The Damaged Psyche of Rangers Fans

**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 8/17/12**

For well over three full decades, devoted fans of the Texas Rangers willingly suffered through season after season of abysmal baseball.  Sure, there were a handful of decent seasons sprinkled here and there, but only during the past few years have the Rangers evolved into a consistently legitimate contender respected throughout the league.

But now, vitriolic criticism and kneejerk condemnations are everywhere you turn, from Twitter to workplace breakrooms across the Metroplex.  And I’m not just observing this phenomenon, I’m guilty of being an active participant.  So, why has a fan base which was once so placidly accepting of craptastic baseball for almost 40 years suddenly become so angst-ridden and edgy about their first-place team?

Two words: Game. Six.

Back in 2010, it was all so wonderfully new, like first love.  After having won only one playoff game in their previous 38 seasons (49 if you include their years as the Washington Senators), they finally won a playoff series for the very first time…and then immediately followed that up by winning another one and advancing to their first-ever World Series.

Ranger fans were so blissful, it didn’t matter to them that the Giants would dispatch of their beloved team in a mere five games.  Sure, they wanted the Rangers to win it all, but it was such a joyous ride that any sadness quickly was replaced by a true appreciation of what their team had accomplished and excited anticipation of what was to come in 2011.

Sure enough, not only did the Rangers return to the playoffs in 2011, but once again they conquered all of their AL foes and claimed the pennant en route to their second-consecutive World Series appearance.  Unlike 2010, this time they were the favorites against an overachieving St. Louis Cardinals squad.

Their first trip was a magical journey by a team making their initial arrival on the sport’s biggest stage, but by the time they made their return trip, it truly felt like they belonged.  Winning the World Series in 2010 would have just been icing on the cake, whereas winning it in 2011 seemed a more reasonable expectation.

After five games, everything was going swimmingly, with the Rangers seizing a 3-2 series lead.  Then it all came crashing down in Game 6.  They weren’t just one out away from winning the World Series, they were one STRIKE away…TWICE.  But Nelson Cruz took a bad route on a fly ball that should have ended the series with a Ranger championship.  Instead, the Rangers went on to lose both Game 6 and Game 7.

Ever since then, Ranger fans have been ornery.  Their happy-go-lucky ways are a thing of the past.  Nobody finds joy in the simple things anymore.  Each loss is agonized over, as every failed swing and off-target pitch is scrutinized with unyielding intensity.  Once universally-beloved players like Michael Young and Josh Hamilton now routinely draw the ire of restless Ranger fans unwilling to accept even the slightest drop in performance.

The Rangers have become a victim of their own success – the bar has been raised and it’s not being lowered any time soon.  Is it fair?  Perhaps not, but it’s a definite reality.  We’re never going back to the days of blissful happiness, and while that’s certainly sad in some ways, more than anything it’s great that we have a team good enough to expect excellence from on a daily basis.

We want them to be great every game, but we’re going to be disappointed approximately 40% of the time.  That’s hard to accept these days, because we still haven’t recovered from that tragic loss in Game 6.  And our collective psyche likely won’t ever fully heal until the Rangers finally win the World Series and vanquish that ghost once and for all – it doesn’t just haunt them, it haunts each one of us who calls ourself a Ranger fan.

As long as that ghost remains, we’ll remain an angst-ridden ornery lot.

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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