119 Seasons … And Counting …

My brother-in-law is a University of Virginia graduate … and a huge Cavalier basketball fan.

After years of toiling the shadows of Duke and North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Virginia won its first national championship this past week. My brother-in-law made the trip to Minneapolis for the Final Four weekend, and joined in the celebrations with his fellow long-suffering fans.

Evan wasn’t old enough to truly endure the embarrassment in 1982 when No. 1 Virginia and Ralph Sampson lost to Division III Chaminade …

… but he was very much a part of the shame last spring when his Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament to fall to a No. 16 seed, falling to the University of Maryland-Baltimore Retrievers …

Winning a title is always to be savored, and it’s all the sweeter when it comes on the heels of years of defeats and humiliations. Something about winning a championship, especially when you have waited years and years for it to come, which makes being a sports fan worthwhile.

Watching Virginia get over the hump and win its first national championship in basketball got me to thinking … I’ve been waiting a long time to have such a moment once again.

A very long time …

There are five professional and collegiate teams which I call my own. In college football and basketball, my loyalties, are, of course, cemented with the University of Colorado. My professional team loyalties in the NFL, NBA, and MLB date back to my elementary school days.

While the teams I follow cover three time zones and have very little in common with one another, there is one common thread …

… they don’t win titles.

If you take a look at the history of my professional teams – the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, and the New York Knicks – you note that there is exactly one title among the three of them since 1973, and that came when the Braves won the World Series in 1995.

That’s not a good track record.

Let’s back up for a moment … Why the Chiefs, Braves, and Knicks?

If you are a long time reader of my CU at the Game stories (and have an excellent memory), you know that I formed my allegiances when I was about eight years old. No one in my family remembers why it happened when it happened. No one in my family really cared about sports – then or now.

All I can tell you is that those three professional teams were pretty good in the late 1960’s, and each team had a player which I idolized. I became a loyal fan, and stayed with my team, long after my favorite players from that time retired.

But my loyalties have not often been rewarded.

— Kansas City Chiefs … With apologies to my Denver Bronco friends, this is the team loyalty which is easiest to understand. In 1966, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted a kicker, a kicker who would prove to be the only NFL Hall of Famer taken in that year’s draft by either the NFL or AFL.

The kicker’s name was Jan Stenerud, and his collegiate team was the Montana State University Bobcats.

It was – and is – a rare occurrence for a Bobcat to be drafted into the NFL, so, as you can imagine, there were many MSU football fans in Bozeman, Montana, who became Kansas City Chief fans after Stenerud was drafted (the Denver Broncos were terrible in the 60’s, and the Seattle Seahawks didn’t exist yet, so there weren’t too many other teams for Montanans to cheer for).

The Chiefs were very good in the late 1960’s, playing in the first and fourth Super Bowls, taking the championship after the 1969 season with a 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Jan Stenerud posted three field goals in that game, including a 48-yarder which stood for decades as the longest in Super Bowl history.

Since the 1969 season for the Chiefs … nada.

Kansas City hasn’t returned to the Super Bowl since the 1969 season, and has reached the AFC Championship game only twice, after the 1993 and 2018 campaigns. In fact, it wasn’t until this past season that the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, opened in 1972, hosted an AFC title game.

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of Kansas City’s last Super Bowl appearance …

— Atlanta Braves … My favorite baseball player growing up was Hank Aaron. Not a huge stretch there, as Hammerin’ Hank was the favorite of many kids of my generation.

Since Hank Aaron was an Atlanta Brave, I became a Braves fan.

And the Braves were good in the late 1960’s. Atlanta won the National League west in 1969, but ran into the buzzsaw which were the “Amazin’ Mets” in the League Championship series.

Of course, once I became a fan, the Braves disappeared from the scene.

Between 1969 and 1991, Atlanta made all of one playoff appearance (1982). The Braves were more famous for most of those years for the antics of owner Ted Turner than they were for exceptional play.

In the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s, Atlanta was good. Between 1991 and 1996, the Braves made it to the World Series four times, winning once, in 1995. From 1995 to 2005, Atlanta made the post-season every year, but only came away with that one title.

— New York Knicks … The Knicks had a lineup of Hall-of-Famers in the late 1960’s and 70’s. Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley in the front court, with Walt Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe in the back court.

My favorite player was Walt Frazier. While I had none of his talents, I always wore No. 10 whenever I was given an option for a uniform number during my ignoble playing career.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Knicks were good (probably noting a theme here). Between 1970 and 1973, New York was in the NBA Finals three times, winning the championship in 1970 and 1973.

Since 1973 … a whole lotta nada.

New York made it to the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999, losing both. In the 21st century, the Knicks have made it as far as the conference semi-finals only once.

That would make it 46 seasons – and counting – since New York ruled the NBA.

So, doing some math, that makes it a pretty long drought without any celebrations in my household.

It’s 23+ years and counting, since the 1995 Atlanta Braves won the World Series.

Adding in CU’s 1990 national championship in football, there have been a grand total of two titles for teams I cheer for since the 1973 NBA finals.

If you count five “seasons” for each year, the CU football and basketball teams, the Chiefs, the Braves, and the Knicks have played 119 seasons since I was last a fan celebrating a championship.

My brother-in-law is having a great week. His Virginia Cavaliers not only redeemed themselves for their first round exit from the 2018 NCAA March Madness, they came through the 2019 tournament to earn their first national championship.

It’s fun to be a part of a championship celebration.

At least that’s the way I remember it …


One Reply to “119 Seasons … And Counting”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *