Being a fan sucks sometimes.
I had mentally expected a loss since Wednesday's stinging defeat to Arizona State and even when the Runnin' Utes kept the game close and pulled within one with a few minutes left, I still didn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. For years, something that wasn't quite a decade, but certainly felt like a century, I waited for something like this. The improbable. It's something that doesn't come around often, but boy when it does, when that moment hits, it's the greatest thing you'll ever experience. It makes being a fan worth all the heartache and pain.
The last time I really felt that, the exhilaration of an unbelievable win, was the Sugar Bowl in 2009. It's been four years now and in between then and today, I've experienced some good wins, but also some tough, dammit to hell 'what if' losses.
The last time I actually felt that from Utah basketball? Probably the 2005 NCAA Tournament victory over Oklahoma ... which felt like the emphatic, we're back statement game - as it was Utah's first trip to the Sweet Sixteen since 1998. It wasn't. Kentucky, our pesky old nemesis, made sure the season would end with a loss. Since that defeat, there hasn't been much to cheer about in the way of the Runnin' Utes. It's been a pretty dismal seven years since Utah's last real relevant season and that type of play takes a toll on you ... at least mentally.
So, I didn't want to get my hopes up. I didn't feel I should get my hopes up. Utah basketball, picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12, was not going to go into Tucson and defeat the undefeated, third ranked Arizona Wildcats. I said it would be improbable if it happened and I believed every word of it. I fully expected a defeat.
But Utah has a way of teasin' you. They did it a few times last year, coincidentally, one of those moments also came against Arizona on the road, and when you feel the need to not believe, when you keep telling yourself the improbable certainly can't happen, they pull you in and whisper so softly, it can - and it will be glorious.
It's too hard to dismiss that kind of hope because sometimes what you want supersedes what you're going to get. We all wanted this win. We wanted it badly because for the last seven years, we have put up with blowout losses, coaching changes, embarrassing defeats to our rivals, near-last place finishes and an abysmal postseason participation rate.
Yes, we wanted this one.
But as I said, being a fan sucks sometimes. No amount of hope was going to wield Jarred DuBois' two threes toward the end of the game into the basket, either delivering Utah a win or pushing the game into overtime. No amount of hope was going to change that outcome.
Instead, as a fan, you're useless, a tool to your emotions. It wasn't that long ago most of us had written this game off and now we were all standing, cheering, hoping, and yes, believing again. It's funny how our believing is only temporarily jilted. No matter what has happened, no matter the fact we've suffered seven years of these exact same games, in the closing seconds, none of us dared not believe. We believed. We believed because what else is there as a fan? Isn't that the bedrock of why we cheer? If you don't believe ... what's the point?
In the final seconds, when Utah, against all the odds in the world, somehow held the ball down one and with a chance to win, I felt this was finally our moment. Seven years of suffering was about to end in the most stunning victory we've seen since defeating these same Wildcats in the Elite Eight back in 1998. A moment prior, I was mentally preparing myself for a loss and now I found myself imagining victory.
Was this going to be the moment where I could scream that all the trouble we had endured as fans over the years would finally be over?
I so wanted victory. I so could taste victory. It felt good. Like drinking water after being stranded days in the middle of a hot desert. But it wasn't. It wasn't water. It was all a mirage and instead, instead of drinking that water, that awesome tasting liquid, we found ourselves eating sand.
No hope was going to help DuBois make those shots.
Instead, we were teased, as it's been for much of the last seven years. Progress! But still progress in defeat.
This one hurt. This one hurt a lot.
Yeah, being a fan sucks sometimes. But soon our day will come.