It’s better to win than to lose.
Ask any sports fan — or just any human — and they would tell you the same thing. But what about when the choice becomes slightly more complicated?
ESPN introduced a poll last week asking fans which college football program they would rather support: Auburn or Virginia Tech.
Three years ago, Auburn was 14-0 and at the top of the football world.
It was the SEC champion, national champion and its star quarterback Cam Newton was awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Now the Tigers are 3-9, winless in the SEC, and the previously revered head coach Gene Chizik is on the way out. Since 2007 — eliminating the great 2010 and horrendous 2012 — the Tigers are 30-21, giving true meaning to the term mediocrity.
And then there are the Hokies. In the past 18 years they have won seven conference championships, including three in the past five years. Until this year, they held the nation’s longest record of consecutive 10-plus win seasons. The team has played in 20 straight bowl games, but just a single National Championship — a loss to Florida State in 1999.
It comes down to this. Would you prefer to root for a team that is almost always average, but has recently acquired a national championship? Or would you choose a program that is always good, perhaps the most consistent team in the past decade, but has never climbed to the top of the mountain?
At first the decision was clear, who wants to cheer for common? Maybe I have an intrinsic bias as a Tech student, but the success the Hokies have experienced of late has been more than enough to keep the fans happy. Last year, I went to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. It was a losing effort, yes, but I had an experience Tiger fans won’t be able to have for quite some time.
This year has been the worst for the Hokies in recent history, and they are still going bowling. The Hokies fan has had the luxury of becoming so spoiled that even in the most down of years, they experience postseason football.
I thought I would never want to give this up — this recurrent success — for a single dream season to be followed by countless nightmarish ones.
But then I remembered something; something that I occasionally wished to forget. I am a St. Louis Rams fan, and a loyal one at that. And the more I think of it, the more I realize I’m just like those fans down in Auburn.
A decade ago the Rams were the “greatest show on turf.” Mike Martz, Kurt Warner, Issac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt — the names were endless and the success seemed likewise.
But clearly it was not.
Since 2005, the Rams have been a miserable 15-55, yet I have remained loyal. I’ve done so because I experienced something great all those years ago. And although the team struggles today, and will likely struggle tomorrow, one day, the franchise will return to greatness. When it does, the feeling of ecstasy will be that much greater having remained true through so many years of awful football.