They told us it was going to be different after it happened.
Champagne would dry. The Banners would be raised and get battered by the weather. And the T-shirt you ran out to buy would fade and get turned into a rag you used to wash your car.
“They” are people not from losing cities but rather ones who believe winning is a birthright.
The New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and Dallas-ites – people who expect their teams to raise the championship trophies cause they’ve seen tons of them. Confident fans that are used to parades and championship t-shirt buying trips to the mall.
Boston – we can now be grouped in the “they” category.
And it sucks sometimes, to realize that the hope of joining those winning cities, was in some ways better than actually becoming part of the club.
One of my friends is a Vikings fan and on Twitter he wrote about his nerves before today’s NFC Championship game between his Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. Minnesota has never won the Super Bowl. The city of Minneapolis hasn’t seen winning since the Kirby Puckett days with the Twins.
He’s pacing. He’s hoping. He’s dreaming what it would be like to see a title for the Vikes.
The city is hungry. Starving really, for a championship and today’s game might be the first time in a long time that every Vikings fan can taste the champagne of victory.
Back in 2004 when the Red Sox changed everything for me in the world of sports, I remember people saying “what would happen IF the Red Sox won it? Would Boston burn down? Would Red Sox baseball be better or worse?”
I didn’t care – I wanted to win damn it! I would tear up at the idea of seeing my beloved team do something that nobody had seen for nearly 90 years!
Let me tell you, winning is FAR better than losing but it can still feel awkward if you don’t grow up with it. It’s kind of like wearing a tuxedo for the first time in a long while – you know you are suppose to feel good in it and like the way you look but it takes some time getting used to.
The last out of that World Series against the Cardinals was a weird moment for me.
It seemed all too fake for me. Maybe it was cause I was in Alabama, maybe it was cause of the girl I was with - embraced me in a very uncomfortable, drunken hug or maybe it was cause I just couldn’t believe it was happening but I didn’t feel they way that I thought I should.
In a way, there was a touch of sadness in my heart as I screamed with joy.
A wise person once told me of my career, “Enjoy the ride, because going up is the most fun part. Once you get to the where you are headed, you’ll look back and realize the climbing up was more fun than the summit”.
And that’s how I feel about my fandom now.
It was the heartbreak that made it fun in a sick way. Bill Buckner’s ground ball gave me a memory, a moment captured for the rest of my life. Boone’s homer will forever be with me as a haunting image of my hatred of the Yankees. The Patriots SUCKED growing up. I still remember the Fridge crushing Tony Eason and Steve Grogan in the Super Bowl – our one cool season. The Celtics were great and I loved them but I never got attached to them.
The Red Sox had my heart.
I was there in 2007 on the field in Denver after the Red Sox won it again. It was euphoric to see my baseball idols up close and watch them celebrate. To shake Mike Lowell’s hand, to walk around with Curt Schilling and his wife, to see Theo Epstein raise the trophy – it will be one of my favorite memories ever.
Yet, even with that happening all around me, I thought about how long it would all last? The run can’t go on like this can it?
The Patriots started it in 2001 with the Super Bowl win in amazing fashion. I was in Tunica, Miss for the “Tuck Rule” moment. I was in Huntsville, Alabama for Adam’s kick. Then the Pats won 2 more. Then the Red Sox won 2 and then the Celtics won their 17th title.
Boston became title town USA and all of a sudden….it became routine.
Thus, this year when the Patriots got rocked by Baltimore in the first round of the playoffs after I watched, in person, Jonathan Papelbon blow Game 3 against the Angels to end the Red Sox season and the Celtics did nothing in the post season – I barely lost an wink of sleep over it.
I was numb. We had won so much that I wasn’t upset. I could look at my teams with realist eyes and say “we weren’t that good”. I was no longer lost in my fandom vision.
It was all too clear to me.
So, I’m pulling for the Vikings today. I’m pulling for my friend to get a chance to win a championship. I’m envious of those naïve emotions towards winning – that it makes all your fandom dreams come true.
It will in a way but the moment is fleeting. It doesn’t stay. There is next year for all those other teams who are trying to take what your team just accomplished away.
You climb the mountain and then you have to do it all over again.
And that advice rings true once again – going up is the best part.
Good Luck Minnesota!
PS: Cub fan: If the Cubs ever win the World Series - keep this blog post handy...you'll understand then :)