All teams lose. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics lose. The New York Yankees lose. So do the Green Bay Packers and Manchester United. But most teams aren’t loser teams. Most fans don’t just expect to lose, no matter how good things look at the moment.
But some fans do. Washington State Cougars football fans have a short phrase: “Coug’d again,” to describe the experience of believing in a team that will inevitably disappoint them.
This is also a sentiment that has bound, at various times, fans of teams like the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Bengals. There’s a community in it. We may be losers, but that’s an identity, and being a loser is better than not being known at all.
There are no Suns championship banners hanging in the rafters at the Footprint Center. But the Suns have made the playoffs 31 times, reached three NBA Finals, have a winning record overall since their first season in 1968, and own a winning head-to-head record against all but a handful of teams in the NBA. When the Steve Nash era came to a close a decade ago, the Suns were just about the most successful team in sports to have never won a title.
Then the hard times came. From 2011 to 2020, the Suns missed the playoffs every season and mostly were just plain awful. But despite that, it always felt like the fanbase collectively expected it to build to SOMETHING great. Devin Booker began to emerge as one of the league’s most talented scorers, Deandre Ayton became a #1 draft pick to Phoenix, and it seemed like a workable young core was forming.
The loss in the finals last year, especially after being up 2-0, was crushing. But it also felt like proof of concept that the Suns core, led by the veteran superstar Chris Paul, could win it all and might have a 3 or even 4 year window as legitimate contenders.
How quickly one game has changed it all. Another 2-0 series lead blown. A humiliating game 7 defeat on the home court. An ugly public falling out between Deandre Ayton and Monty Williams.
At first I was just numb...but then it hit me. We are THAT franchise now. To be a Suns fan is to be a loser. Sure we win games. We win playoff series. But we have always ended our seasons with a loss, even when we were the favorite. Losing is our identity now. It’s an essential part of Suns fandom. What would a truly ascendent Suns squad even feel like? Nobody can possibly say. It’s not even conceivable now.
Maybe a day will come when being losers won’t be who we are. That day came for the Cubs, of course...though it took 108 years. But that day isn’t now, my friends. We can look to the future and hope. But for now, we are the consummate losers.
Here’s to next season.