Disclaimer: this blog is not about sports. So if you hate sports, bear with me. If you love sports, well, this is about sports.
But really it’s about being a fan. Being from New York, I have experienced first-hand the disappointment, false hopes, and downright torture that some NY fans go through annually. Except for Yankees, this pretty much covers every other team in the metro area.
The Mets (last title 1986)? Sure once in a while they’ll give you a thrill, but they seem to be snake-bitten with injuries. Still, they are loveable and get to the World Series on occasion. The Rangers (1994) and the Knicks (1973) make it interesting even less often, and their fans expect the worst as a measure of self-preservation. And don’t get me started on the Jets. The Giants don’t have much going on these days either.
In our movable society, many find themselves living in cities other than the one they were raised in. Some people become fans of other teams. For example, I’ll root for the Dodgers, unless they’re playing the Mets. Same with the Lakers. And these Rams have been entertaining, but LA has never been a football town so we’ll see how this goes.
Some of my old friends from Brooklyn root for teams far and wide like the Cowboys, the 49ers and the Dolphins. Probably because the Jets suck and the Giants often suck also. I will never understand how a New Yorker could call one of those teams his or her own.
But it’s March and we all know that the best tournament in sports is the NCAA basketball tournament, March Madness, and that brings me to my college team, the Buffalo Bulls.
When I was in college, we had a player named Sam Pellom who led the nation in rebounding, led UB in scoring and went on to play 4 years in the NBA, and later with the Washington Generals (perennial losers to the Globetrotters). Otherwise the team was mediocre and we were all partying and playing music so we paid little attention.
I’ve always been a little envious of people like my brother-in-law who went to Duke, or friends who went to Syracuse or Michigan or Kentucky (okay I don’t know anyone who went to Kentucky). Year in and year out, their team has a great year and goes to the tournament. Especially Duke, the Yankees of NCAA basketball. Why couldn’t us UB fans have that experience?
SEEN AROUND TOWN:
Then, about 5 years ago, Bobby Hurley, a former Duke player, was hired by the university to coach the Buffalo Bulls of the MAC. He instantly lent credibility (as a 2-time national champ who played for Coach Kreczewirczehski… eh, Coach K). His teams won the MAC Championship 2 years in a row and went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history!
Then, of course, Hurley was hired by a bigger program, Arizona State. Unfair! But little did we know he left his assistant, Nate Oats, with the keys to the Caddy, and he has not only continued but improved upon what Hurley began. Last year, the Bulls even knocked off highly ranked Arizona (not Arizona State) in the first weekend of the tournament. Then, this year, for the first time in school history, we’re a top-25 team for most of this season, currently sitting at 19 in the AP, having just won the MAC regular season title with a win at Ohio last night, higher ranked even than the program Hurley left us for.
So, I got what I wished for. My team is on ESPN. A lot. I bought ESPN+ to get games that aren’t on in my area. The team is 24-3 (21-2 in the MAC) and on target to have a nice March. This is what I have been hoping for these last 40 years!
So why am I not enjoying this as much as I should? Hmm?
Because this Bulls team is just like my other teams. They drive me nuts. They’ve been winning, but it’s never smooth sailing. Oh sure, in the beginning of the season they were clobbering teams and even beat Syracuse in Syracuse, fairly easily. But since then, because they are the best team in the conference and the first Mid-Atlantic Conference team to be ranked nationally for so many consecutive weeks, the other schools are coming hard, trying to take down the big guy.
The ESPN+ feed is usually the home team’s broadcast, so I had to listen to the Ohio announcers and boy were they homers. Buffalo was playing down to their level and they couldn’t put this pesky Ohio Bobcats team away. The announcers got so annoying that I had to turn off the sound. During timeouts, the director had the cameras linger lovingly on the Ohio mascot (a guy in a ratty bobcat suit) and on fans. It was highly irritating.
But at the end, Buffalo held on to win. What a relief.
Next week the MAC tournament starts and then the NCAA’s. Which made me realize, this thing I always wanted, my team to be relevant, is actually a very mixed blessing. I’m a terrible loser, and I can’t watch close games without a spike in blood pressure. So now I’m preparing for 5 weeks of this stuff. Anxiousness, frustration, hair-pulling and occasional elation. I’m sure Kiki is looking forward to this as well.
So, yes, be careful what you wish for. You might get it. Like all this rain in Los Angeles!
Come to think of it, the protagonist in Smoking in Bed wishes to experience true love, and boy does he get it in an unexpected fashion. Remember, reading is fundamental!
Smoking in Bed: dreams of love, sex and terrorism (on Amazon)