I don’t know why, but it seems the universe is punishing me.
Well, the sports universe is.
I came to this conclusion thinking back to 2016. Virginia Tech football had a new coach in Justin Fuente and the Hokies went 10-4, including a big comeback at South Bend to beat Notre Dame, and an even bigger comeback in a bowl game against Arkansas. VT was down 24-0 at halftime and still won.
This new guy could be OK, I thought.
That same year the Washington Redskins were coming off a 9-7 year where they made the playoffs and Kirk Cousins had everybody saying “you like that?” There was a Sunday night in late November where Cousins threw for 375 yards and Washington kicked Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers all over the field.
Things were coming together for this favorite team too.
In baseball, we all complained and moaned about the Washington Nationals, who went 95-67 that year, and 97-65 the next, but lost in the NLDS 3 games to 2 both years. Anything less than a World Series those years was considered a disappointment. Not winning at least 90 games in a season was a disaster.
Two years later, the team did not disappoint anyone and won the World Series against Houston.
In hockey, the Capitals went 55-19 and us DC sports fans complained about them too because they were eliminated in the second round – again – by the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps responded the next season by only going 49-26, but finally got past the Penguins in the playoffs and won the Stanley Cup.
Good coach, good team, maybe a dynasty in the making, I thought.
These were four good teams having good seasons, and as a fan of all four, it meant that there was no time of the year when I didn’t have a favorite team playing and being in a position to give me hope they could challenge for a championship. If you’re a sports fan, that’s important, because unless you’re a purist of that particular sport, you don’t watch just to see teams play.
You watch to see your team win.
Fast forward to today. 2016 was a high-water mark for Virginia Tech football, as they got worse each year and fired their coach last November. It was so bad, they didn’t even wait until the season ended. They now have a new coach and will start all over again.
That hockey team with the good coach who the players liked and respected? Barry Trotz was not re-signed and the Caps have not won 49 games in a season since. Instead, they have been bumped out of the playoffs in the first round for four straight seasons, and they’ve had two different coaches during that time.
Some are even wondering why a change wasn’t made at the end of last season and a 3rd coach wasn’t hired.
The Washington Redskins aren’t even the Redskins any more. Cousins and a lot of players that night against Green Bay are gone, and the newly named Commanders haven’t had a winning season since that 2016 season.
The Nationals today completed the grand slam of falling from the top of the mountain. Christmas of 2019, my home was filled with jerseys, shirts, ornaments, mugs and other memorabilia of about a dozen players who made that year so enjoyable in winning a World Series.
With Juan Soto traded today, they’re all gone now too. Some will argue they got great young talent in return, but where hope was only a pitching wedge away at the start of each season, the Nationals have now put themselves in a situation where hope is two drivers and a 3-wood away.
The days of complaining about 97-win seasons are over. The days of hoping for an 81-win season could be years off in the future.
So if your team is winning these days, don’t take it for granted. Rejoice in it. Celebrate it. Life is so much more fun if you’re a sports fan and your teams are doing well. I know.
Just like I now know that sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got…until it's gone.