By "potential", we mean something more than possibility. We mean something there - latent, just beneath the surface and waiting to be coaxed into open air.
It's what kills fans. Feeling the potential for our teams, and yet watching the reality unfold, match after match. And still believing. You feel foolish. And then you look at the people on the pitch, and on the bench - and remember: the potential. You think: Yes, they've lost or drawn or looked awful even as they've managed to wrangle a few points here and there. But the potential is real.
And, of course, it is.
It's one of the things that binds us to them - potential, and our ability to project the wildest possibilities into the future of the players on the field; our conviction that a little tinkering here and there - and that potential will be unlocked!
Look at Barça. They've just set a La Liga record for reaching 50 points mid season.
The realization of Barça's potential makes the season (as it is unfolding) extraordinarily satisfying. You don't have to be a Barça fan to know that this side has long had perhaps the greatest potential of any playing. But recent years have given much cause for suffering. That misery is not caused by the team playing badly - but by the great disparity between the team's performance and its potential. Now, the long tested faith of fans is affirmed by game after game of not just convincing victories but victories won by playing their game.
Events like this feed our need to believe that every now and again, the beautiful maybe you see just there, just out of reach, rises up and becomes real.