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You could be the unquestioned best team all through the regular season and into the playoffs and still run into the best player in the world on the opposing team. Or a goalie on a once-in-a-lifetime hummer. Or a couple of bad calls here or a bad bounce or two there. Courtesy Instagram

Greed is a feedback loop. Nothing makes one crave a coveted thing so much as having already obtained it. Once your brain is aware a good ’ol flood of serotonin is on the line, it will twist you into unrecognizable shapes trying to get another burst. How else could you explain the existence of billionaires? We hear the “B-word” so often now that we’ve become completely desensitized to just how profound a figure 1 billion really is. A billion dollars is a sum of money so incomprehensibly large that even if you spent $10,000 every single day starting now, it would take you more than 270 years to go through all that dough. Yet despite already hoarding hundreds of times that figure, egomaniacal tech bros like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos keep chasing that dragon, forever seeking to add more to the pile of gold their scaly bodies lie on.

Now, shamefully, it seems I have become equally greedy. It’s not sociopathic amounts of money I’m seeking, though I wouldn’t say no to a cool millie magically appearing in my checking account. It’s local sports championships I’m chasing. With the world champion Rangers unexpectedly reawakening a decade-long dormant lust within me last fall, I have become a gluttonous Baron Harkonnen, insatiable for the spice of hometown athletes hoisting shiny metal trophies amid a shower of confetti, Champagne, and opposing team’s tears. I want — nay, demand — another title! My desert! My dune! My O’Brien!

Last month happened to be a particularly encouraging one for next-fix prospects. The Stars entered the NHL playoffs as a No. 1 seed and the season-long odds favorite to eventually hoist Lord Stanley’s shiny sipper. Add to this a bonus in a scrappy new-look, post-trade Mavericks squad suddenly appearing unbeatable, and could North Texas somehow manage to sneak two or even three championship titles into just an eight-month span? I was absolutely drunk on the prospect. I felt like a cash-strapped coke fiend on a harsh comedown stumbling on a 3-kilo package of Bogotá’s finest floating in a drainage ditch. As each team progressed through the first two rounds of their playoffs, the hypothetical “what if?” slowly became a mandatory “it must.”

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But as sports is an ever-humbling interest, that which can be given will most often be taken away. The package fished out of the ditch turned out to be heavily cut with talcum powder, and the buzz is weak and gives a headache. How dare we tempt the sporting gods by demanding of them. They are wont to spite exponentially more than they are to grant, and spite they did. On Sunday, aided by their league-best power play, the Edmonton Oilers scored on two of their first three shots to open a 2-0 lead early in the first period of Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Stars. Despite throwing 34 shots at upstart Oil goalie Stuart Skinner to stay alive, Dallas would manage just a single goal in the tilt and fall 2-1 in the game and ultimately 4-2 in the series. And thus, the agony of defeat has come roaring back from the recesses of my psyche, shattering my joy and swapping my hubris for humility.

Somehow, lost in all the recent sports euphoria, was remembering the depth of pain that comes when expectations are unachieved. What made the Rangers’ run so fun last October was the fact that it was out of nowhere. It wasn’t “supposed to” happen. The team was certainly trending up, but most felt it was a year or two away from serious contention. It was the lack of the baggage that comes with expectation that gave us the freedom to enjoy the ride. The same could be said of this current Mavs run. No one anticipated they would be where they are, and that makes it enchanting stakes-free entertainment.

The Stars, though, were supposed to be there, and that they aren’t makes it hurt doubly so. My heart breaks for veterans like Tyler Seguin and team captain Jaime Benn, whose window to win a championship is closing, and worse for guys like Ryan Suter and Joe Pavelski, whose window is probably already closed. I can’t say I’m not at least a little bit relieved that the emotional toll that conference series was taking on me is over. Somewhere in the second period of Game 5, I realized Dallas was not only not going to win that particular game (they looked completely lifeless trailing 2-0) but that they were not going to win another game, much less a Stanley Cup, and all the frustration of failure hit me at once. This was finally their year. Until it wasn’t.

It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of just how difficult it is to win it all. You could be the unquestioned best team all through the regular season and into the playoffs and still run into the best player in the world on the opposing team. Or a goalie on a once-in-a-lifetime hummer. Or a couple of bad calls here or a bad bounce or two there. Or the injury bug or just bad effing luck, and all the anticipation and excitement evaporate instantaneously. Just ask the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Expectation is the same toxin that has poisoned Cowboys fandom for the past three decades, as unwarranted as it has been, and it is the main driver of why Cowboys fans are so incredibly unsufferable. Perpetual Super Bowl-or-bust is a miserable fan experience. Disappointment is the baseline. Enjoyment factor in sports is often directly proportional to the delta between the level of a team’s achievement versus the level of their expectations.

So, take care sports fans. Make sure that you truly appreciate what you’re watching while it’s happening and try to keep the “possible” from becoming “inevitable” in your mind. It can all end in an instant. And usually does. Unless you’re a Montreal Canadiens fan living in the 1950s, 99% of the seasons of teams you root for will ultimately end in heartache. If you’re lucky, maybe lightning strikes once or twice in your lifetime and certainly not twice in eight months. Only when you truly understand just how nearly impossible being the last team standing is, in any sport, can you truly appreciate the accomplishment. It’s exactly that which makes it so magical when it finally does happen. So, if the Mavs happen to be currently riding that second lightning bolt as they head into their first NBA Finals appearance in 13 years, against the Boston Celtics, I certainly won’t be one to take it for granted.

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