In my youth, my favorite sports teams seemingly challenged every year. The 49ers won Super Bowl after Super Bowl. The Oakland A's were in the World Series from 1988 to 1990, taking the title in 1989. Before I liked the Sacramento Kings, I liked the LA Lakers, and saw Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar take home their share of championships. But for nearly two decades, as fans from across the country have celebrated their teams, at least for one season, I'm growing fatigued of seeing my hopes for a pennant - in any sport - fade early.
Yesterday, Cal, once expected to challenge for a BCS berth, got dumped on by the UCLA Bruins in Los Angeles, going down to their second straight defeat after a season opening run to the #2 ranking in all the country. Now, the team will be lucky just to find its way to the unrewarding and poorly named Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
This disaster comes only months after the Oakland A's played their way into near last place in the AL West, avoiding the playoffs, which itself was preceded by a season-long funk by the Sacramento Kings. While the Kings' season is on the verge of opening up, I don't harbor any misguided belief that the team's fortunes will change.
As for the 49ers? First of all, as I've made clear before, I don't really care enough for their wins or losses to make much difference. But the truth is, they still stink. I came home from church this afternoon to see them completing yet another weak showing, as they lost 33-15 to the New York Giants.
A friend of mine says he knows not to jump on to a bandwagon unless he's absolutely certain they will win. I can't do that. I can cheer for the Rockies' improbable run to the World Series, but it's a hollow cheer. I can't root for the Cal Bears to find a way to finish with less than 4 losses. I had higher expectations. And what am I supposed to ask of the A's next year? A record above .500? How can I accept that as a real goal?
I'm not switching the teams I root for just because it's become so inconvenient to see them lose and lose after teasing me into thinking they had a chance. But I would like to be positively surprised for a change. Soon.