I’m often accused of being a sports pessimist. It’s true that I often anticipate the worst when it comes to my favorite teams. Amateur psychologists who try to untangle my thought process believe it’s a defense mechanism. That if I manage my own expectations, the losses won’t be nearly as disappointing.
I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that assessment. But something doesn’t quite add up. Somehow, I repeatedly find myself feeling like Charlie Brown as Lucy pulls the football away again and again. As low as I set the bar, Minnesota sports teams have a remarkable ability to limbo their way under it.
I’m not even going to rehash all the obvious things that have landed Minnesotans atop numerous “most tortured sports fans” lists. Let’s just examine the last couple years:
- The Minnesota Vikings have been in contention more than any other local franchise. But even when things are going well, you can be sure something horrific is on the horizon. Two years ago, the season ended on a missed 27-yard field goal… an unthinkable outcome. Then last season began with the starting quarterback’s leg literally falling off in practice. Yet I was fully on board with the team being a Super Bowl contender after a 5-0 start. They promptly lost 8 of the next 11 games and missed the playoffs… an unthinkable outcome.
- This season’s Minnesota Wild club was the best in the Western Conference and I fully believed they had a terrific chance to hoist the Stanley Cup. They ended the season in a tailspin and won a total of one playoff game.
- The Twins are coming off a horrific stretch of seasons, including a franchise-worst 103 losses last year. At least we have Byron Buxton, baseball’s next can’t-miss superstar to lead the team out of the abyss. Except it turns out he can’t hit and is currently being talked about as someone who could go down as one of the most underachieving players ever if he doesn’t figure something out at the plate.
- Then there’s the Timberwolves, who seemingly have a bright future, but underperformed my expectations and those of many others by finishing as one of the NBA’s worst teams again this year. Oh, and they haven’t made the playoffs since 2004.
When the local teams do succeed in making the playoffs, history says the run will be short. As outlined earlier this week by the Star Tribune, the Vikings, Wild, Twins and Timberwolves have a combined postseason record of 47-88 since the year 2000, a .348 winning percentage.
Thinking something good is going to happen for any of these teams seems insane. And still I continue to watch, root and hope. Does that actually make me a sports optimist?