As a sports fan, endless suffering is often viewed as some weird rite of passage that all most go through prior to experiencing any joy.
"Abandon hope, all who enter here"
But, does it have to be this way? Is it necessary to have your heart ripped out and shown to you on several occasions before your team finally climbs the mountain to a championship? Does there NEED to be so much pain and sorrow to make a win enjoyable?
The Vegas Golden Knights would say no. And so would I.
Don't get me wrong. Suffering can make for some great stories. The Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs, the cities of Cleveland and Buffalo. After long periods of drought making it to the championship oasis can seem like the commutation of sports death. There's a certain catharsis that comes from being in the doldrums and then finding your way out of the desert of loss.
But, in many ways, continuing to spend money in support of shoddy franchises is more of a cop-out than it is a virtue. You support your teams despite the fact that they give you no reason to do so. That they have a stingy ownership group, or incompetent leadership. You support these teams because (the worst of all reasons) they're "from where you're from".
Don't mistake this, I'm not suggesting hopping around from team to team looking for a winner every year. Bandwagoning in other words. The New England Patriots have a lock on those fans. People in cities such as Houston proudly sporting Patriots jerseys with "Brady" on the back not knowing who in the world Steve Grogan even is, or that he played for the team.
In Houston we have three top-league sports franchises, the Astros, the Rockets and the Texans.
The Astros are defending World Series Champions and have started off the current season pretty well. The Rockets are in the Western Conference Finals in the NBA (although it does appear that they won't be able to beat the Golden State Warriors). The Texans are coming off a 4-12 season, have never made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs and are, by all accounts, the worst-ran franchise in the city. Guess which team has the biggest fan support?
This for a team that's played 16 seasons and only had a winning record in six of them. A team that has an owner with no apparent desire to win, who is content consistently selling out NRG Stadium, pocketing his money and saying the occasional stupid thing. A team that gives fans no compelling reason to root for them outside of "Well, they're the local team".
Or consider the Cleveland Browns. A revived franchise for 19 seasons now who only have two winning seasons during that time, a woeful ownership group, horrible front office and absolutely no reason to make you believe that they're going to turn it around Draft Day style.
Then you have the Vegas Golden Knights. An expansion team that was brilliantly put together by a smart GM hired by an owner who let him select the right coach, and put the right players around him. All they've done is reach the Stanley Cup Final in their first year.
Which of these three teams then is 'worthy' of support? I would argue it's the team that's doing whatever it can to win, not the teams that are happy being moribund with strong fan support.
The fact is continuing to financially support a bad team expecting differing results is the very definition of sports insanity. Suggesting that suffering is a prerequisite to winning is just a salve to your supporting a sub-par team.
Yes, you should remain a fan.
No, you should not reward them with your money.
No, you should not try and belittle the fans of the teams that are doing well.
At it's heart this anger toward Vegas and their fans is really just guilt reflected outward. You KNOW in your heart of hearts that the current path your team is on is crap but you won't accept it. It's much easier to point the finger at teams that are doing well and moan about "preferential treatment" or "rigged draft rules" ignoring the fact that many teams did stupid things to allow the Golden Knights to build the team they have (Hi Florida!).
So no. You don't have to suffer to enjoy a win. The fact that we've been conditioned to believe that we do is the lifeblood of bad franchises across the country. Bad owners rely on fans being blindly loyal, to not questioning, to having a local media who are going to do their level best to carry the water for failure. If you question this the response is "well you just don't know".
Yes, you do know. The results are right in front of you. Records don't lie.
I'm not suggesting that all of you run out and support the Golden Knights or jump on board the Patriots train. You should continue to root for your team, through thick and thin. But that doesn't mean that you have to continue to blindly throw money at them either. Or spend much of a sports day watching them get drilled again by some wide margin, or buying into the excuses for failure.
It also doesn't mean that you should punish the fans of a team who gets it right.
That's just not a good look y'all. Stop it.
Demand more from your teams before you support them with you time and money. Absent a promotion/relegation system it's the only thing that will grab the attention of owners.