Soccer fans love belting out jaunty and uplifting tunes, like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at Anfield and Parkhead, “Glory Glory Man United” at Old Trafford, “Delilah” at the Britannia, “No One Likes Us We Don’t Care” at the New Den, and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” at West Ham’s new Olympic home. But unless you’re fortunate enough to support a trophy-gobbling upper crust club then the truest song to sing is Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.” Nothing defines the fan experience more – the near-misses the standing in the rain, the heartbreaks, the eons of drudgery, the fleeting bits of glory, the abject failures, the misery, the vain fleeting hopes that this could be the year – than the words “the waiting is the hardest part.”
Of course, some fans wait a lot longer than others. The Chicago Cubs just won their first World Series since 1908, a time so ancient that men with titles like Tsar, Sultan, and Kaiser still ruled in Europe, it could still be said that “sun never set” on the British Empire, and Manchester United had only just won their very first league title. The Cubs’ victory leaves Cleveland woebegone and waiting for its World Series win since 1948, a time so distant that it was the first Series to be broadcast nationally and modern titans Brazil and Germany had yet to win a World Cup.
This has been a year for historic breakthroughs though. The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals as the LeBron James’ Cavs, founded in 1970, won their first title. Kris Jenkins dramatically drained a three from waaay downtown at the buzzer to give Villanova its first NCAA title in 31 years. Further afield the Irish rugby team, which has been playing New Zealand for 111 years, finally beat the Kiwis for the very first time this past weekend. Coincidentally, Ireland’s historic win came in the city still nursing its World Series parade hangover – Chicago. Earlier this year in Australia the National Rugby League’s Cronulla Sharks, in their 49th year of play, withstood a late Melbourne charge to become the last of the nine Sydney-area based clubs to win it all. In Aussie rules football the Western Bulldogs snagged their first crown since 1954, which was an era when players were still wearing long-sleeved jumpers. In Ireland County Mayo almost won its first Gaelic Football Championship since 1951 as they dramatically drew against Dublin in the final only to lose the replay. The English County Cricket Championship, one of the world’s oldest sporting competitions, came down to the very last day this season. Owing to the competition’s vagaries and peculiarities, Somerset needed a draw between Middlesex and Yorkshire in order to win its first ever championship. It’s been a long wait. Somerset has been playing in the county championship since 1891, a drought that makes the Cubs’ seem as short as Sam Allardyce’s stint as England manager. Alas, it was not to be as Middlesex put down Yorkshire on the fourth and final day with only four overs to spare. At least Somerset doesn’t have it as bad as Gloucestershire, which remains titleless since its 1870 debut.