Yep, today was a bad day to be a Bronco fan. I remember last year while watching the Titans vs Patriots game wondering what it would be like to be a Titans fan watching that. Depressing to find out! It also brings to mind an experience I had when I was 12 and playing baseball.
Now, when I was 12 I wasn't the greatest baseball player, but that really isn't relevant to this topic. I was however, good enough to care, and to the bone, a team player. My team didn't seem like the greatest team but our town had a history of winning state championships so we were expected to be winners in any case. Expectations can be dangerous things. Yep, this is another story about losers that won.
We started off the regular season with a game vs our in town rivals. The game was back and forth up until the bottom of the 7th inning. Up 12-9 (I know, right?) we had a good pitcher on the mound and speaking for myself, we were playing like winners. As the lead-off hitter I had as of yet failed to reach base and in the top of the inning I had walked to get on first--which was kind of my thing--then stolen second and third on two pitches. From there it was only a matter of time before I reached home and sure enough I did on a dinky fly-ball into the outfield. Nobody else managed to do much however and the side was retired shortly thereafter. Our best pitcher, "Scott", strut to the mound hoping to put the finishing touches on a game well played. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves because we had entered the game feeling jealous of all the star players the other team's coach had managed to snag in the town's "draft" at the beginning of the year.
It quickly became clear that we weren't going to hold our lead without a fight, first off, we noticed that their entire team had put their rally caps on. As everyone knows, when the entire team puts the rally caps on bad things are going to happen to whoever opposes the almighty rally cap. Sure enough their first batter in the 7th walked out and blasted the first pitch deep into the outfield and we were lucky he had to slow up on third. He reach home easily on the next pitch which was wild. While Scott managed to redeem himself a bit by striking out the next two batters he walked two with two outs which setup my childhood nemesis Tyler on the plate. In typical Tyler fashion he blasted the ball down the third base line easily scoring the first runner. The second runner's third base coach told him to hold up there and he either didn't see him or ignored him as he rounded third headed towards home. The relay from short looked like it was going to be in time. The catcher caught the ball turned to tag the runner just as he was sliding and seemed to tag him out. The umpire however called him safe making it a tie game with a runner on third with two outs. Shaken, Scott threw his next pitch in the dirt which sent Tyler sprinting towards home. The catcher got after the ball and Scott did a good job getting to home to cover the base. I truly don't know now whether or not Tyler was safe or out. I do know that at the time we all certainly believed, along with all of our parents that he was out along with the previous runner at the plate. The ump however, ruled him safe thus "robbing" us of our victory (at that age we only played 7 inning games).
Following the game we spent the week feeling pretty good about ourselves. We figured that if it weren't for that stupid umpire we would have of course won. We joked about how dumb that ump was and how we had deserved to win. Our next game was against a city which never seemed to have a good team and we had it from Scott's cousin that they were really bad that we were going to beat them easily.
Well, at this point, I am going to speed things up a bit. Honestly, I don't remember much about that next game, probably repressed it along with my first attempt at asking a girl out (shudders). What I do remember is the final score. We lost that next game 27-3. In baseball terms that is a bad loss. That is the worst loss that I have ever been a part of in any sport. That is the kind of loss that you just can't live down. That loss haunted us for the rest of the season. For the remainder of the year, no matter that we didn't lose another game, we felt like losers because of those two games.
That game also rallied the team like no game could have. We took nothing for granted. We felt lucky every time we managed to get on base, every time we managed to catch a ball, and every time we managed to see the game end with us on top of the scoring column. That game propelled us down a winning streak that spanned the rest of the season and into the championship game against the very same team that drubbed us.
We expected that unless we played better than we had ever played that we would lose. We played well, and won by one run.
Sometimes the worst thing in the world is expecting to win. Whatever happens with the Broncos this year, sometimes adversity really is what the team needs. Maybe a coach that has always won needs to find himself questioning everything that he has ever done. Maybe everyone needs to realize, deep down into their soul that they have to fight as hard as they can, just to hold onto their job, and that in all likelihood it just ain't good enough.