Following your favorite team, whether it be in college sports, MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, WFTDA, or whatever the case might be, can become a way of life. As such, sports can do both magical and horrible things to its fans. Those blessed with watching a winning team experience the joys and triumphs of gloating. Conversely, those stuck worshipping less fortunate franchises are left to wallow in the hope that things will get better.
If you’re left wondering which you are, well, you must be somewhere in the middle.
No matter where you lie on the wide spectrum of fan success, you deal with that success or failure in different ways. That can manifest itself in optimism, pessimism, or realism. But where should you be? And what are the consequences of picking one path?
Everyone has their own way of dealing. In the past few seasons, I’ve experienced a range throughout the year. It starts with a dose of cautious optimism in the spring. Anything is possible at that point. As the team starts to slide, it turns to realism. By June and July, it’s to full pessimism before some promotions or moves dish it back to optimism for the end of the season.
I assume that many folks go through a pattern like this. With hard times comes pessimism and realism. When things are bright, it’s optimism. Seems logical.
Where should you stand? Well, I think many of us would push against pessimism. If you love a team and want to see them succeed, you would think that it’d be instantly sensible to be optimistic or realistic. Still, it’s easier on the psyche to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised by any better. It’s much easier than being depressed when your team doesn’t reach the pinnacle you hope for.
For example, think of any Yuniesky Betancourt or Rick Ankiel plate appearances. I don’t know about you, but I always went in expecting them to make an out somehow. When they even got on base, let alone hit a home run, I was thrilled. But when their next appearance rolled around, I was back to pessimism. Or is that realism?
That’s the funny thing. The line between pessimism and realism can often get fairly fuzzy. There have been many discussions on Twitter about particularly pessimistic or realistic blog posts around the internet. I’ve been involved in some of these talks, but all of them seemed to blur the line between pessimism and realism. So, when can we be realistic or pessimistic with these Royals?
It’s good to be realistic. The 2012 Royals could be a great team. Or, possibly more realistically, they could be a mediocre team building toward the future by allowing its young players to take a step forward. Argue with that if you will, but it’s hard to believe everyone will repeat their performances. It’s hard to see the starting rotation take a huge leap forward. It’s hard to think that there will be very few meaningful injuries again. And while the team may stick in the middle of the pack, it’s hard to definitively see a postseason berth, even in a weak division.
The realism is that the 2012 Royals are likely to be about where they were this season or within five-ten wins better. That’s not a great shot at a postseason, but it’s the mostly likely outcome from where I stand.
If you want pessimism, think of a worse season than this year. Go back to 2010 or 2009. Imagine Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez both being injured and slumping. Think of a trade for a top-of-the-line starting pitcher that empties the prospect bank and leaves the team scrambling. These are bad things. Unlikely things, but bad. And when you think of those, you can only be impressed when things get better.
See, that’s the danger of being optimistic. Want to believe the Royals make the postseason? Great. Go right ahead and believe what you want to. I admire such fan faith. But remember that such optimism only makes the potential downfall that much more hurtful.
Like I say, I get that optimism. Watching the young Royals at the end of this past season made it easy to be optimistic. They were an exciting team to watch and I could quickly conjure dreams of future success. Success makes being positive so simple.
So, what do you do with the future Royals? I tend to preach cautious optimism, which is somewhere just under full optimism on the full scale of team faith. I’m changing my game for 2012, however. It’s a slight change. Just be realistically positive. Take the state of events as they seemingly should happen and be excited for those events. Expect some possible setbacks and don’t be too upset if they happen. If they don’t, be excited. Be thrilled. Write positive blog posts and tweet happy thoughts.
The key with this team is to pace ourselves. They have a shot at a very bright future. We have a shot at being extremely happy fans. But we can’t jump the gun. Be realistic. Be positive. Don’t get too pessimistic. And always, always keep the faith.
This team can deliver. We just have to give them the time and realistic expectations to get it done.