Why it’s painful being an area sports fan/the American team dynamic

Now, admittedly, I’m not a big fan of team sports as a whole. I don’t follow basketball at all, I’m spotty on football, and baseball is semi-regular. That’s because I couldn’t watch a team game of anything if it didn’t involve a team that was relative to me. And since I live in the area around Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, it’s quite honestly…well…brutal, excruciating, and agonizing, just to reel off a few adjectives. It’s no real secret that DC and Maryland teams are very lackluster as of late. Now, when you think about the history of sports in my area, there are indeed many positives to reflect on. The Washington Wizards weren’t always the sub-par basketball team that they’re known for being today. The Wizards, before they were festooned with their ridiculously idiotic Harry Potter-esque moniker, were once the Washington Bullets, who boasted 7 Division titles, 4 Conference titles, and the 1978 NBA Championship, and were a force to be reckoned with. In baseball, the Baltimore Orioles had three World Series titles, including the nothing-short-of-magical 1983 title, where the Orioles triumphed over the Philadelphia Phillies with what seemed to be a baseball dream team. There were also players like MVP Rick Dempsey, Ken Singleton, and Hall of Famers Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, and Cal Ripken, alongside a feared pitching staff with Storm Davis, Mike Flanagan, and Tippy Martinez. The Washington Redskins experienced success under Joe Gibbs, the Baltimore Ravens went to with their Championship in 2001, and for a time, sports in this area were something to talk about.

So what the hell happened since then? While the Ravens have remained as a top contender in the NFL, the Redskins have sunken into a black hole of perpetual inability to make the playoffs, the Orioles have suffered from a horrible pitching staff thanks in part to the team’s MROS (mentally retarded owner’s syndrome), and the only teams that are even worth their stuff these days are the DC United and the Washington Capitals, who are undoubtedly solid teams, but soccer (real football for all of the internationals) and hockey just pale in comparison to the big three sports in this area. One would also note that I’m not talking about the Washington Nationals because, let’s face it, it’s not our team. The Nationals are just the Montreal Expos repackaged, and if anyone actually remembered the Expos, they would remember that they…well, they sucked in every metaphorical way. Cheering for the Nationals feels like trying to start the wave in the stands of a curling event. It doesn’t sense, nor should it ever.

But still, in its current state, there’s really not a whole lot to cheer for. I’m not the type that likes team loyalty as America defines it. The classic cliche is that it’s a team effort, and that if something goes wrong, it’s the entire team that takes responsibility. Of course, we all know that is absolutely untrue. If it were true, entire teams would be getting cut or traded for better prospects. For about 18 years, Bill Buckner was crucified for letting the World Series-winning ball roll between his legs, allowing the Mets to prolong the Curse of the Bambino. Mercifully, the Sox went on to win the 2004 World Series, but Buckner still does earn quite a few spiteful looks whenever his name is mentioned. And even today, I can’t count the amount of times whenever something goes wrong in a Ravens game, Joe Flacco gets blamed for it. Granted, he does make errors, but he’s not always the one dropping the ball. And with athletes jumping ship for whoever is the highest bidder in any sport, it’s a wonder we even think of a team dynamic existing in America at all.

In Japan, loyalty is of the utmost importance in baseball. Trading rarely occurs, if ever, and that’s because the emphasis of the game is on the sport and on the team jelling as a team – not on the merchandise that the team is trying to sell. In America, we pay for the best players not for the greater good of the game, but rather in hopes that in getting the name talent, they’ll make it to the championship, and be able to sell more of their products. There’s no regard for team chemistry in most respects – T.O. and Chad Ochocinco were on the same team and were supposed to be regarded as superpowers, only to lead the team to an abysmal season. The Yankees constantly pay for the most revered names in baseball, but that also leads to a locker room full of egos – Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have even had icy interactions with each other on the field. Now, I should hold my tongue because the players still share a passion for their games. It’s just the corporate side of the game that I despise the most.

Fans love to construct teams based on their fantasy teams – all the players with the best stats all grouped into one must certainly be world beaters, right? What I want to see is a game where the players choose who they want to play with – a modern day Dream Team in lieu of the more statistical definition. They construct their own team based on who they like playing with, structure their own dynamics, and make their plays. It’s the same as it was in grade school, and I think it would be amazing to see a team full of players who want to be around each other. They don’t have to be statistically perfect, as most teams aren’t, but motivation and true spirit comes from a team that knows they can rely on each other.

Who knows? It might breathe life back into the teams around our area, too.

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