The Center for the Study of Sport and Leisure in Society

The end of nightmares

In Fandom, NASCAR, Soccer on July 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm

by Rwany Sibaja

363 and 1462. Two numbers that some fans in Argentina and the United States knew all too well.

Trezeguet and River celebrate

For fans of River Plate, one of the major soccer clubs in the world and Argentina, 363 days of playing in the “Nacional B” division was unthinkable. It was bad enough that the club was relegated for the first time in its 111-year history last July, but the possibility of being unable to ascend back to the first division was too much. How could a club that won 34 national championships struggle to defeat teams playing in stadiums that looked more like practice facilities? Yet, here was River Plate suffering through a 0-0 tie against Almirante Brown in front of 60,000 of their own fans who were on pins and needles. Outside the stadium, irate fans clashed with the police during the first half of the match. Inside the “Monumental” a collective sense of disbelief created a tense situation by halftime, with many fans holding back tears.  In a “nightmare” season, many River fans wondered what they did to deserve such punishment…despite the fact that they entered the final day of the season tied for first place.

1462 days also seemed like a long nightmare for fans of “Junior Nation”.

88 team wins at Michigan It had been four years since NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.—clearly his sport’s most popular star—had won a race on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. Critics wondered if he was more hype than talent, a driver whose popularity largely resulted from the almost universal love reserved for his late father. After all, if he could not win with the money and resources of Hendrick Motorsports, then where else could he turn to for success? Lost in this narrative is that the 88 team has been the most consistent in the Sprint Cup Series this year and was 2nd in the overall standings.

But, was it truly a nightmare for River Plate and the #88 team? In both cases, this term often appeared in press coverage to describe what amounts to a relatively small period of futility. Both entities have been wildly successful in the past (although Dale Jr.’s success predated his time at Hendrick Motorsports), are economically successful and receive extensive attention from journalists, and were enjoying a good 2012 season.

Instead, the term “nightmare” should be seen as a reflection of how passionate fan bases can become, particularly if they are used to success. Just ask any Lakers fan before Phil Jackson first became the team’s head coach, or any Celtics fans before Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in 2007. These legendary NBA squads were so used to success that their fan bases struggled with regular years of mediocrity. Teams like the Washington Wizards, or Detroit Lions, usually don’t talk about their seasons in such dramatic terms. For them, bad seasons are more common than not and a successful year is a pleasant surprise.

During the last Sundays in June, River Plate finally broke through and ascended back to the top flight of Argentine fútbol, while in Michigan Dale Jr. spun the wheels of the #88 and headed to victory lane. So, while River Plate fans and Junior Nation rejoice at the end of a short period of futility, they should take time to console those of us whose nightmares have run for a very long time.

10,031 and 14,046.

That’s how many days it’s been since the Miami Dolphins last played in, and won, a Super Bowl.

Dolphins fans lament their losing season

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