Fans Experience The Thin Line Between Winning And Losing

It's not just sports teams that win championships. It's also their fans who endure long seasons hanging on every pitch, touchdown or basket. David Greene finds out what it's like to be on the cusp of either a championship — or a disaster.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's not just sports teams that win championships. It's also their fans - whole cities of people who endure long seasons, hanging on every pitch, every touchdown, every basket, sharing in both the elation of victory and also the pain of defeat. Major League Baseball's best teams are getting ready for the playoffs next week and so are their faithful. And over the next few minutes we want to feel what it's like to be on the cusp of either a championship - or disaster.

(SOUNDBITE OF 1986 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYOFF GAME)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Five-five in a delirious tenth inning.

GREENE: This is the example of riding a razor's edge between victory and defeat. During the 1986 World Series, the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets were tied in extra innings. The Red Sox had been so close to winning the game, and their first championship since 1918. But the Mets at home, in front of their fans - crawled back in to the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF 1986 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYOFF)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Can you believe this ballgame at Shea? Oh, brother! Whew!

GREENE: Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson was at bat.

(SOUNDBITE OF 1986 MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYOFF GAME)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Little roller up along first. Behind the bag!

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight! And the Mets win it!

GREENE: Just like that - a routine play, but the ball goes through first baseman Bill Buckner's legs. The Mets win the game. Mets go on to win the series. In New York, delirium. Red Sox nation - within inches of elation - settles for heartbreak. Of course, Boston fans have won their share of championships since then. No such relief for fans of the NFL's Buffalo Bills.

(SOUNDBITE OF 1991 SUPER BOWL)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Nine down to make Norwood think it's going to be a 47-yard field goal attempt.

GREENE: It's the 1991 Super Bowl. The New York Giants led the Buffalo Bills by one point with eight seconds left in the game. If Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood makes the field goal, his Bills win.

(SOUNDBITE OF 1991 SUPER BOWL)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Adam Linger will snap it.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No good! Wide right!

GREENE: Instead, the New York Giants are Super Bowl champions. The Buffalo Bills would reach the Super Bowl three more times, but never win. The team - and their faithful - haven't won much of anything since. And that's what's so difficult about being so close to being champions. Sometimes a loss can lead to years of futility. In 2008, the Chicago Cubs were on the cusp of a World Series appearance until a fluke play in foul territory turned an easy out into big trouble.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2008 NATIONAL LEAGUE SERIES)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Alou reaching in to the stands and couldn't get it and he's livid with the fan. That's awfully close to fan interference right there.

GREENE: Chicago fan Steve Bartman, trying to catch a foul ball, prevented Cubs left fielder Moises Alou from making the play. The Chicago Cubs are still waiting to get back to the World Series. Their last championship, 1908.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.