Tuesday, September 8

Anatomy of An Agonized Fan

While most of the country watched the game last night between Miami and Florida State with a high level of enjoyment, it was agony as far as I was concerned. And my team won. I believe I have finally reached the point where I can no longer enjoy the games that my favorite team in sports plays. After the heart-pounding end to the Hurricanes 38-34 upset victory at Florida State I felt numb, like I had just had ten cups of coffee, four red bulls, and a bottle of Quaaludes. It was hours before I fell asleep and that was not due to my excitement over what lay ahead for the U or the relief of winning the game, it was my body uncoiling from the stress I put myself under watching the marathon game. What follows is a recount of how I watched the game and it is no means a happy tale, it is a descent into the madness of the sports mind. So read on, if you do not fear the disturbed.

I suppose the story starts over the weekend when our friend Xtra Medium offered his residence and big-ass HD TV (I believe it is 61.5 inches) for the viewing of the game. Seeing as how this was the best possible viewing station, I would be surrounded by friends, and there would be cases of beer in the fridge I accepted. I did my best to warn them that I would probably not be a socially adept guest during the game but they said it was perfectly fine. In fact, I'm sure they take certain glee in watching my agony over Miami football. Last year in the same setting I watched Georgia Tech run roughshod over the Canes when UM held the ACC Coastal Division in their hands. I assured XM that I was going to keep my mouth shut and just watch the game. After the game was well in hand I took out my vented frustration on kicker/punter Matt Bosher. As he took his sweet time punting a ball that would be partially deflected I threw my visor across the room and shouted, "PUNT THE FUCKING BALL!" My promise to remain in control fell apart as did the dreams of a respectable Hurricanes season.

Later that year while watching the Emerald Bowl I was down and out with the flu. This game had little consequence on the grand scheme of things in college football; Miami would still finish over .500 and they were playing a team in its own backyard. However, after the horrible clock management that led to the eventual loss to Cal, I worked myself into such a rage that when combined with the medication and my overworked immune system firing led me to pass out on the couch. I awoke in a swirl of tissues, theraflu and notions that Patrick Nix being our offensive coordinator was no longer acceptable.

I am a passionate person when it comes to sports. I am competitive and hate to lose. Yet being a lifelong Mets fan and a Patriots fan before their recent success you would think I could handle my teams losing. There just is something about Miami football that boils my blood. A couple years back when Catfish and I were roommates I had a knock on my door from our downstairs neighbor checking to see if there was domestic violence occurring in our apartment. It turns out the horrific noises he heard was me shouting at the television as I watched Miami get crushed by Louisville in a game where they decided to dance on the Cardinal logo beforehand.

I suppose it is part of my personality to take this game too seriously; for some reason Miami Hurricane football encapsulates everything I love and hate about my life and believe me I know that is not healthy. With that in mind, here is what I put myself through last night.

I arrived at XM's house a little after 8:00 which was planned because I did not want to see any of the pregrame or the FSU mascot place the flaming spear in the ground. I realize that the Seminole tribe has given their blessing to allow FSU to keep their mascot and traditions, but you cannot tell me that the Tomahawk chop is a nondiscriminatory gesture. Furthermore it was great to see all the "scalp Miami signs", that screams observant of historical fact recognition. Once I arrived I was so nervous I did not even want to drink. I love beer. I love beer mixed with football but I honestly felt physically ill before the game. I had watched the previous Labor Day UM-FSU games and thought this would be similar in its low-scoring, constant mistakes, frustration to the max level of play. XM offered me the prime seat for screen vision in all its glory but I declined and took a corner couch seat. XM sat with his girlfriend on an adjacent couch and my good friend who is a Georgia fan plopped on the couch next to me.

This is where my mental fiber became severely distorted. My friend, whom I will refer to as Beck for purposes of anonymity, is a huge Georgia fan. While I was unable to watch the Ok State game with her she assures me she is the same way during Bulldog games. So I was very observant of the fact she was pissed about the loss on Saturday, but yet she was here and cheering on Miami no less. Despite the fact that she tried in vain to convince us she was wearing an orange dress in support of UM, everyone agreed that the dress was pink. And yes, I know she reads this blog and your dress was pink Beck, PINK. So getting back to the "plopping", my nerves exploded and I told her to back off because I needed my space. I did not yell it but it was a dick move and looking back I regret it but at the time I was on edge. So right away I have established that I was going to be a problem from the outset.

