Friday, January 9, 2009

The Day After Tomorrow

It feels like I just jumped out of an airplane and realized about .0003 seconds after my feet left the metal that I didn’t have on a parachute.

It feels like I just stopped by my parents to drop the car off and nobody was home because they were supposed to be working and my mom just caught me alone with one of her Glamour magazines, if you know what I mean.

It was like breaking up with a girl you really liked for three hours and at a few points you think it will work out but at the very end of it, she starts making out with a better guy right in front of you as Charles Davis and Thom Brennaman talk about it.

It’s just the worst feeling in the world. Period. No question. It just is. I spent all of yesterday wandering around my house with the same feeling in my gut as you have when you zoom by a Highway Patrolman and you know you’re going 12 over. You know, the “Oh, eff” moment where your stomach leaps out your mouth and you can’t calm down and stop looking in your rearview mirror until you’re about 14 miles down the road? Yeah, that feeling. All day. But then imagine him pulling you over nine hours later and writing you a two million dollar ticket.

I kept trying to prepare myself to lose. Mentally getting ready for the worst. I convinced myself that my confidence level was a three out of 10 and that Florida could likely beat the ’72 Dolphins. I told myself this. It was all in an effort to try and prevent the feeling I have today if the worst came to fruition. Didn’t work. It still sucks more than forgetting your lunch in second grade.

I knew we were in trouble after I pulled out a classic “It’s over routine” early in the fourth quarter and my dad didn’t disagree. He knew it too. He could feel it. OU blew its chances. And you just CANNOT do that against a team like Florida.

It’s simple. Last night’s game came down to four plays:
A. OU failing to get in the end zone of fourth down on the one.
B. OU failing to get points right before halftime.
C. Sam Bradford’s “interception” ( I put it in quotes, because it was a great freaking throw) after Florida took a 17-14 lead.
D. Florida’s third and six conversion inside the OU 10 with under three to go that led to the clinching touchdown.

Really and truly, you flip ONE, just one of those plays around and OU wins. It’s true. That’s how crazy football is. Instead of double-clutching it, Juaquin Iglesias comes down with that seed Sammy threw and OU is in scoring position to go up 21-17 with nine minutes left. Get a stop on third and six and Florida settles for three, Sam becomes the biggest hero in Sooner history as he leads a game-winning drive to a 21-20 victory. Let OU get in on fourth and goal and it’s at least 14-7 heading to the locker room with the Sooners beaming with confidence. But instead, none of it went OU’s way. I’m going to be that guy: There’s nothing for the Sooners to hang their head about. They were ready, they played their onions off but they just came up short. That doesn’t mean it still doesn’t hurt like a Nolan Ryan fastball to the groin.

I’m afraid to turn on the TV or listen to the radio. I don’t want to see or hear the consequences. I know OU played well and showed up. I know there’s no shame in losing to Florida. But when you’re as heartbroken as I am, that really doesn’t matter. What mattered was that crystal ball and we didn’t get it. But I don’t think I can turn on The Animal today and hear this for five straight hours:

Jim Traber: You’re on the Sports An-e-mal, go ahead please.
Caller: Hey Jim, two quick points: Fire Bob Stoops and Tim Tebow can cure cancer.
Jim: Okay, no more lunatics today please. Look, I bow down to the Florida Gators. I bow down to Tim Tebow. I have all the respect for the guy in the world. I hear what you’re sayin’ bruther, but enough of Tebow. You know what I’m saying? (Weird laugh) Enough already. But boy, my Steelers got a big game this week. I really like Ben---
Al Eschbach: Let me tell you something Jim. If Tim Tebow doesn’t win this game, people still love this guy and still think he’s the best. (Next sentence indiscernible). Back to the phones… you’re on the Sports Animal, goheadplease.
Caller 2: Hey Jim and Al. I think last night’s game was excellent but let me say this: If we’re going to pay Bob Stoops all this money, he should be able to win a big game. Any time we played a good team, we lost.
Al: (Nearing a conniption) What are you talking about? Nobody feels worse than Bob Stoops. Nobody. Youjustplayedinanationalchamionshipgameandlosttoagreatteam! What else do you want? Hang up on this moron.
Jim: It was a great game wasn’t it Al? Nothing for the Sooners to hang their heads about.
Al: Oh YEAH. It was un-a-believe-able.
Jim: But I’ll tell you what Al, it was those daggone third downs. If OU gets two or three more stops on third down, they win the daggone game. Plain and simple. They win. They win the game. Does that make sense?
Al: Un-a-believe-able.
Jim: We’ve got Berry Tramel here. What did you think of the game Tram?
Berry: Wellllp…. You know... I don’ t think Oklahoma played all that…. bad. Bob Stoops… uh…really didn’t…uh, uh… do a bad job. Not really. No.
Jim: But Tram, didn’t---
Berry: (Still talking, oblivious to Jim) It’s kind of like what Alfalfa Bill Murray would say, uh, Jim. If you never get off the tractor, you may not cut any grass. Or like Waleetka's old high school football coach said to me one time -- there's nothing worse, uh, than cutting your bread and finding out you don't have any gasoline in your car.
Jim: Alright Tram, but you didn’t think the call on fourth and---
Berry: Because Stoops has won his fair share of big games. He really has.
Jim: I know Tram, but what’s been the final score for each of the last five of these BCS games? Maybe Matty can look that up for us. Matty, can you see about that? Oh, well let’s take a break. Where ya at Al?
Al: BobHowardChevroletinNormanwheretheyhavegreatdealsoneverythingfromtruckstominivans. Besuretostopbyandcheckouttheirzeropercentfinancing. All the way from Hell, this is the total.
(dead air)
Al: Tot-al.
Jim: Dom-inance
Berry: Hou-arrrr.

