By the

March 22, 2001

Sports are designed to break your heart, whether you be an athlete or a fan. Ultimately, players get old, dynasties crumble and teams continue to choke. But if sports break are supposed to break your heart, then I should be sharing orange hospital jello with Dick Cheney right now.

I root for the Cincinnati Reds, Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Wizards, Georgetown Hoyas, and Cincinnati Bearcats. Yes, it’s a strange mixture of teams, but a not-too-shabby collection if I may say so. I love these teams because I was born in Washington, and my dad was a product of the University of Cincinnati. Yet I grew up in Richmond, Va., home of extra-large Hokie sweatshirts, Richmond Renegades minor-league hockey and Chipper Jones-lovers (Richmond has the Braves’ AAA farm team). So there I was, from age 10, fighting with other kids about Boomer Esiason’s greatness and Pete Rose’s innocence.

In recent years, though, I’ve had to think to myself: “Why do these have to be my teams?!” I’ve seen glory, I’ve seen championships, but I’ve put myself through an inordinate amount of stress along the way. Unlike the Cubs or the Clippers who never have to worry about a thing because of their perpetual awfulness, my teams have an uncanny knack for crumbling after raising expectations higher than Darryl Strawberry on a Colombian vacation. I’m starting to hate it.

Just last year, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats pretty much had the National Championship locked up by early March, boasting the talents of five future NBAers (Yes, Logan and Satterfield count). And then they played St. Louis in the Conference-USA tournament. And Kenyon Martin broke his ankle. And they lost. And they got a two seed. And Tulsa beat ‘em. The National Championship was chilling on K-Mart’s ankle, and then he died.

Everyone knows what happened next:

“Hey Pete, another second round loss, huh? Those thugs deserve it anyway, Cincy hasn’t graduated a player ever! Ha!” My God. This is my life. I’ve been putting up with “Thuggins” taunts and graduation-rate trash ever since Danny Fortson checked out.

The Reds have been just as upsetting over the last few years. Finally, in 1999, they had a winning season with former no-name guys like Pokey Reese and Sean Casey. They were set for a wild-card berth but dropped three to the Brewers to end the season, then had to play the Mets in a playoff for the playoffs. Of course they lost, and I longed for the days of Chris Sabo.

Griffey came the next year, making Reds fans believe the World Series was coming home to Cinergy Field (thank God I won’t have to say “Cinergy” anymore after this year). We rejoiced, then lost some more. I’ve been screwed over a lot as a Reds fan. I remember when I was in fifth grade, one of my conniving friends somehow managed to get a 1955 Mickey Mantle Topps All-Star off of me for a paper-bag full of Reds commons, like Todd Benzinger and Norm Charlton. Those Upper Decks were just so much more glossy …

Danny Snyder’s moneybags brought me hope as a hawg, but, uh, that didn’t really work. And we’ll just ignore what Joe Montana did to the Bengals in the ‘80s. Twice.

But I shouldn’t complain too much. The Bearcats are one of the five winningest programs of the last decade, the Reds are usually over .500, the Skins have a bunch of Super Bowls and the Hoyas are out in Disneyland right now. Even if they like to get me riled up from time to time, my teams do more than any franchise from Milwaukee and Kansas City ever will.

It would still be nice if Georgetown or Cincinnati weaseled their way into Minneapolis. I want Casey Jacobsen to play as ugly as he looks. I want Maryland fans to shut up and realize that they will never win a thing with a turtle as their mascot. I want to pull it out in the end, just for once.

But if not, Opening Day is just around the corner, and the magnificent cycle will start all over again, for better or for worse. Better would be nice, though.

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