Watching the Miami offense the past 4-5 years has been painful,especially after my fandom arose when I attended school at Miami during the Ken Dorsey years. The first drive began well as new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple seemed to have a good gameplan. Following a good kickoff return and a few first downs, Jacory Harris connected with Travis Benjamin for a 39 yard touchdown. This would be a time for jubilation as my friends indicated but I only told them I knew not to get over excited because it was only the first drive. 7-0 Miami

Miami also has a new defensive coordinator this year, Jim Lovett from North Carolina. The defensive line was playing without two of their starters however and last year Ponder torched Miami in FSU's win. The Seminoles drove down the field but due to penalties fell to a 3rd and 23. And like clockwork, FSU picked up the first down and eventually scored on a wide open pass to their tight end, Piurowski. 7-7

Miami sputtered a bit on offense helped in part by some penalties and dropped passes(Uggg... one of the problems from last year)and FSU was having minimal problems moving the ball. They got in field goal range or at least on the edge of it. Their freshman kicker, Dustin Hopkins trotted out with his gold shoes for a 52 yard attempt. Now, if you know anything about this rivalry you know that FSU has had its struggles when it comes to field goals. Three "Wide Rights" and a "Wide Left" are the main episodes from the crazy kicking game that still haunts Bobby Bowden to this day. Hopkins however banged it through with room to spare. 10-7 FSU

At this point all good feelings from the first drive had evaporated and visions of a blowout began dancing in my head. At this point the most minute thing will annoy you, even if it is something that is meant to be on your side. Take, for instance the glitter girls whose blasting of their body with sparkly paint landed them their goal of copious amounts of TV facetime.
Anyone else look at the Green girl and think "Hulk Smash!"?

Miami was determined to show that this was not the same inept offense it showcased the last few years. They moved it right back down the field and scored on a 6 yard run by Javarris James. The score would remain that way into halftime. Halfway home and Miami had the lead. Again everyone tried to bring out some optimism in me but I refused, I could not accept that it would be that easy. By now Catfish had joined the soiree and while the others might have refrained from adding certain comments to the general discussion, Catfish knows me all too well and was more than happy to needle me about whatever subject including tight end Jimmy Graham. I had taken my spot on on the outside of the room by the front door, standing and swaying while watching the game. The couch was not going to hold me. But during halftime with Miami in fact with a four point lead I allowed some digression into other subjects of sports discussion. 14-10 Miami

Before we knew it the second half was starting with FSU getting a great return thanks in part to Bosher's stupid late hit out of bounds. (BOSHER!!) My mood became silent once again as Ponder threw to wide open receivers and then pranced in for a 9 yard touchdown. Hopkins shanked the extra point providing some FSU kicking references. It was starting to look ominous, Miami looked to be playing a very soft cover two which requires getting pressure with the front four. There was no such pressure for much of the night. When Miami received the ball back and Harris missed a wide open James out of the backfield on 3rd down I walked down XM's hallway to his screen porch outback. He had a TV back there, which I sat down to watch the game on. That's how messed up in the head I am; a huge HD TV with my friends and beer sitting inside but I cannot enjoy watching the game so I watch from a smaller non-HD Television on the back porch. At least the weather was nice last night. 16-14 FSU

So there I sat outside, alone, dejected as the Noles marched down the field again and scored. Jimbo had clearly figured out what the Canes were doing on defenseand he was exploiting it. Graig (don't call me 'Craig' that is how Phil Fulmer lost out on him) Cooper had an amazing night and repeatedly gave great kickoff returns as he brought Miami deep inside FSU territory. Miami got it down to the goaline but failed to punch it in and had to settle for a Bosher field goal (BOSHER!!). 23-17 FSU

Thinking that settling for a field goal there was going to cost them everything I began to ruminate on a wild array of subjects as FSU got the ball back and once again gained big chunks of yardage.
Where would the season go from here?
Why was our defense playing so conservative?
Why must life suck so much?
What should I do about my job situation?
Man I hate Lou Holtz.
How can these players keep getting cramps, they had a week to get hydrated and they practice in this humidity all the time?

