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I’m a Buffalo Bills fan. I know I’m writing for a basketball blog, and this is the second time I’ve mentioned a different team sport, but if you’ll bear with me for a second, it’ll come together shortly.
The Bills — if you don’t know — haven’t made the playoffs since I was in high school. That year, we lost to the Tennessee Titans in a game many still remember as the “Music City Miracle.” It was not miraculous for Bills fans.
The brutal twist of fate on that January day in 2000 came after a decade where I spent my formative years detesting Super Bowl Sunday. The Bills lost four straight Super Bowls from 1990-1993. It was a trying time for a young kid from upstate New York who worshipped sports. But I learned a lot from those years and from the ensuing playoff drought we’re currently in the middle of, going back to that horrendous loss in Nashville.
I offer this preface as a way to show you my bonafides as a fan. I have stuck with my Bills through a lot and I have come out with a new appreciation for cheering on a loser.
By most accounts — including most, if not all, of the writers on this site — the Magic are not going to be very good next year. Sure, Tobias Harris offers hope, and ‘Dipo might be a two-way star in the next half-decade, but for the next six months, Magic fans will be faced with a whole lot of losing.
While you never want to get used to the idea of losing, something that has unfortunately stricken a large swath of Bills fans, you also don’t want to be a grouchy, glass-half-empty fan, either, forever looking at an upcoming game as a chance to sob alongside the Nightengale. You should see the beauty in the Nightengale’s song — like Coleridge did, but minus all that opium.
Since this is my first, full season covering the Magic, I won’t pretend to know as much as diehard Magic fans. I won’t pull any punches, though. The last two decades were rough. You got a Dwightmare, the T-Mac despondency, and the Shaq/Penny disarmament.
But I know what it’s like rooting for a team that loses a lot more than it wins — and even when it does win, it never wins the Big One. There’s a proper way to go about handling all the losing so it doesn’t consume you.
Shrug off the usual pratfalls
Victor Oladipo — if he’s placed in the role of team facilitator — should be graded on a learning curve. He’s a rookie, playing the toughest position in basketball against some of the best players in the world. Only a couple years ago, he wasn’t even the best player on his Big Ten team. Remember that the first time he throws the ball away, or the first time Moe throws up a brick, or Nicholson dribbles off his leg, or a rebound bonks Vucevic in the head.
Keep an eye towards the tiny, glimmering bright spots
Vucevic against Miami. Tobias Harris’ first couple months in uniform. Arron Afflalo’s corner 3. Maurice Harkless along the baseline. There were a lot of things to love about last year’s Magic squad, so don’t forget about them when they’re possibly staring at an 0-for start.
Don’t make losing a habit
Rooting for a losing team is like walking a tightrope, blindfold. You’ll find yourself becoming a deranged optimist, loudly telling anyone at the bar who will listen why the Magic just need Glen Davis back to be a title contender. You’ll also cry even as Maurice Harkless has a career night, lamenting the waste of it all. You need to find the proper balance where you’re happy at the tiny moments of brilliance while acknowledging that there’s a lot of work to be done by the team and management.
Ignore the other fans
This is a big one for me. Every time I hear a Bulls fan lament what could have been if not for Derrick Rose’s injury, it takes a lot of self-control not to just scream: MICHAEL JORDAN! Try and avoid thinking like this even while Lakers fans bemoan their poor lot in life this season (and you just know they will).
Above all, remember next summer
The 2014 NBA Draft is a doozy with at least five or six players who could be franchise saviors. Or it might be totally over-hyped. You just never know, which is part of the fun. Keep next summer’s draft as the tiny, bobbing buoy of hope on the horizon, so you don’t steer yourself over the edge of sanity with all of this year’s losing.
There is a lot of exciting basketball to watch with this year’s Magic team. If you follow these steps, you should be OK. And if you’re ever feeling really down in the muck during a late February road trip where it seems like our guys can’t even tie their laces correctly, remember one important thing: at least you’re not a Bills fan.