Balls and Sticks Podcast

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Balls and Sticks

Hope Springs Eternal

Our thoughts on fan policing and bandwagon fans (0:58), our experiences as as female sports fans (9:11), the role of suffering and hope in sports (16:30).

The start to any sports season brings many things. It brings analysts’ predictions, it brings new players, and for most fans, it brings hope. Hope is a funny thing. There’s no science behind it, no data to back up the feeling in your gut, but it’s there. Sometimes the hope is so palpable you can taste it.

Hope is feeling in your gut that maybe the 52 year drought will end tonight. Hope is smelling the first bit of something in the air with the game tied and 3:38 still on the clock. Hope is your hands shaking, just a little, as the clock ticks downward and the score hasn’t changed. Hope is seeing the play where momentum could swing away from you, only to have The Block at 1:52. Hope is The Shot going in, giving your team the lead with 53 seconds left on the clock. Hope is watching the clock hit zero and finally, finally the years of waiting have become worth it.

Hope is the promise of rain in a drought. It’s knowing in your gut that winning is possible, even when no one else believes you. It is this special brand of hope that keeps fans going through years of losing seasons; it’s hope that feeds us when wins won’t.

Like all things, hope must be fed. Though it can survive the leanest of times with nothing but the thought of future victory, even hope can wain when left alone for too long. But hope never dies. Look at Houston, at Cleveland, at Buffalo, at Washington. Hope might feel like a scarce resource sometimes, but it’s always there if you look hard enough.

Stories of other cities, of other teams, keep that fountain of hope going. Who can forget the fairytale World Series win of the 2017 Astros who spent the better part of a decade rebuilding into a team that is arguably still the best in baseball. No one was happier than Bills fans when they made it back to the playoffs in 2018, their first trip in nearly two decades. And just a few months ago, the Washington Capitals finally, finally, won a Stanley Cup, bringing a championship to D.C. for the first time since 1991.  

It’s these stories of triumph that keep fans going through the darkest days. It’s getting the number one draft pick after a season that felt like the end, it’s making a shot at the buzzer to bring the championship home, it’s knowing that when victory finally comes, because you know it will, it will be all the sweeter for the suffering you’ve endured.

Hope is what keeps fans going after crushing defeats. If not for hope, we might not make it back from the extra innings loss in the World Series, from the pain of another season without a winning record, from the suffering of yet another year of rebuilding.

Sometimes in sports, all you have is hope. No matter how bad things get, no matter if your team won back-to-back championships or hasn’t won one in nearly a century, hope keeps us going. It’s the most resilient thing in sports, and even when you feel like all hope is lost, the smallest breeze can light that fire all over again.

Full disclosure, my brand of hope is a special brand. It’s the kind of hope that comes only from years of ‘next year’, of missed shots and strikeouts. My brand of hope is of the Cleveland variety, and that kind doesn’t die easily.

If I can survive a literal lifetime of losses that all lead to the greatest moment in Cleveland sports history in 2016, you can survive your sports pain too. My hope is the kind that really, truly believes that next year is here. That if I believe hard enough, my teams can feel it.

So here’s to hope. May you always have it, no matter how dark the road ahead might seem. Because when there’s hope, you know that next year might really be your year.

Hannah Burry