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When Your Team Sucks


Paul Hord


Come on, admit it, you can relate to the title can't you!  Most people have a team that they are emotionally involved with, a team that you have followed your
whole life.  Maybe you're on the good end and have teams that win often over time.  In recent years, teams like the New England Patriots, San Antonio Spurs, and New York Yankees always seem to be on the winning side of things, always in the playoffs and always in contention.  Or in college football, teams like the University of Alabama, LSU, and the University of Ohio; they are always in the hunt for the national championship each year.  And then with college basketball, there are the evil Blue Devils of Duke and the damn Kentucky Wildcats.  I speak harshly of all of these teams because I'm just miffed that the teams I follow just don't do quite as well.


Speaking of the teams I follow, I'm trying to remember when it was that I became emotionally attached.  For football, it was the Dallas Cowboys at a very early age.  When I was in elementary school, Sunday afternoons were devoted to sitting
around the TV in the living room, watching Roger Staubach scurry from a pass rush to make the winning touchdown pass to Drew Pearson.  It wasn't just the players either, but it was also about watching Coach Landry wearing his fedora, standing in stoic fashion on the sidelines.  At the time, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Terry Bradshaw were the hated rival and they always seemed to kind of have the upper hand over the Cowboys.  Dallas was referred to as “God's Team” by the media, the good guys, and I believed every bit of it.  I will never forget where I was during the NFC Championship game versus San Francisco in the early 80's when Joe Montana threw “The Catch” to Dwight Clark in the final minute of the game to win and go on to the Super Bowl.  I cried.  A ten year old boy reduced to tears.  All of the Cowboy haters at school gave me grief the next day on the playground.  I believe this was the moment that I became emotionally attached to the Dallas Cowboys.  I've tried to quit them many times throughout the years but for some reason I just can't.  The first time I tried to quit them was when they fired Coach Landry.  At the time, I considered this act a felony.  Jerry Jones be cast to Hell!  And then they hired this college coach named Jimmy Johnson and in their first season, they won one game.  And as mad as I was because Jerry fired Landry, there I was that season in 1989 watching every minute of every game that they lost.  Things turned out okay for them in the early 90's as they won Super Bowls with the likes of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmett Smith.  Turned out that this Jimmy Johnson guy knew a thing or two about coaching football!

For baseball, I somehow became enamored with the Texas Rangers in the late 80's.  The Rangers gained national attention when they signed Nolan Ryan in 1988, one of the top MLB pitchers of all time and a future Hall of Famer.  This
guy was still throwing 96 mph at the age of 40 and he just came off as being a real and humble person.  Fans loved him because of his personality and performance.  The Rangers were a horrible team and could hardly fill half their ball park for most games, except for the games when Ryan pitched.  When Ryan pitched, home games sold out quickly.  He could easily dominate a game.  It's entertaining watching a forty-something year old guy strike out 15 batters in a game.  This was at a time where Nolan was breaking records after pitching in the big leagues for 20 years.  He got his 5000th strikeout and 300th win with the Rangers.  And then there were the no hitters.  He earned his 6th and 7th no hitters with the Rangers, an amazing feat for his age.  When he pitched, I always tuned in because I thought I might get to see him throw another no hitter.  Nolan was just a true hero in my mind and I always wanted to see him do well and succeed.  Nolan is also the reason I started watching the Rangers play on days that he didn't pitch, not a healthy routine.  I started following them on a regular basis and even when I knew they were going to lose, I just couldn't seem to turn the dial.  The Rangers have been an historically bad team, even during the years when Nolan pitched for them.  When Nolan retired in 1994, I was kind of able to halfway quit them for a while.  When they had some modest success in the ensuing years, I would kind of take a peek to see who the players were and how they were performing.  But then Nolan returned as President of the team in 2007 and that brought me back as a fan.  Then they went to consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011 and I was completely hooked, again reduced to tears when they lost both series.  I keep hoping that they will somehow manage to get back to the playoffs but the prospects are currently grim.  I keep tuning into games, somehow hoping they will go on 7 or 8 game winning streaks to get out of last place in the standings when I know that it is not going to happen.  And the team even fired Nolan as team president because he apparently ran the team in an “old school” fashion.  Those two World Series teams sucked me in and now I just can't quit em.

