My love of sports has been a life long affair, that has often been more about failure than success. I have rooted for, and been faithful to, some of the worst performing sports persons and teams in history. This devotion goes all the way back to my childhood years, and my tenure as a fan of, "Dem Bums," the infamous Brooklyn Dodgers.
The first World Series that I can remember seeing on television, was between the Dodgers and those "Darth Vader," New York Yankees. I was so young, that I can't remember which series it was, or for that matter, which team won.
I do remember, that my favorite player in those games was the legendary Dodger catcher, Roy Campanella. I knew nothing about the integration of baseball by players like Roy and his teammate, Jackie Robinson. I just liked watching how he played the game, and I became a fan of "Dem Bums."
For many years, the Dodgers would have a tremendous regular season, only to find ways to lose in the World Series, to their cross-town New York rivals. That did not deter their fans. They remained faithful, and their catch phrase was always, "wait till next year."
My own devotion to several sports teams and persons over the past few decades is frighteningly similar to that of those Brooklyn fans. I seem to love my own collection of "lovable losers."
At the very top of my list is my beloved Kansas City Chiefs. I have been a faithful fan since I was a kid, and the Chiefs moved to Kansas City in 1963. I am still a season ticket holder, and plan to be so as long as I am able.
My Chiefs had their glory days. I was still in high school, when we went to the first Super Bowl in January 1967, and was in college when they won their only Super Bowl in 1970.
I had no idea in 1970 that my Chiefs would not return to a Super Bowl. Even now, it is hard for me to comprehend, all these years of frustration. Despite all this lack of performance, I remain like the old Brooklyn fans, "waiting until next year!"
The Kansas City Royals have been the other franchise from our neighbor to the north that have let me down, season after season. After our glory years of the late '70s, and our only World Series win in 1985, they have been distant, "also rans."
They are in spring training, in Arizona right now, preparing for the upcoming season. Once again, my hopes are high that this is the year of our return to success.
There was an old comedy movie about baseball by the title, "It Happens Every Spring." That's the way I am about the Royals. I know in my mind, that I am not being rational about their chances, but each spring, I fantasize, that this is the year.
All this inadequacy by my teams each year should probably be a detriment to my soul. Loving a loser, season after season, just doesn't seem quite right, but as the saying goes, "there's more here than meets the eye."
You see, I don't feel sorry for myself or my teams. I have many friends, who are fans of only "winners." I consider myself luckier than them.
It's easy to be a fan of a team or franchise that wins most of the time. Everyone likes a winner. It's more difficult to love and root for a perennial losing team, season after season.
Life is a lot like being a fan of a team. When a person has their family, their health, their finances, and many other aspects of their lives in order, it's effortless to be satisfied and happy.
But life is not like that for most of us. We all know there are almost always troubles ahead. Therein is the real test of a person. In the horse racing world, they have a saying, that a certain horse is only good on a "dry track."
The meaning is simple. Even the fastest of horses can fail when the conditions for the race are difficult. So it is for all of us. The measure of who we are is defined by how we deal with adversity.
At a recent induction to the NHS Athletic Wall of Fame, the honoree, former NHS athlete, Matt Ketterman, recited this famous speech -- "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself on a worthy cause; who at the best in the end knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
--Theodore Roosevelt, "The Man in the Arena"
So here's to all you dry track fans. You know who you are. You're fans of the Webb City Cardinals, the New York Yankees, the Kansas Jayhawks, and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Yes, I know your teams are good. Yes, I know it's probably wishful thinking on my part, to believe that this is the year my "lovable losers" will prevail, but there is one thing that you will never be able to say. You will never love your winners any more than I love my own, "dem bums!"