On Sunday, despite a win and a 10-6 final regular season record, the New York Giants were eliminated from playoff contention. As I discussed in a December 21st post, in Week 15 the Giants blew a 21-point lead with under eight minutes to go against the Eagles—a game that saw them go from likely division champs to being on the outside of the playoff picture. And as it turned out, that loss (along with a loss the following week at Green Bay) did enough damage to keep them out of the postseason.
The Giants 2010 collapse was complete. It was quick, but it was a collapse nonetheless. It also continued a streak of four straight years where one of my favorite teams choked away a season. More specifically, it is now four years in a row where either the Mets or Giants have fallen apart. My other two favorite pro teams, the Knicks and Rangers, have not been good enough in recent years to be in position to barf up their seasons.
The Mets got the streak going in 2007 in a major way. The details aren’t important…well, yes they are, but I just don’t want to go back to that dark, cold, lonely place right now. It was arguably the worst end-of-season collapse in Major League Baseball history; that’s all that needs to be said. Characterizing their 2008 finish as a collapse might be too harsh, but let’s just say they missed out on a golden opportunity to reach the postseason. They played a must-win game in the last one ever played at Shea Stadium on September 28th, 2008, losing to the Marlins. Shea went out on a very sour note. Since then the Mets have had two lousy seasons, leaving no chance to blow any good fortune.
The Giants grabbed the baton in 2009, starting 5-0 and finishing just 8-8 and missing the playoffs. There was a major parallel between the end of the 2008 Mets season and the end of the 2009 Giants season: The Giants lost their final game ever at Giants Stadium and were eliminated from the postseason that day. The real kick to the groin was that they were blown out 41-9 by a mediocre Carolina Panthers team.
And then we have the 2010 Giants. It might not seem fair to be critical of a 10-6 team, one that I personally thought would be lucky to even win nine games. But the fact is that once a team raises the bar to a certain level, you expect more. The Giants again raised the bar to the point where they were 6-2, and later 9-4 and in position to win the NFC East.
Of course during this four year run of frustration I experienced the jubilation of the Giants winning Super Bowl 42 against New England. Yet I still need to wipe the painful tears off the keyboard as I type up this lament. How spoiled am I?
What if I were a Cleveland fan? The Browns have never won a Super Bowl, the Indians’ last title was in 1948, and the Cavs have never won a title…not to mention LeBron James’ “Decision” over the summer.
Or I could have been a Kansas City fan. How about Buffalo? Atlanta? These cities have had some very successful teams, but very few championships recently.
Even within the city where my favorite teams play I could have chosen the futility of the Jets and Islanders over the Giants and Rangers. The Nets are in the New York metro area; imagine if I picked them over the Knicks!
When I chose the Mets instead of the Yankees at the age of four I made a horrendous decision. The Yankees have won five World Series in my lifetime. The Mets have won one. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be a Mets fan, even if they never win another championship. But let’s be honest, if I were four years old now and just getting into baseball, why the hell would I choose the Mets over the Yankees?
But the bottom line is that my teams have won a total of five championships in my lifetime, and that’s no small feat. Despite my bitterness and jealousy towards my friends, wife, and in-laws from Philadelphia, their teams have only won two championships during that time.
For most sports fans, you’re never fully satisfied unless your team wins the whole thing. And the sad truth is that nearly every year (make that every year if you’re in Cleveland) you’ll end up disappointed. In places like Cleveland and Kansas City that disappointment blurs into apathy most years. In my case, with the Mets and Giants, disappointment manifests itself in sleepless nights and shocking disbelief.
As much as these collapses by the Mets and Giants hurt, I’ll take this pain over apathy any day. At least I can usually go into seasons most years believing my teams have a chance to be successful. I can’t fathom knowing, on a yearly basis, that my teams will be among the worst in their leagues before their seasons even start.
If my teams are ever consistently so bad that it doesn’t even bother me anymore, it might be time to stop watching.