Digressing a little here, there are two great memories I have of Nolan Ryan that made me even more of a fan of him as a player as well as to the Rangers.  One was a game where the Rangers were playing the Chicago White Sox and Ryan was on the mound.  Nolan was known to control issues from time to time and occasionally a pitch would get away from him and hit the batter, go behind the batter, or fly over the catcher's head.  Robin Ventura, a notable player for the
White Sox, was up to bat.  During the at bat, a pitch got away from Nolan and hit Ventura.  Ventura decided to charge the mound.  Before Ventura could even make it to the mound, Ryan throws his glove off, puts the much younger Ventura in a headlock, and just starts punching away at his head.  Ventura had no clue what hit him.  Here's a guy half the age of Ryan and he decides to charge a future hall of famer?  Where's the respect for your elders son?  Another memory was of a game where Nolan was pitching to the great Bo Jackson.  Jackson hit a chopper right at Nolan and the ball bounced off the ground and hit his bottom lip.  Nolan picked up the ball and threw Jackson out at first.  He went right back to the mound, blood dripping off of his bottom lip and all over his white uniform.  He waved off the trainers and went right back to pitching to the next batter and finished the inning.  It’s plays like this that make him a legend in the sport of professional baseball.  It's also unfortunate because it was him who made me a fan of the Rangers and now, long after he retired, I still can't stop watching the Rangers lose games. 

When it comes to basketball, I was a fan of the Dallas Mavericks long before it was even remotely popular to do so.  This was in the mid 80's and they were a relatively new team to the NBA.  Friends of mine had their favorite teams, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, etc.  They wondered why I would cheer for the Mavericks.  They were the closest professional team to where I lived I suppose.  It just made sense.  I watched a lot of their games on TV.  They were somewhat successful in the late 80's.  They had a now hall of fame coach
named Dick Motta.  They had all star players like Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman.  I enjoyed watching them play.  And then in the early 90's, all things with the franchise went to hell.  I believe ownership changed, coaches changed, and they lost a few of their better players.  The early 90's were dark times.  One year I believe they broke the record for the most losses in a season, with a record of 9-73.  Wow.  That is losing.  But there I was, watching every game they played, just hoping that my support could somehow will them to a win.  Things for the Mavericks really improved when they got a new owner, Mark Cuban, who decided to spend lots of money on good players.  He's a little crazy but he knows how to run a business.  He's not tight with cash and that makes all of the difference.  And then they drafted an unknown 18 year old player from Germany in the late 90's named Dirk Nowitzki who became the star of the franchise.  They've been decent for quite some time since he joined the team so I really can't complain too much about this team sucking so much.  They won a championship in 2011.  But Dirk is like 140 years old now and his age has caught up with him.  I'm certain my basketball team is about to enter a period of dark years where they rebuild.  But there I will be once again, right there with my team, watching them lose.


I guess I have an undying loyalty for my teams, win or lose.  Some people believe this to be an admirable trait.  I find it to be a major constraint, a major pain in the ass, something that I cannot rid myself of.  I've tried quitting on my teams.  I tried really, really hard to quit the Rangers and become a Houston Astros fan.  It just didn't fit or feel right.  When the Cowboys make me mad, I try to move over and cheer for the Houston Texans, but it never lasts for long.  Same with the Dallas Mavericks, when I am miffed at them, I try to switch over to the San Antonio Spurs or the Houston Rockets.  Again, it lasts for a short period of time and then in my imagination, I apologize to my loyal teams for leaving them.  It's like a dysfunctional relationship.


Unfortunately, I'm afraid that I might have passed this issue on to my kids.  My 11 year old daughter is an unwavering fan of the Rangers and rarely misses a game.  She doesn't care for playing baseball or softball, but she does enjoy watching it.  And this has been just within the last couple of years when they have
been really bad.  She knows all of the players' names, their statistics, where they are from, etc.  During the 2014 season, they had a ton of injuries and had replacement players on their roster that no one had ever heard of.  We were even able to make it to a couple of games in Arlington.  I must say, I have a really great time watching games with my daughter.  However, it would be more fun if they would win a few games!  My son is naturally a fan of the Cowboys, the proud owner of a Tony Romo jersey.  2014 was a good year for the Cowboys as they actually made it to the playoffs.  There was a time in 2013 where my son and I were watching the Cowboys play the Green Bay Packers.  The first half was fun to watch as the Cowboys went up on the Packers 28-0 at halftime.  And then Green Bay roared back in the 2nd half to eventually win 31-28.  The result reduced my 8 year old son to tears.  As we watched this disaster unfold, my son asked me, “Why do we have to cheer for the Cowboys?  They always lose!”  Good question son.  I have passed this genetic disorder on to my own children!


You know, I really shouldn't complain too much.  My teams are okay and when I
look at other sports teams out there, it could be worse.  I could be a fan of the Chicago Cubs!  Wow, that is a team that just can't catch a break over the course of the past 100 years.  Or with football, I could be a fan of the Detroit Lions.  There's plenty of pent-up losing rage there.  If the Lions ever win a championship,  there will be plenty of rioting in Detroit.  Or with basketball it has to be the Los Angeles Clippers.  They have always had to play step brother to the mighty Lakers, plus they have never won very many games.  So my situation is not all bad.  It is just a situation I have learned that I cannot change, even when my team sucks!