Did y’all know this is a sports column now? OK, not really, but I’ve been talking about sports an awful lot lately (twice? that’s a lot) because I’m kind of obsessed with college football right now. I’ll let you know when “Sports Illustrated” comes calling for me.
So my Rebels lost. Most of y’all are glad, and yes, I understand that. This is LSU country. But it was SAD, y’all. Oh, it was sad. And then I hear LSU fans saying things like, “Great game!” and I wonder if they were either unconscious or watching “Friday Night Lights” during the whole thing, because that game was a downright torture session of awfulness. Maybe–maybe!–it was a great game IF YOU WON, but for Rebel fans, just, no. Not great.
I cried when it was over. Just like that silly Ole Miss girl on TV, the one ESPN kept showing dabbing at her eyes. I FEEL YOU, SISTER. I mean, I didn’t break down into heaving sobs and slam around a gallon of milk, but it was a heartbreaker.
I’m going to tell you LSU fans a little something about what it’s like to be the underdog. Oh, y’all think you know all about it because you’ve had a few bad seasons, but come on. Two national championships in the past 15 years? That does not an underdog make. And then I heard a few LSU fans groaning about how their team is lousy this year, and COME ON. Y’all are #16 in the nation.
It’s all about perspective, people.
So here I am, a Louisiana girl with an Ole Miss degree and a fierce love for the Rebels, and I won’t go into how it can feel strangely disloyal, rooting for a Mississippi team when I love Louisiana with all my heart. When I feel like those Tigers should belong to me, sort of, except I didn’t go to school there, and oh yeah, I’m supposed to hate them. “Geaux to hell, LSU,” and all.
But my point is, my Rebels do not win national championships. We’re the underdogs. Not Vanderbilt-type underdogs, and not like those other dogs in Mississippi whom I don’t like to mention by name and who aren’t underdogs this year, anyway. We have good seasons, and we go to the Independence Bowl, and we put up a fight and give some top 10 teams a good scare now and then, but we often lose. They’re respectable losses where we go down fighting until the very last second, but in the end, you either get the W or the L, and nobody cares how you went about earning it.
But then this season happened, and we went undefeated for six games. We beat Bama! We were ranked #3! People said we were the Real Deal, and the fans were believing it. I caught myself shaking off my usual Negative Nancy attitude and wondering…maybe this could be The Season. I never thought I’d see the Saints win a Super Bowl in my lifetime, and we know how that turned out. So maybe….just maybe.
And then we went to Death Valley…and lost. Not a shocking turn of events–it was at night, less than a week from Halloween, and surrounded by all the mystique that is the Ole Miss/LSU rivalry. It was going to be a tough game. And if we could win it, if we could take down the Tigers at home at night (which we’ve done before, but THIS SEASON, it needed to be this season), then maybe…glory days ahead?
LSU people are bored with this column. I’m sorry. I have a broader point here, really.
A great season, a #3 ranking, and still I wanted more. I wanted and didn’t get an LSU win, and now I want an Auburn win, but none of it will be the same because our undefeated season is gone, gone.
So now we’ve fallen to #9. If you had told me in August my Rebels would make the top 10 this season, I would have done a cartwheel (were such a thing possible). But here we are, and it’s not enough. In fact, it’s disappointing. I don’t want to be #9. I want to be #1. I want to win ALL THE GAMES. I want I want I want.
See, I find football to be like life, in that most of us are just regular people, shuffling through life, doing our best, beating Vanderbilt every year because that’s what you do, but we all have a pipe dream. And sometimes amazing things happen, things we didn’t expect, and we find ourselves thinking maybe…just maybe THIS IS IT. But here’s the problem: we end up so focused on IT that all the cool stuff that happens in the meantime feels like a letdown because it wasn’t enough.
Do you see? Where is the perspective, people? My team is #9! Life is good! My house is a wreck and I’m always tired, but my kids are awesome and my cat stopped peeing on the rug, and life is good. What more can I want?
Oh, right. A national championship win.
I’m not sure this analogy is working, but let’s go with it. And I’m going to end this now by saying here’s to having some gratitude, even if one must be grateful for just getting a taste of the big time, instead of an entire serving.
Instead of an entire Bowl. Game.
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)