As I person who checks nearly every category on the privilege list, I have not had to endure many hardships in my life. But one thing I have had to suffer is consistently disappointing and mediocre basketball from the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, however, on the eve of their second-round tilt against the Boston Celtics, I can say, “No more!” The Bucks are playing incredible basketball, are led by the MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and may actually have a realistic shot at a championship.
But for me—a Wisconsin sports fan all too familiar with gut-wrenching disappointment—it’s difficult to fully lean into the excitement without the nagging feeling that heartbreak is on the horizon. Whenever I begin to envision the Bucks going on a huge run through the playoffs, my heart begins to palpitate with the thought that they will fall short. The joy is slippery.
No matter what I try, I can’t shake that feeling. I can’t quite get myself to fully believe. The fear of pain is too great, and by pondering the possibility of despair, I try to spare myself its full weight. I really don’t want to be this way, but being a fan of small-market teams has engendered this additional pressure. A win for Milwaukee would be a win for the little guys. It would legitimize the small cities that cultivate solid talent, rally communities behind teams, and then inevitably sit in suffering as their stars depart for other franchises (a la Oklahoma City).
Without the glitz and the glam attracting starry-eyed athletes, small-market teams have to work with so many additional obstacles to bring in talent and make it last. Now, the Bucks have that talent, and the window may not be open for long. The stars could leave for more cash in bigger cities, and the cycle of despondent mediocrity could start again.
But the passion being poured out all across the state is palpable, even from my vantage point in Arizona. The buzz and the excitement for basketball is in full steam only a couple short years after there was talk of the franchise possibly leaving Milwaukee. My friends, family, and community are waiting, worrying, and hoping.
So, if you find yourself without a team to back during these playoffs, pick the Bucks. If you don’t care much for the sport, pick the Bucks. If you actively hate the NBA, pick the Bucks. They’re loads of fun to watch, and they combine high-powered offense with scrappy, disciplined defense. The city of Milwaukee deserves this championship, and I’m mustering the hope that the Bucks will pull it off. So to my friends and family back home, raise a Spotted Cow, munch on some squeaky cheese curds, slap some brats on the grill, and scream, “Go Bucks!”
Matt Coldagelli (’14) majored in English writing and psychology at Calvin. He’s currently pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis on children and adolescents. He watches an absurd amount of TV and is a certified craft beer snob. His emotional wellbeing is overly dependent on Wisconsin sports, and thus he finds himself often in a state of disappointment. Matt lives with his lovely wife and daughter in Phoenix, AZ.