My family bought our first VCR in March of 1987. It was a Saturday afternoon. We quickly hooked it up, popped in a VHS tape (set to EP!) and recorded our first program: Indiana versus UNLV in the National Semi-finals. Two days later we recorded our second program: Indiana's fifth national championship. I was 10 years old.
Through the years, the only tape I owned that got nearly that much play in our house was our McDonald's copy of Hoosiers. I lived in a world where Indiana won the championship at least 15 or 20 times a year and Jimmy buried the final shot over and over again.
In 1990, the Reds went on a miracle run and won the World Series. I was just 13 at the time, and I foolishly thought I'd see many more championships, but that was not to be.
My first clue that sports would not always pay off was the 1992 Final Four where Duke beat Indiana (why did Jamal Meeks take the last shot?).
I thought, This is it! It's smooth sailing from here!
But then came February and March of 2010. First the Colts lost the Super Bowl in fingernails-on-the-chalkboard fashion. Then Butler's near miracle run came to an end, and it seemed like the pain was back to stay.
I had no idea the Reds would make the playoffs...and get no hit.
I had no idea the Colts would blow a playoff game after taking the lead with less than a minute to play.
I had no idea Butler would get back to the Championship game only to shoot the ball as badly as any team ever has (Why did ____ take any of the shots he/they took?).
The losses are starting to mount and beat me down. If anything, they are getting worse with time not better. It used to be that if a team lost a championship game, the fans remembered, but for the most part everyone just forgot. Now with 24 hour news cycles, we all feel the need to flog the losers endlessly, belittling everything they did just to get in position to win it all.
The 2009 Jets were more celebrated than the 2009 Colts. VCU is a great story, but Butler is a cautionary tale.
It's getting to the point where losing in the early rounds is viewed as more meritorious than losing the final game.
Seasons are so long, and the championship task so sisyphean some times I wonder why we as fans let ourselves get emotionally crushed under the boulder every year. I mean, do I really even want to celebrate the Pacers making the playoffs again after so long. That's not going to end well, is it?
Sometimes, losing hurts so much that I wonder if any of it is worth it.
But then, then I remember...
There's lots of joy to be had in the journey. Not all dreams come true, but that doesn't mean life is any less beautiful. The effort we expend in pursuit of miracles is a testament to hope, faith, and the idea that greatness is worth striving for, even if the final goal can't quite be satisfied. Giving it all in the face of impossible odds is heroic and praise worthy, even if the rock just goes rolling down the damn hill at the end of it. One of these days, one of these teams I love will break through, and the joy will be that much sweeter. In the meantime, I choose to remember the 2011 Bulldogs for the greatness to which they aspired and quite nearly achieved.
I needed that.