Wouldn’t it be nice if Arizona sports fans lived in a world where their beloved teams were powerhouses winning championships in every sport on a semi-regular basis? Some facsimile of the 2000s in Boston where downtown celebration parades were almost more commonplace than Pac-12 officials blowing calls or Vin Disel making a bad movie?
Phoenix seems to embrace the idea of being the tortured souls of the sports universe (sorry Cleveland, but we are right there with you). We wear the “same ole Cardinals”, John Paxson, Denny Green meltdowns, UofA’s Rose Bowl futility, the 1969 coin toss, Ryan Braun, David Boston in the 1997 Rose Bowl and a myriad of other issues as badges of honor.
As sports fans do we more define ourselves by the misery than the major championship the Diamondbacks delivered in 2001? Would we rather sit and lament about Ryan Braun being more juiced up than Sylvester Stalone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the trailer for The Escape in 2011 or cry over Mario Ellie’s “kiss of death” than remember Luis Gonzalez’s 9th inning bloop shot over Derek “bleepin” Jeter or Gar Heard’s “shot heard round the world”? It sure seems that way when you look at Twitter, read Facebook or talk with anyone at a sports bar.
Even when Wisconsin fans, who had the right to complain over the last second mishaps of their loss to ASU, expressed their displeasure, Arizona fans responded with a resounding “shut it!” As if they were saying, “you don’t know pain until you’ve walked a mile in our tear stained Nikes.”
Our identity is tied to falling short on the biggest of stages. When Larry Fitzgerald caught the touchdown pass with a little over two minutes to go in the SuperBowl Cardinals fans weren’t thinking, “clear off a space at the Cardinals’ facility the Lombardi trophy” they were left with a pit in their stomach wondering “who’s going to be the next player to join the long list of guys to kill local sports teams?” When the Yankees won Games 3, 4 and 5 in New York or Alfonso Soriano put the Yankees up late in Game 7 of the World Series fans inevitably said “here we go again.”
In his book I Wear the Black Hat author Chuck Klosterman says that a villain in any situation tends to be the person who “who’s the most but does the least.” Does our desire to revel in our own misery make us the bad guys in Arizona sports? Probably. As fans, we hold the power to force change. If we keep coming back for more despite knowing the result will likely be negative, we condition ourselves to accept the outcome. But, that’s OK, it seems to be the way we like it.
As fans our identity is tied to being able to play the “woe is me” card more than the “look at me” one. That may be the best way to deal with it and enjoy sports. When it comes down to it, in every sport, professional or college, there is one champion. One team left standing above everyone else. The sheer probability of winning it all is more minuscule than <i>The Family</i> winning an Oscar for Best Picture or even an award from the Italian American Film Society. If you’re likely going to be witness to more of the agony of defeat than the thrill of victory, why not find a way to enjoy it. Even if that means playing the villain by knowing the most, caring the least and enjoying the misery along the way.