You know, you just can't fall behind three-games-to-none in a best-of-seven to the best team in the league and expect to come all the way back. It just doesn't happen.
So ends the 2008-09 Houston Aeros season. It was a fun ride, often frustrating, often exhilarating, constantly inconsistent, and wildly unpredictable. As with any team, especially in the minor leagues, this team will look different come next season. Schaefer is almost definitely gone; I don't see any way all of Kolanos, Locke, and Schultz stay, and my honest guess is that at least two of them move on. Irmen will probably be let go. A couple of guys will get a shot with the big club next year, and so we could possibly be without Stoner, Noreau, Earl, or even Pouliot depending on how the off-season goes. Some of the guys we only got to see in the playoffs will become regulars, like Scandella, Khudobin, and Testwuide. The 2009-10 Aeros will still be "my" team, they just won't be THIS team, so it's time to say goodbye forever to this group of guys.
Here, friends, is the truth of being a sports fan: your year almost always ends with frustration. No matter who your team is, the odds are they will NOT win the championship. Even when a team wins, say, three or four in a row, it always evens out, and they'll be on the outside looking in again sooner than you realize. Fact is, your team will not win FAR more times than they will win over the course of your fandom. It's something we go into every season knowing, and whether we miss the playoffs, are knocked out in a seven-game heartbreaker, get upset in the first round by an eighth seed, or are out of contention before the year is half over, at some point we all deal with the fact that we didn't get it done, and we go into the off-season as losers.
So, since it's a trait we all share, there's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of there ;-)
I've been uncannily blessed with the teams I've followed throughout my career as a fan. One of my favorite NFL teams (Rams) have won a Super Bowl (1999) and are currently cellar-dwellars; my baseball team (Angels) captured a World Series (2003, I think) after years of frustratingly falling short; all three of my NHL teams have won the Cup (Pens in 1991 and 1992, tho I barely remember those days at all; Avs in 1996 and 2001, and Lightning in 2004), and they have all been lottery pick teams (Avs and Bolts currently are...grrr!). Nevertheless, it still stings when you say goodbye to your team for the rest of the year. In hockey terms, the Aeros are hitting the golf course tomorrow. (Apparently, ALL hockey players love to golf. I guess it's like hockey, only without getting killed every thirty seconds) Hitting the links. Setting up their tee times. Etc, etc.
Fine. I'm frustrated, but the pain's already ebbing a bit. After twenty or so years of fandom, you have your own way of dealing with the disappointment.
But you know what's beautiful about it? Despite our maturity, despite our coping mechanisms, despite the abilities we've developed to put a more casual, less frantic face on in the face of the good-natured drubbings our friends will give us, there is some part deep down within every sports fan that is reacting just like this three-year-old Canucks fan.
Take it away, Canucks kid! And, see you next year, Aeros.