Three teams captured my heart in my youth: the Toronto Raptors, the Buffalo Bills, and Liverpool FC. One thing these franchises shared in common is that they’ve all had periods of time in my life when they absolutely sucked. Some of those mid-2010s Liverpool teams should be erased from the record books, and some of the athletes I saw in the starting lineup for the Raptors would not even have a shot making it in the league today.
However, the funny thing is, I still enjoyed watching these clubs because fans should support their clubs through thick and thin. I’m not asking you to excuse awful management and mediocre play; I’m asking you to enjoy the good times when they do come because they’re gone before you know it.
Case in point: on January 24, the Buffalo Bills competed in their first American Football Conference championship game since the 1993–1994 season. Up until now, I’ve seen how bad the Bills can be — constantly finishing in the bottom of the league, with horrible quarterback play among some of the lowlights.
But that made the few wins all the more enjoyable and what made their recent success so much more fulfilling. Win or lose on Sunday, I’ll always be a member of the Bills Mafia because I know how hard fielding a good team and making the playoffs can be.
Seeing the Toronto Raptors win the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2019 is one of the greatest memories I have. Marching in the parade and getting to see Marc Gasol chug a bottle of wine is a story I’ll share with future generations of the Deol family for many years to come, but I’m sure there will also be points in the future when the Raptors won’t even come near the playoffs.
That’s fine because no matter how awesome winning the championship in 2019 was, those deep playoff runs with Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry make me just as emotional — it’s not an easy feat to take Lebron James to six games but our boys in red and white got it done in 2016.
In 2020, Liverpool won the Premier League title for the first time in club history, and they also took home the Champions League trophy in 2019. I was a bit too young to fully remember the 2005 Champions League win, but I did get to catch the brilliance of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, and Fernando Torres. And while those teams never won any meaningful silverware, getting to see these legends of the game take the field week in and week out filled my childhood with memories beyond imagination.
Winning a championship is not an easy job — trust me I’ve seen my fair share of sports to tell you that — but the best part of the journey isn’t raising the trophy. It’s the small moments that keep you going along the way.
Kawhi Leonard’s series-winning shot was in the second round of the 2019 playoffs — not the finals — but I still think it’s the most memorable moment in Raptors history. Even if we’d gotten smoked by the Golden State Warriors in the finals that year, I still would’ve held on to the memory of watching that fateful lucky bounce to sink the Philadelphia 76ers.
I feel the same way about Liverpool’s miracle comeback against FC Barcelona on their way to the Champions League title in 2019, and I hope Josh Allen and the Bills give us something to remember on their way to a Super Bowl in the near future because no matter how much it hurts to be the fan of a team that sucks, the feeling of winning it all becomes much greater.