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What it’s like to love a bad sports team

By Nathan BraunJune 30, 2017

San Francisco Giants
San Francisco Giants Thearon W. Henderson

I spend a lot of time thinking about why I unironically love sports. They’re just games played for fun that somehow allow fans to see what they want to in them. Every play or player is experienced from two sides, displaying either heroics and villainy just depending on which side you’re already sitting on. But as much as sports can deliver the drama and catharsis we crave, the nature of competition doesn’t guarantee anything. And sometimes with just the slightest shift a team can go from contenders to a collection of lost athletes, struggling at once seemed effortless. And as a fan all you can do is sit there and watch.

All this is to say that I am a fan of the San Francisco Giants, a baseball team that is currently very bad at playing baseball. While there are plenty of bad baseball teams, the Giants entered the season with the expectation of making their fourth title run since 2010. Loaded with talented young players like our superstar catcher Buster Posey and our almost mythical ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner, everyone had reason to think the Giants could do it again. And then the season started.

To a certain degree, the part of me focused on grander narratives wonders if us Giants fans somehow deserved this? Countless diehard fans go their entire lives without ever seeing their team win the World Series, while there are 8 year olds who’ve gotten to experience three different championship parades on the streets of San Francisco. It’s karma that caused Bumgarner to hurt his shoulder dirt biking, costing him months of playing time. It’s fate that’s made our new $60 million-plus closer seemingly unable to protect a lead while wearing a Giants uniform. We deserve a team who suddenly can’t remember how to get hits or keep their opponents off the bases. Clearly it's us fans who did something wrong and naturally we must make a sacrifice on Major League Baseball’s sacred altar in Cooperstown, New York to break this curse.

But every time I sharpen my sacrificing knife and start looking at bus tickets to upstate New York, I try to remember that it’s just sports. While my Giants may have the second worst record in baseball (thank you, Philadelphia!), I’m still going to root for them no matter who takes the field. Even if the entire team ends up in the infirmary or traded away later this summer for scrap parts, I’ll still watch every game I can with the hope that this is the win that could turn things around. A bad season cannot wipe away the memories of why you feel for the sport in the first place and next year will begin with a brand new slate. Sure, it may be rough to have to just sit on the sidelines and watch something I love struggle, but there’s nothing you can do but accept the facts and try to enjoy whatever nice moments you might get. Because after all, it’s just a game.