|Tony Ding, Associated Press|
Hope. It’s what drives us as fans. The hope of victory over a bitter rival, of being a part of something greater. The hope of perfection. And perhaps the hope that in that perfect moment, that perfect season, we can find a measure of perfection ourselves. When that hope is gone, the end can’t be far behind.
In this way the relationship between coaches and fans is like a romance. We start out with that hope of perfection, of the simple feeling inside us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. And we rise and fall together. We as fans ride the wave of hope.
Many of us were just children when we met our first love. This person was strong, and tough, and sometimes seemed a little mean. He yelled and he stomped. He seethed and fumed.
But he took us places, places that our parents parents had seen. And when he smiled, we smiled. We scaled heights together, and looked down upon the world as Titans. He never hurt us. He inspired us. And we loved him for it. Unabashedly, and with no shame.
And then he got older, and decided it was time to leave. It wasn’t that he wanted to. He loved us as much as we loved him, but it was just time to move on. We understood that he had been with us as long as he could, and that sometimes a thing cannot last forever. Yet we were sad, and many of us wept and wondered, “Will we find another?”
We thought we had, and so soon after too. He took us almost back to those same heights, and we began to fall in love again. And then one night he got drunk and left and we never saw him again. And it hurt.
So we began a new relationship, and so soon after the hurts of the past we were unsure. Some parts of us didn’t like him even. Things were rocky in the beginning. We had moments of panic, and we felt he let us down too often. Not showing up when he said he would and sometimes seeming unprepared for dates.
Then when we least expected it, he took us to a place that we had not seen before. A place so wonderful, so magical, we couldn’t help but fall in love again. Sure there were still some problems. But he was a man of integrity, a man with fire, a smart man who commanded respect from everyone.
Like our first love, he too got older. But unlike his predecessor, he did not leave when we still loved him with all our hearts. He stayed on to help us, but part of us grew to hate him for it. We said he wasn’t cool anymore, not young or exciting. He wasn’t innovating, taking us to new places, new heights. He showed up to the most important events of the year, but never seemed to enjoy them. And when in time he too left us, while some of us wept as we once had, a part of us smiled.
For the first time, we felt rejection. It seemed that we searched and searched, only to be rejected by people we wanted. How could that be? We wanted them to be with us. How could they not want the same? And we felt the same hurt again, and we didn’t like it.
From that darkness, a man stepped forth. He was young, he was cool. He did things a new way. He was exciting, and in our hearts he promised to take us back to the old heights and beyond. And we fell head over heels, just like that.
And then things didn’t turn out like we hoped. Sure he was still exciting. But he often missed important events, or didn’t turn up in top form. We made excuses to our friends and enemies alike. It wasn’t his fault, he didn’t have the things he needed yet. We weren’t supporting him enough. We just had to give him time, and everything would be all right.
But it wasn’t all right. Sure, he got better. But not much. Not as much as we wanted at any rate. Not as much as he wanted either. And he abused us. Just when we thought things were looking up, he’d shove us back down. And still we made excuses.
Finally, after a time that seemed to rip us apart, he hit us. Right in the stomach. The worst thing was, it was at a place he had never taken us. Finally we went back to a place we had been so many times before and it was new again and wonderful and he hit us. And it hurt so bad and hope was finally lost. There was still a part of us that would have taken him back, but mostly we knew it was over.
|Rick Dole, Getty Images|
And now we’ve found someone new. He’s not cool. He's not young or exciting. He reminds us of what we started to hate four years ago. Maybe he reminds us of ourselves too much. A little older, a little slower, a little heavier. We aren’t ready to fall in love again. Not like last time, not at first sight. We'll hold ourselves back until we're sure this time. At least that's what we tell ourselves and it probably isn't true.
|Gregory Shamus, Getty Images|