Your Team has the game in hand, and then it all falls apart...
The third and fourth quarter of the Utah Jazz victory over the New Orleans Hornets, was a quarter of joy followed by a quarter of sheer dread. The Utah Jazz put the hammer down on the Hornets, in New Orleans, in the third quarter yesterday. Paul Millsap ending the quarter with a steal and a lay-up was the high water point of the night for the Jazz. You could put this game in the refrigerator and lock the door. Then it started... turnovers, missed shots, poor defense, and the Hornets started to make their run. The Jazz had their starters on the court, and the second unit made them look like they were walking in quick sand. They couldn't do anything for the first six minutes.
This situation might not have seemed so bad, except for the national championship game the night before. The Memphis Tigers had that game won. They had put away the Jay-Hawks with two minutes left in the game. Then it started... the officials review Rose's three and make it a two, Dorsey fouls out of the game on a touch foul, Kansas steals the inbounds pass and hits a three making it a four point game, and the free-throw shooting went ice cold. There was a huge momentum shift, and the Memphis sports fans were taken on a terrible ride of a melt down. Sure the Jay-Hawks made the three to send it to overtime and they played an excellent game in that overtime, but they didn't win that game, Memphis lost.
The Jazz had enough toughness to play some hard-nosed defense(which was great to see out of the Jazz because that is the missing piece for them to make a run in the playoffs) and made some key buckets to manage to win by double digits; however, the threat of the melt down was there and it scared the snot out of Jazz fans everywhere.
What is it about the "Melt Down" that kills sports fans? It is the fact that your team is close, so close, to achieving victory. I don't care who you are, if you are a fan of a team and you team is about to win, you are celebrating that victory in your head before it happens. You can see the writing on the wall, even if you don't vocalize it you still see it, the writing that says we are going to win this game. You, as a sports fan, are so happy about the victory that the defeat is that much harder to swallow.
There are different degrees of sports "Melt Downs." For example if the Jazz were to melt down last night and drop the game to the Hornets, it would hurt. It would be a frustrating loss that could affect the remaining part of the season. Yet, at the same time there would still be games left in the season, so the bitterness of the loss would be thick but not overwhelming. At the same time if you placed a sub .500 team in the place of the Hornets, and the Jazz were to lose, then the sting wouldn't be so bad. Of course it would be embarrassing to drop a game like that to an inferior team(especially considering that the Jazz have done that twice this season back-to-back, against Atlanta and Charlotte). Yet, the game was just one of a long season and you as a sports fan can move on from it.
Who your teams melts down to also makes a difference. The BYU vs Utah football games have proven that. If Utah loses on a last second pass in the end zone against San Diego State, it hurts. If that same pass came from John Beck to Harline, or Hall to Collie...it is a major melt down. The added sting of the rivalry is salt in your fandom's wounds. This is also one of the factors that made the Yankees melt down in the ALCS to the Red Sox, after being up 3-0 in the series, is arguably the greatest melt down ever. The melt down happened to a team the other team hates. For Yankee fans, if the melt down happened with another team it would still be hard to deal with, but having it happen to the Red Soxs...OUCH!
When the melt down happens plays a key role in the level of bitterness. The Mets breaking down at the end of the season, to miss the playoffs was bitter indeed. The length of the season of the MLB season added to the heartbreak of that melt down. The Major League regular season is the greatest marathon season in all of sports. For the Mets to be on top of the division for the entire season, and then lose the division on the last day of the season...that is what really kills you if you are a Mets fan(which I am by the way). The length also made it seem like a slow motion train crash, you could see it happening but you couldn't do anything about it or look away. Then as a Met fan you had to live with the shame of the melt down for the entire off season.
The timing of the Yankee melt down to the Red Soxs, in the ALCS, is another reason that it was so bitter to Yankee fans. They were in position to win another World Series, and then they became the butt of every ones jokes for the off season.
Melt downs in championships are the worst! That is what made the Memphis game almost gut wrenching to watch at the end. You had to feel bad for the Memphis Tigers players(unless you are a Jay-Hawk fan). They will have to live with the title of melt down for the rest of their lives. When they show historic comeback/melt downs they will always be on that list. Buckner, Portland vs. Lakers Western Conference Finals, Yankees vs. Boston ALCS, Chirs Webber's timeout in the corner, and the Memphis Tigers. That is not a list that you ever want yourself to be as an athlete. Or is it ever a place you want your team to be if you are a fan of that team/player.
Now there is the close call effect, which is what happened with the Jazz last night. Where your team starts to melt down but somehow holds on. That is one of the better feelings as a sports fan. Why? Your as a sports fan went to the edge, and saw the terrible disaster! You felt the dread and the hate of the loss. Then your team pulls it out! The BYU vs. UCLA bowl game is a great example of that effect. Manumaleuna wouldn't be a house hold name in BYU homes if he didn't save the Cougars season by getting his hand of the game winning field goal attempt by UCLA. That close call buzz was one of the best in sports.
Nothing is greater that victory for a fan, but the feeling you have after seeing your team melt down can haunt fans for years. Just say, "game six," in Utah if you think that Jordan's shot doesn't still sting Jazz fans. The melt down is the worst!
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Your Team has the game in hand, and then it all falls apart...