At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I will say this: I feel like there is more riding on this game for me as a fan than there was in 2010 or 2012. Some of that is the one-game factor and some of that has to do with where I live. But it's not all of it.
In 2010 everything was so new, and their winning the division so exciting on its own, that it wasn't too tough on the psyche. Of course the no-hitter was humiliating and Game 2 really did a number on me, but somehow getting swept by a real powerhouse team with powerhouse pitching kind of made the whole happy-to-be-there thing kind of viable.
Last year doesn't seem to have destroyed me as much as it did a lot of other people. I was crushed, don't get me wrong, but I remember it as an excellent series that was a lot closer than a lot of other people seem to. We got one bad game out of a starting pitcher, one heartbreaker of a game that we came close to winning and couldn't, and one very well-played game that we just lost. It was horrible to lose at home, but everything just came together for the Giants at the right time and I took comfort in knowing we lost to the eventual WS champions.
I feel like this game could go either way, and I feel like either way is going to have drastic implications for me as a fan. If they win, I feel like the whole season (during which they've underperformed, and yes, I know the stats; I'm not going to change my mind on this) is forgiven. They could turn on a dime with a win tonight. They're in the big boy playoffs, they've got swag, they "want it"...whatever you want to call it, that win could take care of it. The Wild Card game is a cheap round, but I could finally at least half-heartedly say that my team has made it past the first round in the playoffs for the first time in my adult life.
If they don't, though...if they don't, that's three out of four years that they've been ousted in the first round, and I really don't know how good their chances are after this year. Their lackidaisical play becomes confirmed rather than suspected. Four consecutive losses to the Pirates looks a lot different than three regular-season losses and one playoff win. I have to watch two other teams in the Reds' division play each other in the big boy playoffs. All of this while still believing that this is almost certainly the greatest and most well-built of those three playoff teams (thank you Shin-Soo Choo).
This is going to be a tough one for me as a fan. I admit I have a lot riding on it personally and I've been questioning lately the value of sports in my life and how much I allow it to creep into so much, how much damage that might be doing, and if the Reds lose I will be forced to question whether I can allow that to continue. I don't want to stop following sports, Reds, DON'T MAKE ME. I have cried in two different bars, in two different cities (Boston and Pittsburgh), in your last two playoff series. Tonight I am in Cincinnati and I would like my tears to be happy, please.
Tonight it's chokers or heroes. One night. Come on, kiddos.
edit: I meant to put this in another thread. Oh well. I predict tears?