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Monday, July 28, 2014

Heart over wins: Why it’s more fun to cheer for our less successful teams

The Rams Theory: Rooting for the ever-winning team isn’t all that fun, anyway.

July 9, 2014

Over the last couple years of my St. Louis sports fandom, I have developed a theory simply labeled the Rams Theory.

This theory is what I use to explain why I am still a Rams fan to concerned friends and family. The Cardinals have spoiled their fans with four World Series trips and two championships in a ten year span, along with several other playoff appearances mixed in there.

In short, it is very easy to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan. To the point where now, I don't even have that much fun being a Cards fan. I find it much more challenging and satisfying to be a Rams. One week, we might lose to one of the league's worst and the next, beat San Francisco on the road.

I believe the Rams Theory also explains why people get more excited for the U.S. hockey and soccer teams than the basketball team. During the 2012 Summer Olympics, my buddies and I weren't desperately trying to figure out where we were going to watch LeBron and company dismantle every opponent on Teams USA's leisurely stroll to the gold medal.

Fast forward to the U.S. hockey team in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Following T.J. Oshie's legendary shootout performance against the Russians, each game that followed became must-watch television. I can vividly remember leaving multiple answers blank on a Spanish exam so I could race home and watch our boys try and rally past Canada in the semi-finals in an attempt to get back to the gold medal game.

Now, here we are at the end of another national team’s run in international competition. This time, our soccer team in the World Cup. Placed in the infamous “Group of Death” and armed with only a high school student section chant (“I Believe”), experts were not optimistic about the United States’s chances of advancing on to the knockout round.

From what I saw though, experts' opinions had no bearing on the hope of U.S. soccer fans. The group chats I am in were blowing up in the hours leading up to the opening game versus Ghana, with people getting in heated arguments over where the best place in Columbia is to watch a game.

Then, before you could even pick an appetizer, Clint Dempsey put the U.S. ahead 1-0 and sent the home country into a frenzy. The clips of fans in Chicago's Grant Park and, as much as it pains me to say it, Kansas City's Power and Light District looked absolutely nuts.

John Brooks's game-winning header dumped a gallon of excitement into a bonfire of hope and the build-up for the game against the Ronaldo-led Portugal team couldn't have been higher. Though that game ended in what has to be the worst tie in the history of U.S. sports and the two games that followed both ended in defeat, I never saw any of the U.S. fans that surrounded me lose hope.

Neither team medaled. The soccer team only won one game. But for two weeks, each team had all of us glued to our TVs. As far as the future for both these teams? I believe.

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