How To Keep Hope Alive When Your Team Keeps Losing In The Playoffs
Aside from football season, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for a sports fan. The start of the NHL and NBA playoff season is upon us. Nothing quite compares to watching your favorite team battle their way through the playoffs and ultimately to a championship. To say you are the best professional sports team in the United States truly means the best team in the world (unless we are talking soccer, but most casual sports fans don’t actually follow the MLS).
At times it is tough to keep the faith when year after year your favorite team exits early, but one must never lose hope. As a D.C. area resident I’ve seen many a failure of incredibly talented teams come playoff time. Some fans have lost their fight over the years, but many of us still find ways to hold onto hope for our beloved Capitals and Nationals despite awful early round exits. For many, sports is the common denominator. Having faith in our teams is what keeps us going day in and day out. Cracking that after work Miller and watching the puck drop on NHL playoffs is the only thing getting many of us through the day. I’m sure most of you slaving away in cube life feel the same way. Do what you must to keep that hope alive because that one time they hoist the championship trophy will last a lifetime.
The Playoffs are a New Season
The beauty of the playoffs is that it is a fresh start for all. Before the puck drops on that first game of the series everyone is equal once again. It does not matter if you limped into the playoffs such as the lowly Minnesota Wild or surged in as the Washington Capitals (who amassed an impressive 120 points and a +59 goal differential during the season). Anything can happen and will happen in playoff hockey. This unpredictability is what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs great and gives all of us hope that “this is our year!” On any given night, the underdog can out muscle and check the clear-cut favorite out of the arena to a well-deserved victory. Just last year Minnesota, as a wild card, took down the one seeded St. Louis Blues in dominating fashion.
The Washington Capitals have lost in the first round in five of their last nine playoff appearances. It has become a running joke that the Caps are bound to choke once April rolls around. Despite having numerous talented teams, they just can’t seem to get over this “playoff curse” and haven’t been to an Eastern Conference final since the 97-98 season. No one in the District ever jumped ship and this season might be the most hopeful after an impressive 120 point campaign and a “never say die” attitude. “Will the Capitals suffer yet another early playoff exit?” is one of the more intriguing story lines this year. You are either a hopeful Caps fan or a curious onlooker hoping for a glorious wreck for you to rubberneck once again.
Talking heads will always criticize teams for a lack of playoff success. In the digital age of instant gratification it is always “what have you done for me lately?” No one seems to comment on the difficulty of consistently making the playoffs. That is an accomplishment in itself. Some cities are spoiled with an abundance of playoff wins and championships while others relish in a simple birth. Consistently being in the playoffs is an impressive feat that guarantees exciting regular seasons, which helps keep the hope alive for starving fans.
Despite several disappointing early exits the Capitals are always there. They always have the talent, which gives them an opportunity to achieve greatness year in and year out. You cannot say that for every team. Only 16 teams out of the 30 NHL teams make the playoffs a year. The Capitals have made the playoffs 10 of the last 15 seasons, a feat that is often overlooked due to their playoff failures. There are fans that would give their pinky on their non-dominant hand for that kind of consistency and success. I will never lose hope in the District reclaiming a championship due to the fact that one of the cities teams is always in contention.
Trust the Process
“Trust the process,” unless you are a Philadelphia 76ers fan who has been attempting to for years. The Sixers have tanked as a means of building through the draft, which has yet to bring any sort of success. But if you are not a Sixers fan there is always a reason to be hopeful and patient. It may be a young up-and-coming prospect or a new veteran who looks to be the final piece of the puzzle. Being patient is the most difficult and frustrating aspects of being a sports fan. No one wants to sit through years of rebuilding but this sort of adversity will make that championship parade (riot for some) through the city that much more rewarding. All those years of hope will finally pay off. All of the money spent on tickets, merchandise, and alcohol to drown your sorrows will be worth it in the end. All those hungover mornings after Game 7 losses. The memory of celebrating a hometown victory with your friends will stay with you for a lifetime and is worth all the previous years of pain.
I can barely fathom the pandemonium that will ensue when the District brings home a championship after a 24-year drought. I can already imagine millions of people from the District, Maryland, and Virginia converging on the National Mall as the parade shuts down the city. BrOvechkin and Kuze slugging vodka like it’s winter back in the motherland.
Sports Betting Gives Anyone a Dog in the Fight
Nothing quite goes together as well as sport and gambling. As long as there have been sports there have been people wagering on it. Whether it be Nero betting on gladiators or your shady cousin calling up his bookie to get in a last minute baseball bet on a Tuesday night. Gambling and sports go hand in hand. If you don’t have a dog in the fight as a favorite team this can make the games more exciting. Up the ante this playoff season and try your hand at picking game winners.
Currently the Capitals are listed as heavy favorites to win it all at +366 and the Wild are least likely at +3926.* This means if you were to place a $10 wager on the Wild and they somehow miraculously won the Stanley Cup you would win over $400. How could you not be vested?
*Odds via Bookmaker.eu
Bring on the Fisticuffs
At times it can be difficult to keep your hopes up when your team is a perennial underdog or hasn’t hoisted a championship trophy in decades. One way I stay hooked to the TV and keep my faith alive is to hope my team absolutely pummels yours. One of the best parts about being losers is that more often than not you have several guys willing to drop the gloves if need be.
Take the Philadelphia Flyers for example. The last few years they have been average hockey team who have suffered some brutal series losses. They haven’t made much noise in the playoffs since a Cup appearance in 2010. They were swept by Boston in the Conference Semifinals in 10-11, another semifinals loss to the Dirty Jersey Devils, then suffered a first round loss to the Rangers, and didn’t even make the playoffs last year. Some less than stellar results but teams know when they play the Flyers. They will kick the shit out of you and love every second of it.
At Least You Aren’t a Cleveland Fan (I’m genuinely sorry if you are)
Sometimes it’s best to look on the bright side. A positive outlook can do wonders. At least you’re not a Cleveland fan. That cities’ sports are an absolute dumpster fire not to mention the city is a dumpster itself. I can only imagine a Saturday night in Cleveland. For such a loyal and passionate fan base it’s a damn shame that they have endured a combined 156 seasons of without a championship. Their last came from the Cleveland Browns in 1964 and their next is nowhere in sight. If I were a betting man (which I am) I would wager that an apocalyptic force wipes Cleveland off the map before they win another Championship. But even in the armpit that is Cleveland there is hope. Go put $500 on the Caps to win the Stanley Cup and give yourself something to root for.