Thursday, May 26, 2011

Will Third Time Be the Charm for Big D?

It's been a long time since a professional sports championship came to Dallas.

Ironically, that championship was won in hockey.

This is a city that, for decades, was accustomed to being a legitimate factor in championship conversations. More than that, it is part of a state that has long been accustomed to being a factor in such discussions.

Usually, it has been in the context of football — but it has been nearly 15 years since the Cowboys played in a Super Bowl.

For that matter, Dallas as a city has been away from the national sports radar through most of the still nascent 21st century.

Sports supremacy has been tantalizingly close in recent months, though.

The Texas Rangers have been playing baseball around here for 40 years, and they brought a World Series to these parts for the first time last October. They didn't win it, but they brought it here, and they gave local fans a taste of what it is like to host the Fall Classic.

Most sports fans around here might not have noticed, however, if the Dallas Cowboys had lived up to their preseason hype. When the season began, local fans knew that the Super Bowl would be played in the Cowboys' new stadium, and many believed the Cowboys were practically a lock to become the first team from the host city to actually play in a Super Bowl.

But the Cowboys stumbled out of the gate and never came close to competing for a playoff spot. The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl as the NFC's representative.

Now, it is the Mavericks' turn — that's Dallas' NBA franchise — to try to do what the others could not.

They dispatched the Oklahoma City Thunder, four games to one, in the Western Conference finals, and they await the winner of the Chicago–Miami series.

No one knows how long the Mavericks will have to wait on that one.

Miami can finish off Chicago with a single win. Chicago needs three straight wins to turn back Miami.

If the series goes seven games, Dallas will have a week to prepare for its next foe. If the Miami–Chicago series is completed tonight or Saturday, the championship series will start on Monday.

Folks around here don't seem to care when the dance begins. All that matters is that the dance can't be held without them.

And my guess is that a line is going to start forming for tickets soon, if it hasn't already. They go on sale Saturday morning. The latest weather forecast calls for daily highs in the 90s, but I have no doubt that people will be camping out for the next couple of nights.

There is clearly a sense in this city that destiny is beckoning.

But the thing is, people around here always feel that way when the local team is playing for a title. They felt that way when the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 — even though most of the Stars' "fans" that year probably were more appropriately bandwagon jumpers.

They felt that way when the Rangers faced the San Francisco Giants in the World Series last year. (Much was made locally of the "long–suffering fans" who had waited 40 years for a world championship, but I recall little being said of the long–suffering Giants fans, who had been waiting almost 20 years longer for a world title.)

That probably isn't uniquely Texan. The fans of every team in every sport believe they are entitled to a championship — until, at some point, their teams are eliminated and they must face the truth that most fans must accept at some point.

The fans around here aren't ready to accept that truth. Nor is it necessary for them to do so.

Oh, sure, there are some naysayers. Some say the Mavericks won't be able to handle the Miami Heat, their most likely foe.

And that may be true.

But that doesn't really matter right now.

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