In sports there is one guy, the poster boy, who is instantly recognized with the team he plays for. He is the reason free agents come to play with that team, the reason the fans come out to watch, and the jersey that everyone is wearing to that game. If you go to the Staples Center for a Lakers game, you see Kobe jerseys everywhere. At the Dodgers games, you see everyone donning a Matt Kemp jersey. If you go to see a Blackhawks game at the United Center, everyone is representing Patrick Kane. At Gillette Stadium on Sundays, everybody wears the name Brady. Sports and players go hand in hand. Either would be nothing without the other. So as a fan, what happens when the name of your franchise leaves?
This has been happening often as of late. Down in Orlando, the Dwight Howard saga continues. Howard is the face of the franchise, there is no doubt about that. When you go see a Magic Hawks game in Orlando, Dwight Howard jerseys fill the arena. Sadly, Howard is on his way out the door. So what now? Will that team even contend? Do I need to buy a Jameer Nelson jersey and hope he becomes a star, or do I blow the dust off my Shaq throwback? Is it time to jump the bandwagon and become a Miami fan?
Hockey fans have a similar feeling all around the league. Rick Nash, the only superstar that Columbus ever knew, is now playing on Broadway. Although the colors are similar, it just won't look right. The worst part is the names in return jut don't look as nice as Nash. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise left Nashville and New Jersey to go be a face in Minnesota.
Ichiro Suzuki, the biggest name in Seattle once Griffey left, just got traded to the Empire. Suzuki and Felix Hernandez were all the Mariners had to be excited for. Will the Mariners now play in front of an empty stadium?
That is the thing about sports, every disappointment doesn't have excitement to replace it far behind. It can be an up and coming rookie or a superstar looking to bring you back from the dead. When the old guard leaves, a new one comes in to give you new hope.
Lets start with Ichiro, who came in to the Mariners and Seattle forgot the woes of Griffey leaving. They even set a major league record for wins in his rookie season. Roger Clemens and Nomar left, and in came Manny and Big Papi to revitalize Bean town and bring the long awaited championship. Shaq left the Lakers to go play for the Heat, and a few years later Pau Gasol came to help Kobe with two more titles. Winning and excitement will cure the heartbreak of losing a franchise player.
Look throughout sports and you don't have to search hard to see teams who are dealing with loses. Celtics (Ray Allen), Suns (Steve Nash) and Hawks (Joe Johnson) have lost franchise players, but have replaced them with exciting acquisitions (Jason Terry, Goran Dragic, and Lou Williams). In hockey the Bluejackets, Devils, and Predators have reasons to be excited even though some franchise guys have gone to presumably greener pastures. The Devils only losing one guy, albeit a really good one, on an Eastern Conference Champion that brought back everyone else, the Preds bringing back Shea Weber for 12 years and still having the core for the hockey version of the Thunder, and the Bluejackets have a young pool of players, led by most likely next captain Jack Johnson and a new team philosophy that doesn't revolve around one player.
Football is the ultimate team game, yet one position seems to garner the name of franchise player. That position is obviously quarterback. Look at the Dolphins since Marino left, I'll give you a clue it hasn't been the same. Most teams, however, bounce back. The Cowboys lost Aikman and now they have Romo finally seeming to put it together. The Packers lost Favre and in the blink of an eye they have the best quarterback in the league in Rodgers. The Colts just lost Peyton Manning, but now they have the most pro ready rookie in history in Andrew Luck to get excited about.
My point is, one player should never make or break your fandom. If Dwight Howard wants to leave then let him go. You will get over it when the next guy lights up your TV. Ichiro just left Seattle, but the people in Washington are excited to see the young guns get a lick. Manning is pulling a Montana on the Chiefs, and Indianapolis hasn't blinked an eye.
The name on the front of the jersey is what you root for. Players come and players go. In your lifetime, you will lose many franchise players off your squad, but the beat goes on, my friend. The pain will be replaced in do time. Even the Baltimore Orioles have finally become competitive again. Just remember to believe in miracles.
Nick Villano is the editor-in-chief of Sports Envy. His main job is to do what he can to be the voice of the fan. Don't agree? He wants to hear your opinion. Leave a comment below or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.