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Misery Is Optional for Iowa State Basketball Fans

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There should be better times ahead for Cyclone basketball

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

We all have people in our lives that can’t help but look at the glass half empty. You know, the people that complain about free food or gifts from family and friends. There are some in this world that choose misery and we all know them. The thing is they experience many of the same life events that everyone else does, they just make a habit of ignoring the positives in their life.

After losing three of four games, the morale within Cyclone Nation is rather low. Losing sucks, and by no means are things perfect in Ames, Iowa. There are several issues facing this team and some of them have been addressed on this site already while others will continue to be analyzed in the weeks ahead. It is easy to get bogged down in the problems after losses.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

As fans, we tend to experience this sensation called outcome bias. Outcome bias is the process of minimizing the events preceding the outcomes and over-emphasizing the results. After all, it’s all about the results in sports. “Just win baby!” is a phrase that often gets tossed around. “Survive and advance” is another when it comes to playoff and tournament time. As fans we want to see our team win every single game (poor Browns fans). When our teams lose, our outcome bias tells us our team sucks. We have this feeling deep in our loins that they will never win another game. When our team wins, they are invincible.

Look no further than an average fan’s response to the point spread each week. After a win? “Vegas gives us no respect!”. After a loss? “Easy money, just bet on the other team”. Those of you who gamble, or at least follow the game lines, know what I’m talking about.

How can quickly can fans turn on their team following a loss? Check out Twitter after the Cowboys streak of 11 straight wins ended Sunday evening.

Keep in mind this is a team that has lost two games....all season. To fans, it was an unacceptable loss and one that merits a change at quarterback. Our living and dying with every football game carries over to our basketball fandom. The problem is basketball (or any sport for that matter) isn’t life and death.

After a loss, fans will quickly act like they’ve seen it coming all along. Whether they are just trying to sound smart or their mind is playing tricks on them, it all seems so obvious. As fans we search for clues and data to support our hypotheses about what is wrong with our team. Don’t worry, you will always find something. Maybe it is a troubling shooting statistic or an ugly trend in road games. Whatever it is we are looking for, we will find it because we fall guilty to hindsight bias. After a game has occurred we can’t help but piece together the clues and kick ourselves for not realizing the outcome sooner.

It wouldn’t be so bad if we just searched for answers as to why our team has been losing. The problem is that we genuinely feel angry about it. Karie Meltzer explains why in her piece on the subject. As humans, we try to avoid things that make us feel angry, so why don’t we quit watching after our team loses?

These are the things we are struggling with as a fan base. To get cliche for a minute, it's why they play the games and why you don’t make money betting on games in Las Vegas. It is tough to think of games as independent events that have little effect on each other (and your life). We want to believe in a phenomenon like momentum, especially when it’s perceived effect is on our side. It is part of being a fan and it can be really fun when things are going well. Just remember to take a step back when things are going poorly. Your mind is undoubtedly telling you things are worse than they really are.

Context is always important when things seem like they can’t get any worse. We are in the middle of arguably the best stretch of Iowa State basketball in the school’s history. My encouragement to all of you is to enjoy the ride. Remember, we watch sports to be entertained. We don’t know what is going to happen and that is what makes it exceptional television or in-person entertainment. Don’t let your pre-season excitement for basketball season wash away because of a poor couple of games. News flash, these stretches have happened before. Even under (gasps) Fred Hoiberg.

After the loss to UAB in 2015, I wondered if I cared too much about sports. Not just Iowa State sports, but sports in general. The roller coaster of emotions and adrenaline rush is what we seek as sports fans. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Was it worth feeling depressed for an entire weekend? What would my feeling have been after winning that game? Relief, more than likely. The UAB loss helped me learn that sports don’t have to make you miserable, although it was an extremely tough lesson to learn.

We pride ourselves as Cyclone fans on being able to endure kick to the groin after kick to the groin, yet we can’t handle a couple of non-conference losses? We are better than this and rest assured things will get better for our team. The hardest part of recovering from a loss is waiting for the next game (especially when it's over a week away).

Before throwing pitchforks at coaches and players on Twitter, remember they care about this season a hell of a lot more than we do. Don’t forget the players on the opposing teams are on scholarship too. The coaches? They are getting big paychecks just like Mr. Prohm.

There are a lot of reasons to believe in this particular team this year. This team is playing better defense than we’ve seen in the last 10 years inside of Hilton Coliseum. Five seniors make up a starting lineup that wants to leave their own mark on Iowa State basketball. Several metrics still have Iowa State as a top 30 team including KenPom (29), BPI (17) and Sagarin (20). Finally, don’t overestimate the resume requirements needed to get into the tournament. Remember Tulsa last season?

As mentioned earlier, there are some obvious reasons for concern. It is part of realizing that teams are always a work in progress. There will be more ups and there will be more downs. It is the drama of college basketball. Personally, I’m stoked to see how the drama of the season unfolds. Just six years ago, our Cyclones were in the middle of a six year NCAA tournament drought. In summary, if you find that the losses bring you more heartache than the wins bring you euphoria, just remember that misery is optional.