As a sports fan, I have been spoiled, and it has come to my attention that I have acted in such a manner as well.
I have only myself to blame.
(Isn’t that how all sappy confessions begin?)
But in mostly seriousness, I think it started in the early 2000s, or whatever that funny word is that people call the decade we just passed. The Iowa State Cyclones were starting to win more often, and the Minnesota Twins were drafting and developing the players that would start this recent division-title run.
Finally, the Twins had stopped competing with the Kansas City Royals for the worst team in baseball title. And the Cyclones had quit being the unofficial bye on everyone’s schedule.
The Cyclones made it to the 2000 Insight.com Bowl, and won, beating the Panthers of Pittsburgh, who had a couple giraffes of their own in Antonio Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald, only two of the NFL’s best receivers these days.
I was pumped.
The Cyclones kept winning, too. It was a weird time in the Big 12 North. The Cornhuskers of Nebraska were losing more, and no one else wanted to win more games than they had been winning, except Iowa State.
This is when Iowa State specifically spoiled me and I didn’t even know it. Two years in a row, the Cyclones had chances to win the Big 12 North outright. They failed both times, losing in two of the most awful losses ever. (Seriously. Ask anyone who has seen both of those games, and they’ll tell you the same thing.)
It was typical Iowa State, the haters said, including Cyclone fans. I might have even said it, letting my hostile emotions control my frustrated mind. If I were to have said such a thing, it was me not appreciating Iowa State playing for the Big 12 North titles and sharing the title with another team. Those were strong accomplishments, and I should have been more thankful to the ‘Clones.
I didn’t say I should have been complacent. No, there’s a different definition for complacency than there is for appreciation. I could have appreciated the games while not desiring the false feeling of satisfaction. But I was just a kid, a high school-aged kid who wanted my team to win like Ohio State. Every year.
As I mentioned, I was also a big Twins fan. And the Twins were big fans of division titles. In 2002, they won the AL Central, shocking almost everybody.
I was ecstatic.
And then the Twins beat the Oakland A’s and slipped into the ALCS. That’s four games away from the World Series. That’s where two teams from each league advance every year. That’s very hard to do.
But, because I was just a kid, a punk kid who thought he knew everything about sports, I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was or how hard it was for teams to go to the ALCS. This time, the Twins spoiled me, and, again, I didn’t get it.
The Twins won the division again in 2004, 2006 and 2008. That’s very good. Not many teams have done that, especially teams from not monstrous markets that allow them to have monstrous payrolls, such as Boston or New York or L.A.
In 2009, the Twins won one of the most exciting games in Twins history and made it to the playoffs for the fifth time in the last eight years. This year, I was just happy the Twins made the playoffs. Next year, I thought, next year the Twins will go back to the ALCS.
Next year was this year, and again, (I know, it’s getting old) the Twins lost in the first round of the playoffs. They lost to the Yankees, too. The frickin’ Yankees swept the Twins. In baseball, everyone hates the Yankees. But Twins fans especially hate the Yankees. HATE.
And after this last sweep, I was very frustrated. I remember thinking I was tired of division titles, thinking I’d rather win it all every 10 years and not go to the playoffs any other year than go to the playoffs every year and lose. Ugh.
Weeks later, I had time to reflect on my thoughts, and I again realized that was something a spoiled fan would think and say, and that’s what I thought and said.
I had forgotten how much fun I had had at a couple Twins games last summer, how much I loved watching Twins baseball and how much I cherished talking about the Twins with my best buddies. I love the Twin. But I was also spoiled, which made me forget how much I would always love the Twins, even if they lose in the first round every year. (Let’s not let that happen, though. OK, Ron?)
By this time, the Cyclones had become my second-favorite college team. I graduated from the University of Missouri.
During my second year at Mizzou, the Tigers spoiled me. They won their first few games against easy teams, like they always do. And they even beat the hard teams, except Oklahoma. But the Tigers were ranked No. 1.
In the following years, Mizzou would beat the easy teams again but lose a couple more games to the hard teams, the better teams during that year. These Mizzou teams still were good, though: they had good records, good players and went to good bowl games. I should have been happy about Mizzou football. They were getting better, I was having fun at games. Life was good. But I was sometimes frustrated, even a little perturbed that Mizzou didn’t do better.
I think I wanted the 2007 year every year, which, of course, is hard to do for any college football team, especially when you lose your best players from that team to the NFL.
After all this, all of these times in which I should have realized I was spoiled, it took Mizzou beating Texas A&M a couple weekends ago for it to hit me.
I was answering a question about Mizzou from a buddy. I was telling him Mizzou always schedules the easy opponents early in the year, which gives Mizzou early wins but also doesn’t tell fans a lot about the team. We’ll see how Mizzou does against A&M. I didn’t sound optimistic but I didn’t sound pessimistic, either; I sounded unsure. I sounded like a spoiled fan.
Even if Mizzou would have lost to A&M – they didn’t, of course – but even if they did, I should have appreciated 5-0 starts. I should have appreciated a shutout of Colorado. Georgia fans would have loved a shutout of Colorado. The Buffaloes beat the Bulldogs by two points. I should have remembered that and been thankful my Tigers had not done the same.
I should have been happy, but I was cautionary. I was spoiled.
That’s enough spoiled for me, though. I’ve decided. That’s why I wrote this little essay, The Tale of a Spoiled Fan. I wrote “a” spoiled fan instead of “the” spoiled fan because a lot of fans are spoiled. A lot of fans could learn to be more appreciative than spoiled, could learn to love their teams for who they are that year and for what they’ve done. For all the good times.
It’s time we acted less like spoiled fans and more like privileged people, including you Royals fans. Well, on second thought, Royals fans, complain away.