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I’ve had some good times doing things like drinking seventeen beers and then yelling, “I hope your house burns down with your family inside you walking pile of AIDS” at 19-year-old kids. Without question, those are fond memories. Of course, we all love college football, so that’s no surprise.
The attitude that drove me to hate an opposing player with the sort of white hot fury that should have been reserved for, like, Syrian war crimes or the fact that there are children who go hungry in America or something, all because said player threw a ball into the hands of an equally giant piece of shit seven yards in front of him, has diminished, however. I’m just not as invested as I used to be, though I can’t say a picture of Sam Bradford wouldn’t reflexively trigger a slurred string of violent threats and hateful wishes from me. Nor can I say that releasing it wouldn’t feel any less right than it used to. (It would. In some dark but not nearly as deep as it should be part of my soul I know it would.)
Taking a step back from my fandom — a step back that has admittedly been facilitated by my alma mater, Mizzou, taking its own giant, laugh about it or you’ll cry, step back from relevancy — has afforded me some perspective. That perspective, my new philosophy on college football, if you will, is this: If my team is going to suck, then I want it to suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
Eight win seasons can go die in a fire. The fire I used to want Ndamukong Suh’s family to die in, for example. Give me four wins — six max as long as they’re all awful, wet garbage victories, like a 9-6 win over UConn (a real thing I was once forced to watch!) that let me know early on that I can go ahead and check out for the year — or give me ten-plus. Don’t give me a top-5 defense but make me cheer for an offense that scores fewer points than I’ve had beers. They’ll just make me drink more, which will only widen the points to beer gap and depress me more, which in turn will cause me to drink even more. It’s a vicious, endless cycle, albeit one that’s totally preventable would I be personally willing to put a stop to it. (I am not.)
I don’t want to invest in mediocrity, and I say this because I’m dumb enough to do it. Every year.
Not only do I want my team to either be awesome, or to blow a cloned mammoth’s hulking, musky, hair draped shaft, but part of me almost prefers them to be awful.
The highs of rooting for a great college football team are incredible. 2007 and 2013 — years in which Mizzou finished ranked in the top 5 and were a half and a quarter away from the BCS National Championship Game, respectively — were two of the most fun years of my life. I can’t imagine what it’s like to root for Bama or Ohio State. I have to assume this year in a town like Ann Arbor is inarguably glorious as well.
But the vast majority of great seasons come with lows. Overly dramatic, intensely disappointing, but totally self-inflicted lows. After a loss in years like those, a college football fan goes through the same forms of anger and depression a rich little girl does on Christmas when she has to settle for thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and a pony because her parents didn’t have enough money to hire — nor the right underworld connections to kidnap and enslave — actresses Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, force them to stay in character as the princesses from “Frozen,” and be their daughter’s best friends for an indeterminate number of years.
“Well why don’t you name the pony ‘Elsa,’ darling? Would that help?”
“No! I hate that pony, puh-pa! I want it to die!”
“Do you want me to have Giles kill the pony, darling?”
*Sighs* “Fine, fine. Alright darling. Giles! Oh Giles! Fetch the shotgun and your slicks. The pony won’t be staying with us after all.”
“Very good sir.”
That’s basically hundreds, if not thousands, of kids from schools like Texas A&M, LSU, Ohio State, Texas, Florida State, and more on any given week, depending on who lost. Standing in the middle of countless gorgeous college girls, getting drunk with all of their friends, and thinking, “DAMN YOU GOD HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME!?!”
I was there when Missouri lost in overtime to South Carolina on homecoming in 2013, after allowing them to score a touchdown on a 4th and 15 when a stop would’ve sealed the game, and then doinking a short field goal a little later for the loss. After that loss, CoMO was half-abandoned shopping mall levels of depressing. The only thing that saved the night was the Cardinals winning a World Series game an hour later, and thus giving the Cardinals fans at the school (which is at least 50% of the student population) a reason to party. Do you know how desperate you have to be to root for the happiness of Cardinals fans? I don’t want to go back to that place. Not ever.
I was also at Mizzou this past homecoming. We lost to Middle Tennessee State. And we raged.
Nothing can ruin the party when your team sucks. If my own stories about Mizzou don’t sufficiently make that point, then look no further than Texas State, a large state school you’ve probably never heard of that exists 30 minutes south of Austin in the pitch black shadow of the Texas Longhorns. A school ignored because of geography, local and state market saturation, and a level of play that’s comparable to a Vermont high school team.
And those kids rage.
I’ve been to Power 5 tailgates that aren’t as fun as a Saturday afternoon in San Marcos, Texas. If I were Texas State students, I would never want the Bobcats to be good. It’s like they’re in a forgotten paradise. Check that, they literally do live in a forgotten paradise. They can do whatever they want. The school is just happy the students even care enough to show up outside the stadium. A lot of their fraternity tailgates are humongous, as big as pretty much anything I saw at LSU or Georgia, for example. And at no point are they in danger of having their days ruined by a loss.
That which is dead cannot die.
If your team is good, great. Enjoy those wins, assuming you aren’t an Alabama fan, all of whom I have to believe appreciate winning with same enthusiasm Leonardo DiCaprio appreciates supermodel gynecology. But if your team isn’t competing for, say, at least a division title in a not-dogshit division, just punt the season and dedicate your time to meeting girls at tailgate, chugging beers that should be colder than they are, and subsequently yelling at the pledges for not buying enough ice.
Embrace the suck of your college football team. It’s a weight off, really..