Sports Fandom and Being a Hoya

Wow, what a strenuous week and a half it has been. So much emotion condensed into such a small period of time. The success of earning a three seed, the apprehension about our opponent, the anger at the "experts" who were so quick to discard us, the elation at shutting those critics up, the heartbreak of a season ending before it should have, the optimism for the future. Most of us have felt just about every one of these feelings in the last several days, and it's exhausting. When it's all said and done, we're just tired and need a good nap, but the frustration remains. What do we have to do, right? What can we possibly do to return to the glory of 1984 or 2007? When we lose to teams like Cincinnati in the BET or VCU in the tourney the way we lost, it seems uncertain that it ever could happen. It seems that there is a hex on this University, does it not? It's a familiar feeling to us now, falling short, but we move on to the next season, sometimes with nothing but the hope that things get better. This is a feeling I've become used to over my entire life when dealing with sports, so I'm usually the first one to accept defeat. After the jump, I'll explain to you why being a Hoya has changed my perspective.

Just to give y'all a bit of background on my experience, I'll first mention that I am a current undergraduate student at Georgetown, as I'm sure some of you have noticed already, so my time on this Earth is relatively short compared to most of yours. Do not penalize my lack of years, as I assure you there has been plenty of experience with it. As many of you have picked up on, I do indeed originate from Texas. With that comes its own unique brand of sports fandom. Just as Hoya fans have been conditioned to expect (or feel reasonable in asking for) winning based on the school's history, so have Texas sports fans. If any of you follow professional sports, you will know that this has not exactly been the case in recent years. As a result, for the duration of my sports consciousness, I have not been able to watch a team of mine win and have become accustomed to the feeling of heartbreak we all felt Sunday.

The Dallas Cowboys, as you all should be aware, are a joke and have won one playoff game in 15 years. Granted, I was alive for those 3 Super Bowl wins, but I was too young to have begun my interest in football and don't remember a single thing about them. This wouldn't be so bad if there wasn't always the expectation for the Cowboys. I watched in horror as my Giant-fan uncle and father ran around the room laughing after Tony Romo fumbled the snap in Seattle. I could only muster laughter in disbelief when, two years later, as the favorite to win the Super Bowl, the Cowboys ate it against the eventual-champion Giants. Each year brings the same expectation, as well as the same conclusion. The title of Cowboys Fan is now an embarrassing one to admit.

The Dallas Stars (yes, we have a hockey team) once knew glory. 1999 was their year. I went to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, but don't remember anything but the entire arena yelling at the opposing goalie. They won the Cup, and I remember being too young to stay up to watch the end of the clinching game. But since then, they've been swimming in worse mediocrity than the Cowboys. A three-year playoff drought for what some would argue was the best team of the late 90s and early 2000s. The years since their Cup win include an embarrassing first round drubbing by the Avalanche when they were the second-best team in the conference (2006) as well as missing the playoffs on the season's final day by falling to the twelfth place team in the conference (2011). The team is poised to end that drought this year with 9 games remaining, but I've seen the team fizzle over the last few years, so it goes without question that a collapse is not unexpected.

The Texas Rangers are an interesting case. They've always been the team I cheered for the hardest, as baseball has always been my thing. They made the playoffs for the first time in the team's history in the late 90s, but were doused by the Yankees all three times they made it. Pretty sad that a team in which every player was on steroids couldn't win, right? Then, as it has been with the Stars, came a decade of shame. Alex Rodriguez came and went, taking his steroid-won home run record with him. With the team hovering between 65 and 75 wins each season and all hope of a playoff spot basically done by the All-Star Break every year, it was tough to continue to pull for the team, as it looked like there was never anything to root for. I'd never seen them succeed either. Then, 2010 and 2011 happened. One could argue that is as much and more as I could ask for from them. But, alas, my most recent memory is probably the most painful sports memory I have: watching in absolute horror as the team in which I had invested 162+ games-worth of attention got their hearts torn out by the Cardinals and suffering what some consider to be one of the most gut-wrenching defeats of all time. I still have nightmares about it, as I have resigned myself to believe the team lost the one shot it'll get. Maybe in another 50 years, their time will come again.

The last team on this list is the Dallas Mavericks. Wait, they just got done toppling the "best team ever" didn't they? True, true. But, simply put, I don't watch the Mavs, and I haven't for 5 years. I watched the Finals, and I rooted for the Mavs, not as a fan, but as a third-party Miami Heat hater. The last two years of my fandom for the Mavs included: Their stunning defeat by Wade, Shaq, and the refs to have the title snatched from them in 2006 and then the embarrassment of being ousted in 6 games by 8-seed Golden State after winning 67 games in 2007. Mark Cuban's trade of Devin Harris did it for me, and I was done dealing with them.

So then we come to Georgetown. Nobody in my family went to Georgetown. In fact, until about 4 years ago, I'd never even heard of Georgetown except for the occasional basketball mention on ESPN. Therefore, my conscious Georgetown life has been very short. I was not around for the Esherick years, or the Final Four in 2007. I haven't seen Jeff Green, Greg Monroe, or even Nikita play in the Blue and Gray. What I know about these periods and players, I have learned from you all and from a bit of reading. I haven't experienced the history like y'all have, so I definitely cannot say I understand things the same way you do, although through reading your posts, I feel like I can get a pretty decent idea. I came into my first year of Georgetown fandom fairly unaware of what the program was like, who the players were, but I just assumed I could expect winning. If there's one thing I've learned from having that expectation, it's that winning in the Big East is freakin' hard. My life as a Hoya has included a star's broken hand, drubbings by Pitt, Cincinnati, and West Virginia, and embarrassing losses to double-digit seeds in the NCAA tournament.

After all that, what should I expect? I feel like I should feel the same as I did when I watched the Cowboys crap away their division lead this year. I feel like I should now be trained to expect this sort of performance from the Hoyas, just as all the experts do. For each of those teams I listed above, I trained myself to expect the season to end with a loss, and I now find myself in a position where I feel like that's what I should be doing with the Hoyas. But now, on this Wednesday evening, after seeing the effects my weekend basketball binge had on my organic chemistry performance, I feel strikingly different. Maybe it's the Nerlens Noel talk, maybe it's the coolness of Otto Porter and how happy I am to have him, but I don't feel hopeless. Being a Hoya has brought excruciating defeats and extreme effects on my blood pressure, but out of these defeats, for me, springs not just hope, but confidence. On this blog, we can get rather depressed when we lose; I'm a part of this. I don't feel depressed, though. Ok, well maybe a little depressed, but that's only because I won't get to see my favorite Hoya (Henry Sims) ever play for us again. Man, I'm gonna miss that goofy smile of his. But I digress. In sports, it's very easy to get hung up on what went wrong and not on what went very very right. I told my friends that Georgetown would be playing for an NIT spot at the beginning of the season. Instead, we ended up one of the top 15 teams in the country. I was calling for JTIII's head last March, but now I have a new appreciation and love for the man. Living with these players, seeing them a few times a week, even talking to them sometimes, gives me my confidence. I saw Jabril last night in Leo's and I told him they'd "get 'em next year". First he looked at me a bit confused, as if he didn't understand what I meant. Then he smiled and nodded. Watching the team play this year was so different than watching them last year and it's because of players with attitudes like Jabril. They don't just want to win, they expect to win. Their confidence has given me confidence, and that's why the next 7 months will be really tough to endure, because I cannot wait to watch this team play basketball again, Nerlens or not.

Stay Casual, my friends.

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