I've pulled for N.C. State since I was 7 years old, meaning I've been living and bleeding Red for more than 30 years. I've put a lot of effort into my fandom, too. I went to college in Raleigh, and I've remained nearby. My 12-year-old son's bedroom is a veritable vault of Wolfpack propaganda, from pillows to paint.
On Thursday, during an NCAA Tournament game in which many had said we didn't belong, we were up by 16 points with only eight minutes left. But we lost, mostly by missing free throws in historic numbers. I should have been heartbroken, but I wasn't. Sure, I was disappointed, but I'm used to the cyclical deflation of Wolfpack fandom—the build-up and the inevitable let down. It's not only basketball. Past football seasons have offered great potential, too. And in both sports, we've had some of the nation's best individual players: the Holts, Phillip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Julius Hodge, C.J. Leslie, T.J. Warren. We've had decent years, too, but looking back, even most of those had been hyped in the preseason as monumental "program turnarounds." But that decent season didn't carry over and build into the next one as touted.
We are, at best, consistently inconsistent: We'll win a few big games every year, but we lose to the teams we should beat. You never know what team will actually show up for any game, except during the games that really count—bet on the team that's bound to choke.
After Thursday night's loss, I told a fellow State grad that, as a fan, you don't have any real options other than to deal with the Wolfpack's woes. You can't possibly root for another team, especially either of the blues. But I'm at the point that I'm not even rooting for the Wolfpack anymore. I've become more of an apathetic bystander, someone who watches and wishes from mere obligation. I no longer follow the recruits or keep up with the stats. I barely watch regular season games, and I don't have much interest in even going to games. I'm happy when the Wolfpack do well, but it seems that as soon as I start watching, they blow all leads. I actually didn't watch the overtime portion of Thursday's game in hopes that maybe they'd actually win—superstition for the non-superstitious.
This isn't anyone in particular's fault. No one has sole control over our win/lose outcome—not a player, not a coach, not an administrator. Maybe the administration has let us down by not finding the right coach, one that can properly channel the nerves of a team often on the brink of meltdown. No, this Wolfpack curse has lasted too long to rest with one person.
Following our inevitable madness in March, I realized that maybe I shouldn't call myself a fan anymore at all. I don't want to submit myself to this disappointment. But I'm not sure what to do. I'm trying to raise my son to be a part of the Pack, but should I continue to subject him to that kind of rejection? Can that be good for a kid? He's more into sports than I am, but the Wolfpack part isn't engrained yet. If I don't stay with N.C. State, I know he won't, either. That doesn't sit well with me.
So, fellow gluttons for Pack punishment, help turn me around. Make me feel like this frustration is somehow worth it. Tell me to wait for baseball season. Tell me we've got a lot of rising or retuning talent for next year's hoops. Give me all the propaganda I need to hear so I at least believe I won't feel this way next season, too. I've survived more than 30 years of disappointment, and somehow, my blood is still red.