Hey, it’s your old pal, Zac Crain. How’s it going? Yeah, I know. I’ve been there.
I’m a bandwagon Rangers fan, admittedly. I didn’t (and don’t) watch a ton of games during the season and, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t even watch all of the playoff games. I didn’t even watch all of the World Series games. So I don’t share your particular pain. I’m disappointed, of course, because I like those guys. But I’m not torn up the way you all are.
But I have been.
I may be a bandwagon Rangers fan, but I am a live-and-die-with-every-game Mavericks fan. And until this summer, that wasn’t the best thing to be, unless you were a masochist. Because not only did it mean your team would come up short every year, it also meant that the two times they came up the shortest — 2006 and 2007 — were paraded in front of you during every postseason, a scab everyone picked at. They weren’t a team after those two years. They were a talking point for announcers and studio teams. A joke.
Even going into this year’s playoffs, no one really believed the Mavericks were capable of much of anything. No one really picked them to beat Portland. Or the Lakers. Or OKC. Maybe a few people thought they could beat the Heat, once they finally got there, but most still felt they would buckle like a belt, like the last time they faced Miami in the Finals.
The last time they faced Miami in the Finals. This is where my pain intersects with yours. It went down a bit differently — the Mavs weren’t whatever is the equivalent of one strike away from winning — but it’s not all different. They were up, as you know, 2-0 in the series, and they were up, as you know, by 13 points fairly deep in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Then they lost, and lost and lost and lost, and that was it. It was right there, and they blew it. They choked.
I happened to be at Game 6, when Miami finally stepped on the Mavericks’ collective necks one last time. That was fun. The train ride home was brutal. The next day was terrible, and so was the next. The summer was awful. The summer is always awful, but this was bad. I don’t remember if it was hot (obviously, it was), but it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d, against all odds and scientific reason, gotten that permanent 72-degree, I-Love-LA weather. Even after that summer, it never felt like it was going to get any better and, for a long time, it didn’t. Even when they were setting a team record for victories the next season (sound familiar?), there was a shadow hanging over everything. Losing to Golden State felt surprisingly unsurprising. Of course the Mavericks lost that way.
But I still believed, somehow. A lot of us did. A lot of people left, couldn’t take it anymore, but a lot of us stayed. And last summer, it paid off. And it was worth all the pain that came before it. And it didn’t take luck or magic or anything like that. It took a good owner and smart people in charge of basketball decisions. We had that. You have that, Rangers fans, in Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan and everyone else. It might not happen next year. But it will happen. So don’t give up. Maybe you feel like a punch line now. But eventually someone will tell another joke.
I am second,