. You can see momentum building until, finally, there are no games left to play and your favorite team is the last one standing and they’ve won a title.
Defeat and victory. That was 2013 for me.
Happy New Year everyone.