When it comes to being a sports fan, I have ridden the roller coaster of emotions. I have been privileged to experience the ultimate highs and humbled to have experienced the extreme lows. Recently, I’ve been forced to take inventory of my sports emotions, so to speak.
As most of you already know, I was born and raised in Baltimore in the early 80s. My first sports love was the Baltimore Orioles. When I was a little over 1-year-old, my O’s won the World Series. That was the last time my beloved franchise was blessed with a title. Of course, I don’t remember the sweet taste of victory, but I did experience it. My mom-mom packed up my little self, hopped on a bus and took me downtown for the victory parade. I have a photo of me in my little stroller, waving my World Series pennant with the parade passing in the background. What I wouldn’t give to recreate that moment. Let’s just hope I don’t have to wait until that stroller turns into a wheelchair!
Let’s not forget that until I was a sophomore in college, I had never seen a baseball game that didn’t have Cal Ripken, Jr. playing in it. I wouldn’t say that the Orioles spoiled me, though. We were good during my formative sports fan years, but all good things must come to an end. Personally, I don’t think we’ll ever win until someone finally exacts revenge on that Jeffrey Maier kid. Hate him. While I have come to expect disappointment from the Orioles, I’m having a harder time coming to terms with my other teams.
After being exposed to many baseball games, my dad finally opened up my eyes to other sports. The Colts left for Indy when I was still a toddler, so I never went to a pro football game in my young years. For my family, the only other show in town aside from the Orioles was Maryland football and basketball. College sports became a passion in my life when I was about 12. I knew from the first time I walked onto the campus at the University of Maryland that I wanted to go to school there.
It was not until I was a freshman at Maryland, that I experienced the ultimate fan roller coaster of emotion. By that time, the Ravens had come to town, so I had finally had a real football team in my city to call my own. Maryland basketball was good. My roller coaster ride didn’t pick up until one night in January of 2001. January 27, 2001, to be precise. That night Maryland was taking on its archenemy – the Duke Blue Devils – at Cole Field House. This would be my first real taste of the Maryland/Duke rivalry. I was so excited to finally get to see all the hype in person.
With about two minutes left in the game, my favorite player, Steve Blake, had fouled out on a questionable call. He was shutting down Duke’s Jason (a.k.a. Jay) Williams. With less than a minute left, the Terps had a 10-point lead. That is huge in basketball. My friends and I had left our seats and were gathered on the steps a few feet from the court. We were all so excited to rush the court. The chants of “Over-rated” echoed throughout the old building. But this bitchy girl that I had hated since my summer orientation was in front of me. She made some ditzy, non-fan comment of, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we lost?!” Who the hell says that? And wouldn’t you know our 10-point lead was getting smaller and smaller. Soon the buzzer sounded and the game was tied. Overtime. We headed back to our seats and tried to keep hope, but we all knew the truth. It was over. Duke would win. We lost our momentum. It was one of the most crushing moments I have ever experienced as a sports fan. It was even more crushing since I witnessed it in person. It has become one of those events where I can recall even the smallest of details. One of those stories I’ll tell my grandkids a bazillion times. It was devastating.
But because I was a fan of many sports, I had a silver lining hiding in my dark cloud. The next day my favorite football team, the Baltimore Ravens, was playing in the biggest game in the world – Super Bowl XXXV. I didn’t have time to dwell on the loss to Duke. I had to focus on football, as Ray Lewis would say. And that I did. One day I was at the extreme bottom and the next the very top. Of course my Ravens went on to win their first ever Super Bowl in only their 5th year in the league. It was the craziest weekend of my life as a sports fan.
Of course Maryland would make it up to me. We went to the Final Four that year for the first time in school history and lost to – who else – Duke. Maryland football got really good during my sophomore year, and we didn’t lose a single home game. We made our first bowl game in 10 years, and I made the trip to Miami for the Orange Bowl. Maryland basketball got even better that year, too. Again, they never lost at home, so I never saw a loss that year in College Park. Maryland made it back to the Final Four, and, again, I was lucky enough to make the trek to Atlanta. This time we wouldn’t lose, and I witnessed my favorite team win it all. It was, to this day, the greatest sports moment of my life.
So where am I going with all this? (I know it’s taken me forever, right?) Recently, Maryland has been letting me down, big time. Basketball is back to being mediocre. And football is a whole other story. I’ve been a season ticket holder since the day I graduated. I’ve only missed two games since my freshman year of college. Hell, I even left my friend’s wedding early just to go to a game. I’m devoted. My devotion is starting to wane, though. This year’s team will be lucky if they win another game. I have never experienced a Maryland team like this before. Not even during my freshman year when we were pretty bad. We recently won in OT against James Madison, and then just last weekend lost at home to Middle Tennessee State! These are the same teams that back in the “bad seasons” we still beat. I’m so afraid to see this team play FBS schools. We already had our ass handed to us by Cal, I don’t think I can witness much more. I’ve been pushed to the brink as a fan.
Next weekend I will willingly give up my ticket to see Maryland take on Clemson. Instead I am opting to go to opening night for the Washington Capitals. There isn’t even a time conflict between the events. I’m just not going. I’m giving my ticket to my mom and letting her go to a game with my dad. I never thought it would come to that. I don’t think I’m being a fair-weather fan. I just can’t watch my alma mater suffer. It is painful. I’ve finally reached my breaking point. I’ll still go to the other games, but I never thought I would willingly miss a football game. I plan my life around home games. I’ve come to the point where I just can’t watch. I cover my eyes when I’m sitting in the stadium. After reading some blogs, I feel I might not be alone in my assessment of the team or in my choice not to attend some games.
So what do you think? Am I being a bad fan? Am I giving up when my team needs me the most? Obviously, I’m not unfamiliar with losing seeing as I still attend Orioles games. I think I’ve reached a crossroads in my fandom, and I don’t know what path I’m going to take. I’ll always love my school and it’s teams, but is it worth paying all this money for season tickets in this economy just to see a bad product? Any advice?
Edit: I just read this story this morning, and I wish I had the balls to do the same!