Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Would You Ever Root Against Your Team?

It's an interesting question that's been posed twice now in the Twin Cities sports market within the last year, once with respect to the Minnesota Vikings and now with respect to the Minnesota Wild, who are (as of this writing) watching that eighth and last playoff spot in the NHL's Western Conference slip slowly away.

The thesis of those who would answer "Yes" is roughly the same in each case. A playoff appearance, it is argued, is doomed to ultimate failure (that is, a championship is impossible) and more importantly will only prolong the mediocrity being exhibited on the sidelines (Vikings) or front office (Wild) of the franchises. In contrast, failure to make the playoffs ought to hasten the departure of individuals and/or management policies that are not getting the job done and never will. So failure now increases the promise of success tomorrow, while the fleeting "success" of an early-round playoff exit will in fact ultimately extend the wandering in the desert for years to come.

Personally, I cannot imagine any circumstances under which I would cheer against my beloved San Jose Sharks--the very notion is indescribably alien. Rooting for them is practically ingrained in my DNA at this point. I have two good friends who are Vikings fans, though, and they were absolutely rooting against the Vikings towards the end of last season. (For the record, the Vikings made the playoffs and immediately lost to the Eagles).

I'm not a huge football fan, so I wouldn't necessarily know, but my friends made a strong argument that a Super Bowl championship was absolutely out of reach for the Vikings last year, playoffs or no playoffs. Accepting that this is the case, the argument might make sense. Even if failure to make the playoffs hadn't guaranteed the firing of Brad Childress (the world will never know), it's not exactly something that glows on the old resume.

I think it's different in the NHL, though. Any team that makes the NHL playoffs can beat any other team, regardless of whether they're the one seed or the eight seed or anywhere in between. No eighth seed has ever won the Stanley Cup, but one came awfully close a few years ago, and first-round one-over-eight upsets are almost routine. The margin between victory and defeat in ice hockey, and in the NHL in particular, is just that narrow.

If I were a Wild fan (and I hasten to emphasize that I am not) I would be pulling with all my might for my team to somehow squeak into that last spot in the West. Particular with a goalie like Niklas Backstrom--nothing can fuel a Cinderella playoff run like a hot goalie. If they can get in, they have a chance.

So, how about you, sports fans of the world? Would you ever root against your team? Check out the poll at right!

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