On the occasion of Cal's pipe-wrenching at the hands of USC, guaranteeing another disappointing season, it occurred to me that sports fans in the Bay Area have put a lot of dedication and dollars into extraordinarily minimal results.
It's now been almost 15 years since the Bay's last championship in any sport, when the Niners dusted the Chargers in January of 1995. Fifteen years. We have two football teams, two baseball teams, two major conference colleges and assorted minor ones, a hockey team, and a team that, on its surface, pretends to be an NBA franchise.
Before anyone starts bringing up the now-defunct Sabercats or Stanford women's basketball, I'm limiting this lament to sports that people actually care about.
I realize now that I was spoiled while growing up. One of my earliest childhood memories was "The Catch," Dwight Clark's soaring, iconic grab in the back of the endzone that beat the hated Cowboys and kicked off the 49ers dynasty. Five Super Bowl victories in the next 13 years made me think things were always going to be this way.
The Bay's other pro sports teams pulled their weight during the 80's as well. The Giants and A's played each other in the '89 series, assuring that the champion would reside in the Bay. The wrong team won, but it was an exciting time to be alive in these parts. Even the Warriors showed flashes of brilliance. "Run TMC" never got past the second round of the playoffs, but they were always competitive and fun to watch. Thankfully, the Raiders were in L.A. for most of this period, so their Super Bowl win was far less annoying. We didn't have to deal with any riots, as I recall.
The 90's brought the Sharks, and other than the Niners' last gasp, a whole lot of losing that has mostly continued unimpeded to this day. Sure, every once in a while somebody makes a run, like the Raiders in 2003 (which was hilarious) and the Giants in 2002 (which I still can't even really talk about), but for the most part it's been 15 years of pain and torture. Even when a team seems great, like the Sharks last year, they find a way to negate all the good times by flaming out with an embarrassing loss in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, except for one short-lived burst of success in 2007, the Warriors have been a national joke. Sigh.
So, why do we put ourselves through this? At least I know what glory tastes like. My teenage students aren't old enough to recall a time when Bay Area sports weren't a giant mess of steaming feces. Yet they are far more positive than I am. They constantly think that a championship is right around the corner, like Charley Brown running up to kick the football, over and over again. They often tell me to "have faith," one of my least favorite sayings, which is proven wrong over and over again.
More often than not, it's not all that fun to be a sports fan around here. Yet, I'm proud of us. Our teams suck, but we persevere. We know that when one of our teams actually does come through, all the torment and angst will have made us stronger. It will all have been worth it. After all, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly." -Thomas Paine
Consider this an ode to all the long-suffering Bay Area sports fans. Even Raider fans, in prison or on parole. We're all in this misery together.
As for those Bay Area residents who are reading this and saying, "Yeah, but at least my Lakers won last year," there's a special spot in hell reserved for fans of your particular stripe. Your blog is coming tomorrow.