Just as I was accepting defeat Marcus Robinson came around the edge and stripped Ponder of the ball. There's a gleam, there's a gleam. Jacory Harris, as he had all night winged the ball down the field and brought the Canes to the goal-line. This time he snuck it in and there was no settling for field goals. Something even more amazing happened after that; Miami forced a punt. Miami had the ball up one with a hot offense, things might work out. I guess I can go back inside and join everyone right? 24-23 Miami

I came back to my position standing in the doorway by the front door. Two plays later Harris was hit, hurt and the ball intercepted and taken in for a touchdown. Two point conversion successful. I turned around and headed back out to the porch. 31-24 FSU

There sat Harris on the sideline shaking his hand. FSU had the momentum and I convinced myself that that was it and it was a loss. I sat down on the couch outside and pondered how I could shake myself from caring so much about a game that yielded no concrete benefits to myself. There was nothing tangible gained from the outcome of this game. Miami football did not put food on the table, money in my wallet (I don't gamble), or a hot chick in my lap. I needed to reduce it to what it was, an athletic contest in which I rooted for my alma mater and if they lose then it is just a game. Yes that was it, and some meditation sessions should clear the thought from my brain. Just relax and enjoy the ride there are no stakes in this for you. Wow, Harris floats a touchdown pass to Cooper and Miami ties it up. Screw transcendental enlightenment the Canes could win. I got off the couch and began pacing. 31-31

Both teams were having a horrific time on kickoff coverage. I think it will be a point of emphasis for practice this week. FSU again got a short field but had to settle for a long field goal. You cannot always have a wide left or right and Hopkins delivered from 45. Was this it? After all the struggling to get back in the game I could not fathom Harris leading Miami down the field again. I went to maximum slouch on the porch couch. XM's cat Fred came trotting up and gave me the look of "WTF is your problem dude? It is a freaking football game." Cats have that way of looking at you when you are at a moment of irrationality and making you feel silly for it. I patted Fred's head the best I could but returned to pacing lest in a moment of rage he get in harm's way. I took stock in the objects XM had on his porch that could be broken in a fit of hysteria from the game's outcome since the game was winding down. I tried to distance myself from his guitar. 34-31 FSU

For the causal fan the breaks in the action are a chance to converse with friends and enjoy their tasty beverages but for those agonizing the commercials take forever. It seems like Super Bowl length commercials and then we have to come back to Kenny Chesney singing this song that sounds like everyone of his tunes mixed in a blender with corporate schilling easy money. Harris made a unbelievable throw to Benjamin down to the 3. Play was reviewed, call confirmed. I glance at the clock, 1:56. Might not be a bad idea to take a couple downs and waste some clock and force FSU to use its last timeout. But you cannot turn down a touchdown and Cooper put it in. We have the lead, but I have a bad feeling about the ensuing drive. 38-34 Miami

I hope when Randy Shannon (whom I am a fan of) looks back on the tape of the game and sees his squib kick go right to Reid who had been burning them all game and was placed in the squib spot he decides never to squib the rest of the year. When you have the team speed that Miami has, you should never squib the ball. FSU gets the ball at the Miami 49. The last sequence was a swirl of cuss words, leg shaking, gut-wrenching and relief. FSU handled the clock as well as Miami did last year in the Emerald Bowl and despite calling a great play on the last play, Fortson could not hang on. For a second I thought, as Christian Ponder and the 81,000 plus in attendence did, Fortson had caught it. I had no joy when the game was over, not even relief, just a numbness.

I returned inside, watched the highlights with everyone, apologized to them for being an antisocial psychopath and headed home. I hate that I could not enjoy the win, hated that I could not watch a football game and drink beer with my friends, hated that I had the gall to criticize Jacory Harris for that interception, hated that I yelled at Aldarius Johnson for injuring himself on a down-field catch. The next game is next Thursday night against Georgia Tech and while I could sit here and say I will try to relax and enjoy it I know I will be in the same condition. I have not decided where I will watch it but the best place or at least the most fitting would be in a straitjacket inside a padded room.

1 comment:

lhay said...

If it’s any consolation, most Georgia fans will agree that just the possibility of losing to FSU, Florida, and Georgia Tech in the same season will turn even the most stable fan into a hyperventilating lunatic. Hope the rest of your season isn't quite so dramatic. Best wishes from "Beck's Mom." :)