Monday, November 01, 2010

The shields are down

(McCoy uses his iPad to tweet during the Michigan/Penn State game.  The word "Dammit" was used a lot.)

I like to think that I have become a better college football fan in the last five years. Better, not in the sense of cheering louder or harder, but simply in the sense of understanding more of the whys and hows of the game, of looking for contrary opinion, of understanding the larger context of what is going on in the landscape of the game, and of trying to enjoy the game on a rational level. The one problem with this approach was vividly exposed to me on Saturday night during the Penn State game. I was frustrated, angry, and eventually just depressed. All of the arguments, all of the numbers, all of the explanations didn't seem to matter. All that seemed to matter is that a former walk-on quarterback was ripping Michigan's defense apart and no matter how brilliant Denard Robinson can be, and let us be clear, the moments of brilliance Denard had in this game were exceptional shining moments, it is wholly unfair to tell the offense that the only way Michigan can win is to score every time they have the ball. It's a seemingly impossible task and while Michigan's offense did its best job (31 points should be enough to win most Big Ten games), the defense was such a colossal letdown that no chart, graph, data mining, or statistical analysis could make me feel better. It was just depressing. In the words of puppet Brian Kelly from Stuffing the Passer: "No…I'm, er, uh, too angry to sing."

This isn't one of those "I'm giving up on Coach Rodriguez" post, nor is it a rant that calls down the thunder and curses all which is evil. I'm not a ranting angry person, I'm a sullen one. I sit there and I stare a thousand yard stare and I just wonder why. I question things in my mind. I want explanations, and when none are forthcoming, all you're left to do is to stare blankly at the wall, a wall that isn't changing either, and come back to one fundamental realization: Where people are involved, math and science can only tell us so much. We're flawed, it makes us who we are, and when combined with other flawed individuals, we can make a combustible mix of failings. We like to preach that there is strength in numbers, that the team is stronger than the individual, that the strength of the wolf is in the pack, but the flip side to that, the side the motivational gurus want you to ignore is that groups are only as strong as their weakest point, that groups allow for blame to be distributed outward and not taken inward, that collectively fear is more powerful in a group because it can be amplified, and that while a person is smart, collectively, people are dumb. In theory, fandom is a collective activity, but the reality is that it is an individual pursuit. Our own experiences will instruct is as to our meaning, and no matter the rational desire to look at the data and draw a rational conclusion, emotion is still present. Quite simply, no matter how often we want to be college football Spocks, we usually end up being McCoys, we let the emotional side win out, because it is tribal, it is speaking to something about us. ("Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a defensive coordinator!")

I know from my experience that history can be instructive, but it is not fate, that history rarely repeats itself, but it does echo itself, and that the moment that we begin to believe that our fate is sealed is often the moment it is. But I come back to one thing. We only get 12 of these a year. They are rare and precious moments, something that while taken individually, are part of a collective experience, something that does tie us to a larger whole, makes us a part of something. If the mood is dark, the best we can do is be a light, hope for the best, and remember that while anger and fury are part of the emotional spectrum of fandom, so are hope, joy, and passion. They are opposite sides of the same coin. Hopefully the next time that coin flips, it comes up on the bright side.


Anonymous said...

Looks like you got caught hotlinking your lead image.

Craig Barker said...

Thanks ejk! I thought I had uploaded, this is what I get for working quickly. Much appreciated!