Sports fandom is a weird, weird thing when you think about it

Dealing with disappointment can be a lonely endeavor. 

I’m 29-years-old. The more the time passes, the more I realize how bad I am at handling it, especially as it pertains to sports. Take Sunday night, for example.

I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan my entire life. But really, I’ve been a fan since they’ve become the modern-day Buffalo Bills. Think about it. The last time they won the Super Bowl was 1995. Twenty years ago. Twenty. I was in the fourth grade when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17, but my only lasting memory was winning $20 bucks off my guidance counselor. He was a Steelers fan. If they’d have won, I would have owed him a Spud Max from McAlisters, my dad’s restaurant. He was gone the next year. I’d like to think I had nothing to do with that.

It was a different time.

Since then, the Cowboys have won all of three playoff games. You know, during the time when I’m old enough to appreciate winning. To relish in it. To take a lap around the neighborhood in my Jason Witten jersey chanting and sprinting as if someone had lit a fire under my shoes.

They’ve finished 8-8 or worse 10 times, including a 2-6 mark this season following their sixth-straight loss. And it came at the hands of the hated Philadelphia Eagles no less. God, I hate the Eagles.

But it’s the way they’ve lost that has made the disappointment so painful. They’ve lost by seven points or less in four of those games. Sunday was a one-possession overtime affair. I knew it was over the minute the Eagles won the coin toss for the extra period. It always seems like your team loses the crucial coin toss, doesn’t it? Tails never fails, unless your favorite team calls it. I digress. 

Heckuva weekend, huh? At least my daughter met Santa earlier in the afternoon. I know, I know. It’s Nov. 9. We’ve got our Christmas tree up, too. There’s no shame at the Garrett house.

Sports are so personal to us, and that’s why the disappointment is so intense. But I had to take a step back after former Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews scored the winning touchdown in overtime, which came but a few seconds after, in the same play, former Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy missed what would have been a crucial sack on Philadelphia quarterback Sam Bradford.

Because when he crossed the goal line, the ottoman my feet were once propped up on flew across my daughter’s playroom. My wife and three-year-old were asleep on the other side of the house. Luckily, there was no mark on the door it hit. No real way to explain that off to the wife tomorrow morning.

I couldn’t help myself, or so I thought. The pent-up rage overtook me, and the poor, helpless ottoman felt the brunt of my frustration. I stood in the darkness, the light of the television consuming the room. I tried to calm down, even walked outside and took a seat in my car as to keep my screams in a contained space.

Then reality set in.

Ole Miss fell to 7-3 (4-2 SEC) on the season following a brutal 53-52 loss to Arkansas on Saturday. You know what happened. The Rebel defense allowed 605 total yards, including eight points in overtime, likely dashing dreams of championships and what could have been, maybe should have been, for the vaunted recruiting class of 2013. But it was the way the Rebels lost, after having two plays Ole Miss fans thought were game-ending plays (the fourth-and-25 miracle and Marquis Haynes’ sack on the first two-point conversion try) go the other way.

I’d venture to guess a lot of ottomans got tossed that night. Or walls punched. Or a fan or two finding themselves in their car, alone, yelling at the top of their lungs, knuckles possibly bloodied from the steering wheel hitting back.

Here’s the thing, though. I’ll keep coming back. I’ll plop down in my chair when the Cowboys travel to lose at Tampa Bay next week. Since 1990, 95 NFL teams have started 2-6. Know how many have made the playoffs? Zero. I can’t tell you how many times over the last month-plus I’ve texted my brothers or dad or closest friend to tell them I was done with sports. Seriously, I’ve lost count. 

But I never mean it.

Ole Miss is off (thankfully) this week, but you’ll be back when the rival LSU Tigers roll into town. I’ll be there, too, in my press box seat. I’ve been around Ole Miss football all my life, seven years at the Spirit. The “We Are Ole Miss” moments are plentiful, and Saturday has to rank right at the top. A fourth-and-25 miracle heave that results in a first down? That isn’t supposed to happen. It did to Ole Miss. Of course it did.

But you’ll be back. We all will. Because as lonely as disappointment is, it’s the hope that drives the sports fan. I’m an Atlanta Braves fan, too. Their last playoff series win came in 2001. I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess.

When the Cowboys finally break through, it’ll make it that much sweeter because I’ve ridden the roller coaster. Fifty losses and a win means a win, you know. You toil away in the fuss until the moment comes, and you lose your mind as if you had something to do with it. 

I’ve written about my dad a few times, and it’s because I talk to him after every Ole Miss game. Most, if not all, of you can relate. Fan all his life. His seats are on the 50-yard-line, and he’s at every game. The Arkansas loss hit him hard. As up as he was after the first win at Alabama since 1988, he was equally as dejected Saturday. Because whereas I get uncontrollably, throw-something-somewhere angry after my team loses, he gets sad. I guess that’s what happens once you pass 50.

But eventually we changed the topic to something else. We’re going on a family trip in January. Everybody will be there - mom, dad, both brothers, wives and kids. We talked about my little girl, some family stuff and moved on. That’s what you do. That’s how you deal.

And then the hope returns.


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