You go through a range of emotions as a sports fan.
Jubilation. Agony. Frustration. Anxiety. Rage.
I’ve experienced them all over the years. And when your favorite teams include the Reds, Bengals, Hornets, Hurricanes and Boston College? Usually, the negative emotions win out.
Probably the worst swing in emotions I had was during the Bengals-Steelers AFC Wild Card Game last year. It finally looked like a 25-year playoff win drought was over. AJ Green scored the go-ahead touchdown from AJ McCarron. Cincy led by 1. Then Vontaze Burfict picks off Landry Jones. Game over. “Who Dey” chants are raining down from Paul Brown Stadium. I’m literally screaming at the top of my lungs — exorcising the demons that have haunted the franchise for two and a half decades.
Then Jeremy Hill fumbles. Then Ben Roethlisberger comes back in the game. Then Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones are Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones. Steelers kick the game-winning field goal. In the span of about 10 minutes, I go from sheer joy to wanting to puke my guts up.
That’s par for the course for me. Ironically, it’s been hockey that has brought the best fortune — the sport I didn’t follow at all until high school and really didn’t understand until college. The Hurricanes are the only pro team I follow that’s won a league title in my lifetime that I was really aware of. The 1990 Reds don’t count — I was barely 5 years old.
The Hurricanes are the only pro team I follow that’s won a league title in my lifetime that I was really aware of. The 1990 Reds don’t count — I was barely 5 years old.
BC is the Duke of college hockey. Five national titles in school history, four of them coming since 2001. In fact, we won 3 out of 5 championships from 2008 to 2012. We could have had three more during that 12-year run.
I went to my first Hurricanes game at the Greensboro Coliseum. They had the black curtains up and everything, but I was hooked. My friend’s dad bought us all jerseys. If the rest of the state didn’t give a shit about the Canes at that point, I did.
But my Cane fandom hit a high during the 2002 playoffs. Fitz and I somehow scored tickets to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto. We drove up to the ESA in my navy blue VW Passat, blasting “Rock You Like a Hurricane” the whole way. We tailgated with the crazy Leafs fans who drove down from Canada. We ended up getting smoked that game 5-1, but rebounded to win Game 6 on the road. We didn’t win the Stanley Cup, but it was a hell of a run.
2006 finished the deal. I don’t need to tell any Hurricanes fan what that felt like.
It feels crazy to say this now, but out of all the teams I followed, the Hurricanes were the most reliable. Hell, they made the playoffs fairly regularly. You knew they wouldn’t miss out more than two years in a row. And when they were in, they usually made a run. They played in three Eastern Conference Finals between 2002 and 2009, winning two of them. And they won the Stanley Cup!
That stormy feeling is pretty much gone, gone, gone now. The only thing the Canes are reliable for are missing the playoffs. Instead of watching games with anticipation, I wait for the bottom to fall out. The team in which I usually had the most optimism and most return on investment has become like all of the rest. There was something pretty special here, but now it’s like all the other terrible franchises I support. And that pisses me off.
I’ve experienced all of the aforementioned emotions watching this team this year. I was hopeful after the end of last season. Then ticked off for getting suckered in when the beginning of the season when things didn’t go so well. Then I got excited when they started to show flashes. I bent over backwards looking at strength of schedule and other stupid data to make the case that they would, in fact, make it to the playoffs.
Then the bottom falls out — again. And I get filled with frustration. How can you miss the playoffs for eight straight years in a league where more than HALF of the teams get in??
Now when I watch a Canes game, I wait to get angry. If it’s getting beat by a crappy Avs team in overtime or getting killed by Washington, it feels the same. How are they going to screw this one up?
Maybe I’m a terrible fan. I don’t go to every game like some bloggers. I’m not a “diehard” by any stretch of the imagination. But I do care. And there’s one emotion that should scare every Canes fan more than any other.
Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck, Carolina Hurricanes