Editor’s Notes: Cincinnati fan moves past Wolf Pack’s crushing comeback (opinion)
“I gotta go.”
Those were the parting words of the gentleman sitting next to me at a sports bar on Sunday. I didn’t catch his name despite the fact we had chatted like old friends for about 90 minutes. Neither one of us said a word to one another for the next 20 minutes.
In hindsight, it was amazing he could even utter those parting words — he, like myself, was paralyzed with disbelief. My friend that day graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1982, I believe (can’t be certain on the year).
That was our common bond, minus the roughly 30 years separating our graduations dates, at the start of the game between UC and the University of Nevada, Reno. At the end of the game, surrounded by Wolf Pack fans, the common bond was misery.
“I’m from Cincinnati so I’ve come to expect disappointment,” I informed a different man after Nevada won, marking the second largest deficit overcome in NCAA tournament history.
Journalists joke (or sometimes simply state) that the job can make even the cheeriest of optimists a pessimist. News by nature tends to be negative (an airplane landing isn’t a story — an airplane crashing is). Add the natural bleakness of the job with the inherent skepticism journalists (at least the good ones) possess, and it’s easy to see some truth in that joke.
Journalism ain’t got nothing on being a Cincinnati sports fan.
The fact was evident shortly after Nevada’s remarkable comeback when Xavier University, another college located in Cincinnati and one of four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, blew a 12-point lead with less than 10 minutes left in the game. (For the record, my alma mater blew a 22-point lead with 11 minutes left against Nevada.)
I won’t bore you with my hometown’s long history of disappointment — you probably either don’t care or already know about it.
A couple weeks ago I had a plumber over at my apartment. As he worked I noticed a Cincinnati Bengals decal on his phone.
“Bengals fan, eh?”
He stopped working.
“Why? You gonna give me sh** too?”
Not only are we born to expect disappointment, we’re accustomed to being punching bags. An orange “B” or red “C” might as well be a scarlet letter in the sporting world.
The true pain of being a Cincinnati sports fan stems from hope. Sure, there are a handful of cities (I’m thinking Cleveland) that can say: “What about us? We’re terrible every year.”
The upshot to being terrible all the time is you can truly enjoy those victorious moments, as rare and menial as they might be.
The emotional rollercoaster of being good enough to set high expectations, only to crash and burn when it matters most, is far more torturous.
Still, Sunday was something special. Long-time Cincinnati sports columnist Paul Daugherty wrote it was “the single worst day in the modern era of Cincinnati sports.” I’d have to agree with that assessment.
On a personal level, it also was perhaps the strangest day. I am not a good sport, and I have never — emphasis on NEVER — cheered on a team that contributed so greatly to my team’s misery.
And yet, after my wallowing Sunday evening, I found myself hoping for a Nevada win against another Cinderella team Thursday.
Maybe it’s the proximity of Tahoe and UNR, maybe it’s the fact that my girlfriend is a UNR student (and a boastful one at that). Or maybe these kids are just so damn exciting that they can make even a sore Cincinnati fan a little less cynical.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at 530-542-8006 or at email@example.com.