The Strange Pain Only A Football Fan Will Understand
My team is on top of the table this week. That's good, right? Well, here's the thing...
You won't believe this, but it's the first time that my team has ever topped the table. As in, literally the first time ever. And I don't know if I'm emotionally equipped for this.
The team I support is the Wests Tigers in the NRL, who are in their 20th year of existence since the Wests Magpies and Balmain Tigers merged. Somehow, the Tigers won a premiership in 2005. But even that year, they never came close to topping the ladder, finishing the regular season in fourth place.
That impossible 2005 run was never going to happen until it did. But this year -- with the team sitting right there like the proverbial cherry-on-top -- it's making me feel something I've never felt before.
When you support a good team, you have high expectations every season. Good for you.
We fans of dud teams don't. We know our teams will probably suck, and we're strangely at peace with that. It's almost comforting, knowing that we won't be let down.
Not that we don't hope and dream. Of course we do. The Tigers haven't played finals since 2011 -- and that's in a competition where eight of the 16 teams play finals, and where the salary cap should guarantee equal chances to all.
Surely it's only a matter of time before we come good, we tell ourselves, not really believing it but hoping nonetheless.
If we could just keep our best players and recruit one or two more in key positions, everything would be fine, we tell ourselves, knowing that our best players walk out every year and the available talent always seems to drift off to the same two or three rival clubs.
We lie and tell truths to ourselves in equal amount. We play a poker game between the head and the heart, the heart trying to bluff the head. But the head calls the bluff and turns over the winning hand time after time after time.
And in the end, all that remains is reality, a state best represented by the ladder -- upon which we usually occupy a low rung.
And then one day you wake up and it's the end of around two in 2019 and OK, OK, let's not get too excited because the season is young, but there we are, right on top of the ladder, for the first time ever.
And this week, we're playing the bottom team. And as mentioned, this now entails expectations.
If you follow a good team in any sport, you'll never understand. But we fans of bad teams barely know this feeling that we really should win this match. It is as foreign as having a million dollars under the bed and a Ferrari in the garage.
Oh, it's exciting. But it is also deeply stressful. It's an enjoyable stress, if that makes any sense, but it's still stress. You look at the teams on paper and you know that we really, really shouldn't lose this week. It's quite a burden to carry.
To be honest, I don't know how you fans of perennially good teams do it. I don't know if I like feeling this way or not. Seeing your team on top feels good but bad, energising yet energy-sapping.
It's the strangest I've felt in a long time and, Tigers fans, I bet you're feel exactly the same way.