By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
What does it mean to be a fan?
This may seem like a silly question, on the surface.
But recently, I began to pondering the meaning of "fan" in a deeper context, one that goes beyond simply reading scores in the newspaper or watching "Sportscenter."
The essence of fandom has hit me head-on twice in the past 18 months.
The first came in 2003. It is a memory that has been particularly prominent in the last week with the beginning of the Major League Baseball season.
You see, I grew up a fan of the Chicago Cubs.
I remember spending summer days escaping the Arizona heat with my dad by watching a WGN broadcast of the Cubbies, complete with commentary from the late, great Harry Caray.
The Grand Canyon State was still nearly a decade away from having its own professional baseball squad, so, thanks to cable television, the Cubs became my hometown team.
And ever since, I've been one of the blue-and-red masses who every spring promises that this will be that elusive "next year." And every Cubs fan knows what that phrase means.
2003 was supposed to be that "next year." All the pieces were in place for the Curse of the Goat to finally be lifted, for the Windy City's north side to finally have reason to celebrate.
The Cubs were one game away from taking that march to the World Series, their first such since 1908.
But Chicago's three-games-to-one lead over the Florida Marlins collapsed, and when it did, I felt my spirit go with it.
As Florida forced the final out at Wrigley Field in game seven, I felt sick. I thought earlier that week I was witnessing history, and I was - just not the kind I was hoping.
The makers of Xanax could have made a fortune of me that ensuing month, as I was utterly and undeniably depressed.
Over a sport, played by men who make millions of dollars, men I will likely never meet in anything more than fleeting moments.
I was ready to swear off sports as nothing more than a casual observer who happened to write about them every once in awhile.
But alas, it didn't happen.
And that sinking feeling returned three weeks ago.
Much like Cubs baseball, Arizona basketball is something that was ingrained in me long ago in my early youth.
I've followed the Wildcats all the way from the days of Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr to the era of Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye, and everything in between.
Every day since Duke stole Arizona's rightful national championship one fateful night in 2001, I've counted the days until the Wildcats would again reach the Final Four and finally reclaim what was theirs.
But on March 26, I got that same feeling I had in October 2003. I was seeing history in the making - and it wasn't pretty.
I didn't watch any more of the NCAA Tournament, and as you might guess, I'm still bitter, as I know many of you around campus are.
For those you of you who understand this gibberish, you know exactly what I mean.
You can say you will swear off sports because of the emotions they cause, but you know you just cannot do it.
That's because for every chasm along the way, sports have so many peaks; high points that remind us why we are fans.
These are moments we will always remember: the first time you saw Stoudamire bury an improbable jumper to defeat an opponent, or the time you sat through a hurricane to see an underdog Arizona football team take a high-ranked opponent to the brink.
What does it mean to be a fan? It means being front and center for moments that transcend day-to-day life.