What An Opportunity

Sir, do you prefer your glasses rose-colored, or half-empty?

In Sports on September 1, 2012 at 2:51 am

Well, another football season kicks off today. Actually, it kicks off in just a few hours; Notre Dame opens up vs. Navy in Ireland, and the game starts at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. I am so incredibly excited for this game. The season opener is a surreal experience every year… the offseason is soooo loooong, it seems that my eyes are in disbelieving ecstasy when toe finally meets leather. And the Bills’ season opener against the Jets follows not long after the college season begins – only 8 days now – and then we’re underway, full steam ahead. As I eagerly await these kickoffs, I find myself pondering what I should expect once they occur.

For me, it all boils down to one primary question. As I begin this five-month journey of fanhood, I ask myself, what attitude will allow me to gain the absolute maximum amount of enjoyment out of the season? Unassailable, doe-eyed optimism? Critical, cynical pessimism? Some kind of middle ground? I know some who would say that it is most un-fanlike to expect your team to fail in any way; therefore, they clearly lean the way of optimism. And of course this is a beautiful, blissful existence… until the ball is in play and your team does fail. Then what? Your hopes have been dashed. You have been disappointed. That seems ugly to me. I went that route last year; after 3 seasons of refusing to believe in mediocre Irish football teams, my senior year I decided to sell out and chug that green Irish Kool-Aid. With All-American candidates Michael Floyd and Manti Te’o returning, plus countless other key pieces (including a 4-0 starting quarterback), I recall thinking THIS IS OUR YEAR! Well, let me tell you, that Notre Dame vs. South Florida season opener was simultaneously a punch to the gut and a kick to the groin. It was unbearable. I was so disheartened.

But I’m a resilient fellow, and by midweek after that game, I was (incredibly) starting to get my hopes up again. I was thinking things like, We had turned the ball over 5 times, and had still almost won! We couldn’t possibly play worse! If we won 11 straight games to finish 11-1, we could still make the National Championship! By Saturday night, when the game vs. Michigan was about to begin, I was believing again. And what a mistake that was. After another snakebitten game filled with 5 more turnovers, and what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown with :30 left turning into a game-losing touchdown with :02 on the clock, I couldn’t have been more sick. That game left me truly jaded for the rest of the season… I just didn’t have a whole lot left to invest, and when the team ultimately lost 3 more games to finish 8-5, my heart was hard as flint. I just didn’t have any caring left in me.

And don’t even get me started on the Bills. The last time the Bills played a playoff game, I was 11 years old. That playoff game was the stage for Home Run Throwback, the single most excruciating moment of my young sports life to that point (just barely dethroning No Goal – those two tragedies still reign at #1 and #2). Just like the Wolverines, the Titans appeared to be defeated, when they snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat and put a dagger through our collective heart. Since that crushing defeat, the Bills have led us into numerous flirtations with success, only to let us down in the most painful way possible. The heralded acquisition of Drew Bledsoe in 2002… winning 31-0 over NEW ENGLAND to open 2003… having a 9-6 record, win and we’re in, heading into the last game vs. the Steelers (who were resting starters since they had already clinched their playoff position – yet the game still somehow turned out to be Willie Parker’s personal coming out party)… going 5-0 to start the 2008 season… going 3-0, 4-1, and 5-2 to start the 2011 season… and the list goes on.

In every single one of these cases, being disappointed was a direct result of allowing myself to believe in the first place. So maybe the key is lowering my hopes below the team’s probable level of success. With that in mind, I predict that Notre Dame goes 7-6 or 8-5 this season, and the Bills go somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7. And I pray that my teams exceed my expectations, instead of doing the opposite, which they have so often done.

Shake down the thunder, circle the wagons… Here comes football!

  1. Good luck to your Bills and Irish. Being a Seattle fan I know disappointment too. But going into a season being optimistic when its somewhat warranted is the only way to be. It’s more fun. So what if you get disappointed. Like THAT’s never happened before. Be joyful. Go Seahawks!

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