Photo by Fernando Medina/Orlando Magic
Probably the best part about being a fan of a team is living with the belief that it could be “the year” for your guys. I work in an office with 90 SEC graduates. During the fall, I hear a ton of rabble rousing and cocksure predictions about who the most dominant football team is going to be. By far the most commonly used phrase as it relates to fanmanship is “this is our year.”
Without that hopeful sensation — that “future is bright” mentality — sports really lose their zeal. Think about how different you feel opening up the box score of last night’s game when you’re in the hunt for the top seed in the Eastern Conference as opposed to a time when you’re clawing to not finish dead last. The games even have more electricity. The crowd becomes alive. It’s as if everyone collectively tastes that hope and that thrill of possibility — “This could be our year.”
Orlando has shifted from a winning team to a losing team and one that I’ve watched closely for the past three seasons.
When I think back to the two seasons prior to this season, I can’t place a time where that hope was felt. Instead, I remember roughly 700 strenuous, laborious, and maddening days of observing Magic fans wonder what the future would hold, nitpick at bad general management decisions, and complain about the current situation.
In fact, since the 2010-11 season, there has never been a moment where it seemed like it was the Magic’s year, an interesting conundrum considering those were winning seasons with playoff berths. The Magic being a winning team was not all that great because there were so many roadblocks for them to become an elite or championship-caliber team. There was always a sense of being stuck in good but not great territory. Worst of all, there was no escape.
But now that Orlando is a losing team, a new feeling is being embraced. It’s not the same as a daily spark of excitement that this could, in fact, be the year. Instead, it’s a long-form hope, anchored by a good coach and a fresh crop of young players. Something to build on!
For those who have been watching a band of misfits and Dwight Howard labor through mediocrity and uncertainty, this is a nice breath of fresh air. It’s a clean pallet and opens up the endless combinations of possible ways this will all play out over the next five years. You see, that’s the joy of a clean canvas. For fans, they can dream again.
What was once, “Why can Jason Richardson not jump, and why is Hedo Turkoglu so bad from the perimeter, and will Dwight Howard be around in 2015?” is now, “It’s nice to have some cap space in 2014, I wonder if the Magic will draft or trade for their next star, and by the way, I sure am glad they have some nice young pieces to build around.”
It might be difficult to see exactly the reason that watching this team is so much more fulfilling than watching previous teams. In my opinion, as of right now, the sky’s the limit for how good the Magic could be. Last year, and even the year before, that wasn’t the case. Moves were limited, money was limited, and so on. And with those limitations gave a slightly lower ceiling than Magic fans would probably like to admit. 2009 was a magical run, but it was an anomaly and one that was not revisited.
The point is, I was bored watching a team with an Eastern Conference Finals ceiling. Now I’m watching a team with a Finals ceiling, even if that Finals run may not happen until 2017 or so.
This is an all new reason to be excited and an all new feeling of hope. It requires some patience, but so does every growing process. It’s been to have patient hope than immediate hopelessness. For those who only hope for a championship, at least they can start looking forward to that possibility and getting excited about the little things that might someday add up to an enormous victory.
That’s the difference between watching a winning team and losing team. And while it may be difficult to swallow, as the rest of this season plays out, it’s a positive outlook to have.