Wednesday was the one-month anniversary of the end of the Houston Texans season. During that time, I've been watching the playoffs, recapping the season and trying to think about free agency and the draft—all the while thinking, "wait 'til next year."
Wait 'til next year.
While that line may be a thorn in the sides of most fans and a sign of another lost season, Texans fans should feel a little lucky to say it.
There's been a lot of talk lately about the Vikings painful loss in the NFC Championship Game, and how they are among the most tortured fan bases in sports.
Bill Simmons wrote a piece trying to identify the most tortured fan bases and even identified the 15 most tortured.
In typical fashion, the Texans were overlooked.
Look, I'm not here to beg for pity or to look for sympathy, but just to set the record straight.
Simmons' basis for his ranking of tortured fan bases was 35 years without a drought, no relocation, a couple of gut-wrenching losses, cold weather, a specific blend of pessimism and optimism, empathy from other fan bases and most importantly, wrong.
The faults in this qualification system is what ultimately spurned the need for this article. I didn't want to, but after nearly two weeks of hearing about the torture of Vikings fans, I was left no choice.
See, according to Simmons, if your city has seen success in another sport or lacks in media coverage, you are disqualified (a requirement that he violates by naming the Cubs the most tortured franchise despite the fact that they enjoyed the services of Michael Jordan for most of the '90s—I know, I was there).
If misery loves company, wouldn't it stand to reason that it is preferable to be miserable in the company of others than to be alone and depressed?
I would even argue that the Cubs can attract such a large national fan base because people enjoy the notion of sharing their suffering with others.
Therefore, a truly tortured fan base is one which other fans look at and say, "Wow, I want no part of that."
When you boil it down, though, the overriding premise in Simmons' argument is that it is worse to come close to a championship and lose than it is to never have come close.
Looking back at Astros history, I would rather relive 100 seasons like 2005, where we couldn't even win one stupid game in our first-ever World Series appearance—and in which said appearance is overshadowed by the emotional groin kick delivered by Albert Pujols—than another season lost by the All-Star break.
Why? Because I knew in 2005 that at least we had enjoyed some success and by getting close, there was at least hope that some day, it could really happen to us.
See, hope is the great equalizer.
Hope gives us reason to watch, a reason not to give up.
To quote Andy Dufresne, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
Wait 'til next year?
If you really want to tear the soul out of a sports fan, take away their ability to even say that.
Take away their hope.
Not convinced? Try this litmus test. Go the the nearest Viking fan right now, while the pain is still fresh, and ask them if they would switch place with the Lions. Then ask a fan of the Lions the same question, and see who's more willing to trade.
Want a truer test? Try the same experiment with a Lions fan and a Sonics fan.
When Bud Adams decided that the millions of dollars taxpayers had just laid out for renovations to the Astrodome wasn't enough and moved the team to Tennessee, what he took was more than just our beloved Oilers. He took away our hope.
Suddenly, there was no "wait 'til next year."
As fans, we went to sleep knowing there was no chance for redemption of past failures. Sure our franchise had had its share of pain—hell, we were the butt end of the greatest sports memory of a fan base that Simmons rates as the No. 3 most tortured—but we loved them.
We knew that if we just stayed loyal to our team, some day we would be rewarded. Ultimately, that's the thing that keeps these "tortured" fan bases around—hope.
Then came Nov. 16, 1995, when Adams announced that he was moving the team to Nashville—an announcement that hurt more than Pujols' home run, the Bills' comeback and any other painful loss multiplied by a thousand.
It's a pain that can only be known by fans who have been dealt similar blows.
It's why Oilers fans were so empathetic to Sonic fans recently.
Buckner's blunder? Whatever.
Favre's pick? Yawn.
Norwood's missed field goal? At least you were there.
Ever hear the line, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?" That's true in sports, too.
No feeling in the history of sports is worse than the loss of that hope.
Sure, the pain has been dampened slightly by the creation of the Texans, but as anyone who has known such heartbreak can tell you, the wound will never fully heal.
If you want to talk about painful losses, the 2009 season alone was an embarrassment of riches for the Texans—especially when you consider the fact that a win in any one of those would have meant a playoff berth.
But deep down inside, beneath our complaints, all Texans fans know that the mere fact that we can look towards next year is reason enough to be hopeful.
We've been given a second chance, and no matter how dim things may be, I will always remember that it could be worse.
Wait 'til next year?