There can only be one champion every year. That leaves 29 other teams and fanbases to wonder what went wrong, question their front offices, and ponder what next season will bring. The finality of that last out can be tough on your sports psyche, and I personally feel empty, as if something has been taken from me. This lifeless feeling comes from a place of passion; because we know as fans that winning is the ultimate joy.
The problem with wanting to win so badly in sports is that most of the time your team doesn’t win. We try not to think about it in those terms, but that is the reality of being a fan. The odds are against us to feel that joy, but for some crazy reason, we keep coming back for more. To even have a chance at winning, your team needs to make the postseason. During those seasons when the Yankees don’t win in the postseason, it raises the question, would you rather have the Yankees make the playoffs and get eliminated, or wish they never made the playoffs at all?
We all remember our first sports heartbreak. Mine was the horrific 2004 postseason, one that will make you question why you even became a fan in the first place. It was the type of postseason loss that you know will be held over your team for generations. Looking back, it may have been the ultimate sports loss; an archrival, the comeback, the curse, it all equated to pain. If you asked me to this day if I wish the Yankees never made the postseason in 2004, I would say yes. I may watch sports for the rest of my life and never experience a loss like that again.
It’s easier in hindsight to say after a loss that you wish that your team didn’t make the playoffs. It’s a deflection, a coping mechanism for what you just went through. Even though I just mentioned that in certain extreme situations, like 2004, I would have preferred that the team never made the playoffs, I think that is the wrong mindset to have as a fan. There are iconic Yankees moments during the postseasons in which the Yankees didn’t win a championship. I immediately think of the Mattingly home run, the Boone walk-off, and the two-homer game by Ibañez. I wouldn’t want to miss out on moments like those, even though those seasons didn’t end in championships. Also, we can’t discount the regular season, the chase for the playoffs, and the feelings we get by making the postseason.
Losing isn’t easy, and I’m not attempting to downplay the feelings that fans have following a postseason loss. But we shouldn’t shy away from the challenges of being a fan, it’s a part of the process, and it’s what we sign up for each season. Each postseason is an opportunity to create memories, even if your team doesn’t end up winning. We can be thankful for the number of times the Yankees have been in the postseason, and also annoyed and disappointed when they don’t win.
This question may sound like, “what is your preferred way to lose.” That isn’t exactly the most positive outlook, but it is the reality of the current Yankees situation. We are all waiting for the joy of watching a championship again, and that day will come. For now, let’s enjoy the journey — you’ll appreciate the ending more.