By Cameron Blair
Part of the reason our nation devotes so much time and money to sports is our hope to be surprised. We want the underdog to come out on top. We want our team to come together, defy the odds and raise the championship trophy at the end of an emotional roller coaster of a season.As the NCAA Tournament winds down, it appears March Madness may go out with a whimper rather than a bang. Of the four Elite Eight games, only one came down to the wire. Davidson’s last second 3-pointer (which should have been taken by star Stephen Curry) fell short, and with that missed shot, my interest in the NCAA Tournament quickly faded.
So there you have it. The 2008 Final Four will not feature a single surprise. There is no underdog team to pull for and each of the four teams (Memphis, UCLA, North Carolina and Kansas) were projected as likely to make the Final Four at the beginning of the season. The sound you hear is me yawning as yet another Final Four will likely not live up to all the hype.
Don’t worry, my faithful readers; I am not completely jaded as a sports fan. There is a new mistress who has entered my sports life this week. Her name is Opening Day.
The 2008 Major League Baseball season is underway and my life for the next seven months will be consumed by my Chicago Cubs, ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and my fantasy baseball team.
Although I am a devout believer in the gospel of fantasy baseball, the real game will have my full allegiance. My love affair with the game began at an early age. My dad owned a trading card shop and I would spend much of my formative years looking at baseball cards and memorizing the stats of such greats as Mark Lemke and Steve Sax.
Since there is not a terribly large market for slow, light-hitting first basemen at the college or pro level, my playing career ended after my senior year of high school.
So I am left with my Cubbies and the occasional pick-up softball game to get me through the rest of my years. My love for the Cubbies goes way back to watching the team play on WGN during afternoons as a kid.
I soon learned what it means to root, root, root for the Cubbies. It means much pain and suffering.
I remember the team losing 14 straight games to open the 1997 season and being out of the playoff hunt two weeks into the season.
I remember the years of watching in agony as Mark Prior and Kerry Wood-who were supposed to save the franchise-saw their careers derailed by countless injuries.
I remember watching my childhood hero Sammy Sosa being rumored to be involved in the use of performance-enhancing drugs and I remember the moment I watched his bat shatter, exposing the cork-filled lumber to the entire country.
I also remember an incident involving a certain man (his name rhymes with Martman) and what took place during the 2003 National League Championship Series. Any further discussion of this incident would cause me to miss next week’s column due to a bout with severe depression.
But I don’t think I would have it any other way. All of the low times I have watched the Cubs go through have made the high times that much sweeter.
Watching Kerry Wood strike out 20 batters in his rookie season remains one of my fondest memories. Watching the 2003 team make an unlikely playoff push behind the arms of Wood and Prior and the bat of Sosa will always be a fond memory of mine.
The 2007 team recovered from a horrible first two months to make a late-season playoff push. Although the Cubs fell in the first round of the playoffs last season, watching them clinch the division title almost made the disappointment worth it.
I will approach this season as any other. I have complete faith in Sweet Lou Piniella, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Derek Lee and the rest of the team. This year will be the season the team comes together, defies the odds and ends their 100-year World Series drought.
What if they fail? I will be back with the same hope in 2009, 2010, 2011 and the rest of my life. And this is why we watch: To see our hopes realized and find the closest fan to you and hug them like they have just brought gas prices down to one dollar per gallon.