Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On Fandom

I turned 27 this past May. During my 27 years, I have rooted for 4 teams, one in each of the 4 major American sports leagues: the Mets in the MLB, the Jets in the NFL, the Knicks in the NBA, and the Islanders in the NHL. If you know a bit about sports, you may realize that none of those sports teams have won a championship in my lifetime.

The Jets won their one and only Super Bowl in 1969, 19 years before I was born. They have never even made another Super Bowl. In my lifetime, they have gone back and forth between being highly competitive (they played in the AFC Championship Game in 1998, 2006, and 2007) and a ridiculous joke (Bill Belichick resigning as head coach after 1 day to take the Patriots job, the "butt fumble," any of several Rex Ryan stories). But they have not won a championship in my lifetime.

The Knicks won the NBA title in in 1970 and again in 1973, 15 years before I was born. They have made two NBA finals in my lifetime; a dramatic 1994 finals against the Rockets in the first of the two mid-Jordan years, which was famously overshadowed by the O.J. Simpson car chase, and a quick loss to the first Duncan Spurs title team in the strike shortened 1999 season. They have been largely a punchline since then, highlighted by the sexual misconduct filled Isiah Thomas years. And they have never won a championship in my lifetime.

The Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups in 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983, the last of which was 5 years before I was born. The have made the playoffs eight times in the 27 years I have been alive, but have only won two postseason series, both in 1993. They have also been a joke, with their low attendance in their decrepit, if beloved, Coliseum,  and an offseason which had them hire a new GM, fire the GM just over a month later, and hire their backup goalie at the time as their new GM. And they have never won a championship in my lifetime.

The Mets won their first World Series in 1969 and their second in 1986, 2 years before I was born. The Mets spent most of the early 1990s as a bad team before peaking in the late 90s and losing in the World Series to the crosstown Yankees in 2000. They were the best team in baseball in 2006 but lost the NLCS in game 7 with the bases loaded. They followed that with historic collapses in 2007 and 2008 and the discovery that Bernie Madoff had destroyed the owners' finances. And they have never won a championship in my lifetime.

Tonight the Mets play in the first game of the World Series, against the Kansas City Royals. The Mets had not been in the postseason since 2006, and the World Series since 2000. 

I do not know if, a week from now, the Mets will have won the World Series. I have guesses and predictions, but I also know that in 27 years of fandom, none of my teams have ever won. I desperately want the Mets to win, but I also wonder how it will feel. For so long, I've defined a part of myself as this guy whose teams never win. I'm not saying it's a major part of my character or personality, but I also think it would be one of my first week's facts if I were a contestant on Jeopardy.

It is hard to understand why we put so much into a sports team, into a piece of laundry. There is no real reason for it. I root for these four teams because my parents root for these four teams. New York is not Cleveland; it is not a cursed sports city. Change my family a little bit and I could have, in my lifetime, 5 Yankees World Series wins, 3 Giants Super Bowl titles, 1 Rangers Stanley Cup, and a Nets...well the Nets wouldn't be an improvement. That's not even if I had lived somewhere else. It's just the luck of rooting for different teams from the same place.

Maybe the Mets win the World Series and I change my whole view of fandom. Maybe they lose, and I go another 27 years with no teams coming close. The unknown is why I keep watching. The expectation of losing is what makes it my fandom.