STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
While the Washington Capitals lead the Vegas Golden Knights three games to one in the Stanley Cup finals, the Caps have been in the NHL for 43 years and have never won a championship. This is the Knights' inaugural season. So I guess they haven't ever won one either. Commentator Mike Pesca has been thinking how each team's fans would react to winning.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: The Capitals, owing to ineptitude and the Golden Knights due to impossibility, have never won the Stanley Cup before. While the players are engaged in a game of ice and pucks and hip checks, their respective fans' experiences aren't just opposites. They're practically existing on different dimensional planes. To the Knights, the journey to the finals has been a laser light spectacle meets Cirque du Soleil combined with white tigers, dancing girls and maybe a couple of puppets. For the Capitals, this is a saga, a brutal quest that has so often before ended in tragedy. It has the body count of "Beowulf" with all the upshot of Sisyphus, the Capitals, since 1974, pushing the rock up the mountain only to have it come tumbling down.
The phrase that attaches itself to fans of the Capitals and teams like them is long-suffering. And if, as our idioms would have it, practice makes perfect, good things come to those who wait and patience is a virtue, then why wouldn't our compassion extend to the fans who have been made to suffer more - long-suffering Cubs fans and Sox fans and Chiefs fans and - I don't know - the entire city of Cleveland fans. My, how you've earned it. Oh, how we are glad we aren't you.
But if you examine what it really means to be long-suffering, you'll find a lot of these fans do not suffer properly. Long-suffering - the idea comes from the Greek word makrothumia. Makrothumia, sometimes translated as patient; long-suffering means taking pressure without falling apart. But I have witnessed the raging eyes of the Bengals, Jets and Vikings fans. And I have heard their lamentations on their sports radio. Many seem to have fallen apart. The duration of their suffering is inarguable, but their forbearance is suspect.
Now, to be sure, some fans suffer better than others. Cubs fans were cute. Browns fans held tongue and cheek for an 0-16 parade this year. Saints and Bucks fans favored wearing paper bags over their heads. But the fans of the cold weather cities of the Northeast do not suffer fools or suffer silently or really suffer well at all. And good on them, I say. They do not need our sympathy, which is exactly my point. If you were thinking of having the Capitals tug at your heartstrings more because their fans deserve it, think again. Instead, root for the Knights whose fans are childlike in their glee. And if they lose, know that they, too, will inevitably embark on a horrible losing streak and their joy will curdle into resentment and the weak-minded, who do not know the Greek word makrothumia, will feel a pang of sympathy for them. And it is at that time when we come to speak of the long-suffering Las Vegas Golden Knights fan that they will earn their place among the immortals.
INSKEEP: Mike Pesca, author of "Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs In Sports History." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.