Then two more weeks of choke talk, the random “Fire Stoops” calls, Jim and Al doing everything they can to talk sense into people about OU playing well, but Florida just being good and Berry Tramel’s folksy schtick getting really old. The morons call in and the mass majority of the fan base that’s completely normal and sane sit in our cars and listen to the idiots. Because we don’t need to tell Jim Traber how we feel. It’s not going to make anything better. The 95 percent of us that actually have a functioning brain in our head aren’t overreacting, aren’t freaking out and aren’t embarrassing ourselves. We’re just replaying every crucial play in our heads and wishing we would have won.

Here’s the thing: Bob Stoops is as good a coach as you can possibly have. If he and I were in a bank together and it was being robbed and the gunman wanted to make an example out of someone and he grabbed Bob, I’d say, “Take me instead.” I love that man. Like seriously, love him. He was born to be a football coach, as Chad Pennington would say, reeks class and is a fine, fine human being. OU didn’t lose because of him. OU lost because Florida was just a little better. In a damn fine football game, Florida won. Imagine how much this game hurts you – now multiply that by 6,000 and you’ve got how Stoops feels. And no, Stoops isn’t going to run to the basement like Scooge in Ducktales and dive into a huge pile of money and automatically feel better. Sure he makes lots of money, but I guarantee you he’d rather have that trophy right now. So don’t give me that.

But next time. Oh Lord, next time. If you think the questions were bad this go around about the past four BCS losses and so on, next time it’s going to be like Ray Finkel times two. What do you know about PRESSURE? Stoops is going to be hammered. Granted, it will help that OU showed up in a good, solid way (copyright: Bob Stoops) and played a great game, but he’ll still have to answer. But I’d rather go to the National Title game 20 straight years and lose, than never be there at all. It hurts to not reap the reward of winning – but there’s nothing better than basking in the light of a title. And as Bobby says, you have to be in it to win it.

It’s a strange thing, sports. You pour your heart and soul into a team for six months, following every little thing it does. You read every newspaper, watch every highlight, catch every coach’s show. You wear your Gameday Shirt during every game because you believe in that shirt. And when it fails you, it goes in the back of the closet and joins four other Never To Be Worn Agains. You go to battle for them. You argue with some buddy named Dave for hours about them as if it matters a whole freaking lot. This is what you do. And if it all goes right, it culminates on a night on the national stage where it’s all worth it. People kept trying to tell me leading up to it that it was just a game. Just a little football game that really doesn’t matter. Life goes on, the sun will rise tomorrow, whatever. And while yes, it is ultimately just a game, to many of us, it’s more. It’s a team that we love like an only child, that we live and die with everything they do. It’s like as a parent, when your child hurts, you hurt. And right now, my team is hurting. It’s a game, sure. But the school colors, the fight song, the players, the chants, the tradition. It’s just part of us.

So what now? Sam might go pro, Jermaine Gresham probably has one foot out the door and a good crop of seniors graduate – or at least run out of eligibility. Quite honestly, I’m not thinking about next year yet. I will once spring football rolls around, but not now. This is the grieving period. So, so close, but so, sooooo freaking close. Is there a possibility to be here again next year? Absolutely. Is there a possibility to go 9-3? Sure. Either way, will I likely go completely insane following everything little detail and loving every minute of it? Lock it up.


MartzMimic said...

OH MY GOD! The SportsAnimal take off was priceless.

Zorgon said...

Ditto! Man, that's good stuff.

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