Friday, 4 a.m.
Here in the wilderness, we wait.
Crickets chirp. Coyotes howl. Tumbleweeds blow past. A funeral march plays. Somewhere in the distance, we hear there are playoffs, but we'll have to take your word for it. In other cities, confetti falls. In Tampa Bay, it is the sky.
Boy, are we bad.
How bad? There is a shootout going on between Pestilence and Death. The entire season was made by a guy from Acme who has acne. Overhead, there are dark clouds.The ground opens up.
And furthermore, ouch.
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Think about it. Last year, the Tampa Bay Rays were last in the AL East ... by a lot. And, judging by the trade of Logan Forsythe, they have more good players than they can use. The Lightning, despite all of the money thrown at the roster in the off-season, is tied for last. The Bucs finally escaped last place with a 9-7 record (second in the NFC South), but their streak of not winning a playoff game continued to 16 seasons.
Around here, there is never enough offense. Around here, there are never enough wins. Around here, playoff-hungry teams would be starving to death ... at least, they would be if the concession stands didn't sell liver-on-a-stick.
We have a running back on drugs. We have a pitcher who lost 19 games. We have a hockey team that is playing like Oren Koules is back in the building. We have had clumsy owners and wasted draft picks and clueless free agents. We have seen 84 seasons, and only 23 of them have ended in the playoffs.
Across the sports leagues of America, there are exceptions. The Cleveland Cavs, champions a year ago, make up for the destitute Browns. The Cubs make you forget about the Bears. The Penguins offset the Pirates. And so on. Most cities have at least one team for fans to cheer for.
Mind you, some of the usual suspects here are missing. Oakland's baseball team continues to struggle, but the Raiders won their division this year. Minnesota struggled in baseball and was average in the NFL, but the Wild is playing well. Houston got a winning record from the Astros, and the Texans made the playoffs.
Still, there are others. The Bucs aren't alone in the poor side of town. (They do have a prime view of the swamp.) On the other hand, what good is company when you're miserable?
How about Philadelphia? The Eagles were last in the NFC East this year. They were last in their division in baseball, 20 games under .500. The cities' only claim is the Flyers, who are in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division, five games ahead of the Lightning. The 76ers are winning only at a .386 percentage.
Cincinnati, after several years of making the playoffs in the NFL, fell to third this year. And the Reds were as bad as the Rays, losing 93 games.
Buffalo struggled this year. The Bills were 7-9 in a coach-firing season. They haven't won a playoff game since 1995. And the Sabres went into Thursday night tied with the Lightning with only 49 points.
Arizona is struggling this year, but the Cardinals made the NFC Championship game a year ago. Atlanta broke a hapless streak by reaching this year's Super Bowl.
Personal opinion? San Diego may have had the toughest year. The Padres were last in their division. And how about the Chargers, who finished 5-11 despite Philip Rivers. They were so bad they left town (and fired their coach).
Worst surprise? How about Denver, last year's Super Bowl champions. The Broncos weren't horrible this year, going 9-7. But the Avs are the NHL's worst hockey team. The Nuggets are playing .432 basektball. The Rockies were at .467.
Together, fans of those cities can have one big pity party. There is no relief. Losing surrounds the populace. There are locusts and boils and a catwalk. It is raining. The head cheerleader is Roseanne Barr.
Can someone please let us out of this place?