Its 36 hours until the ArenaBowl and I’m already having some sort of traumatic withdrawals. So much so that regardless of the events of Sunday afternoon, by Sunday night I’ll be partially mentally incapacitated until we hit the end of August. Preseason NFL does not help relieve the pain It’s already been established that I’m sort of crazy. So it comes as no shock that I’ve already planned out the events of August 28th, the first day of the college football season. Sadly, this is the first legitimate day of classes, but come 5pm, I’m sprinting out of Evans, getting Thai food from the place on Hearst, and by 5:45, I should be sitting in front of the TV, all ready for the epic showdown between Stanford and Oregon State.
What would compel me to get so excited about a game between two teams that, and yes i know they both beat Cal last year, will finish in the bottom 4 of the Pac-10 and in the long run is probably amongst the most inconsequential of the 45 conference games this year? Because it’s football season goddammit.
I am terrible at a lot of things. Hand-eye coordination, the understanding of women, and playing the drums on Rock Band being amongst the most obvious at the moment. I am not an athlete. I always tried to deny this in my head but I probably realized it when I was a bad second-string offensive lineman in Pop Warner. There’s a litany of other things I could bitch and moan about. But no one, including myself, gives a shit about that when there’s football on TV. A long week at school, whatever problems I have, mental, physical, emotional, frustration in general all gets pushed to the back of my mind when there’s a football on the TV. Fall and winter, I get to put on my Marshawn or Gore jerseys, yell at the TV or jump up and down at the Stick/Memorial for a few hours, and get to ignore my own problems for a while. And yeah, I realize whatever I go through from day to day is probably amongst the mildest shit anyone in the world has to deal with. But still, I’d rather spend any day bitching about Hostler’s playcalling (hopefully not about Mike Martz’s this year) than figuring out my own shit. Introspection by and large, sucks. There’s no chance that I’ll derive any inspiration or motivation from that. But Alex Smith leading an 86 yard drive on MNF, the Cal-U$C game in 2003, ArenaBowl XVIII, I watch that and can’t help but feel excited.
And I know I make football seem more important than it is a lot of the time, but that’s just because I love it for events like that. You know no matter how your own team’s season goes, you get those moments that put you on cloud nine. A loss isn’t the end of the world, after all the fan doesn’t really do a whole lot but make noise and be superstitious, but a win delivers a rush that I’m not likely to get from working on CS 186, going on a jog, and probable failure at a number of things stated throughout this post. And if the Bears/Niners/SaberCats don’t win, there’s always another week.
There’s something special about football strategy. It’s almost like a form of mental masturbation for the mildly insane. You can spend endless hours wondering how to defend a certain player, trying to stop the triple option, or pick apart a Cover 2. But it’s the innovator, the one who’s not just one step ahead, but multiple that has the upper hand. After all, No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! The game rewards creativity, and as long as we’ve got the batshit crazy (Mike Martz) creativity won’t be in short supply. And to the outside obsessive observer (people like me) it gives even more food for thought, more puzzles to play with. There’s always the anticipation of the next genius moment. It’s something even the immature among us (also people like me) relish doing in the video game football. If anything its driven the insane to be even more insane, and the geniuses to insanity. Poring over millions of scenarios and realizing that one thing that has a high probability of working merits that adrenaline rush that you can only get from 75000 (virtual) people singing Fight For California because of what you just did.
The media cultivated sports conventional wisdom tricks fans into believing in certainties and absolutes. And in football, where there are so few games, and almost all seem to be more national news than local, this becomes even more pronounced. But the road to the defeat of the conventional wisdom is often the most exciting thing of all. It’s why there’s an upset alert ticker on pretty much every telecast, and why I scramble for my remote as soon as I see it. Everyone likes to see Goliath get taken down (except for you bastard Laker/Yankee/Patriot bandwagoneers, you know who you are). Its a thrill to ride with the underdog, to achieve the unlikely and shock the world. It’s the concept of so many “little guy/loser/dork wins the game/girl” movies. And when the convention wisdom has a stranglehold on you, the story might actually be more fun to watch.
So is Stanford-Oregon State really that important? You bet your ass it is. It means another year of ridiculous optimism has begun, and if a game can deliver that much positive emotion to so many people, how can it be a bad thing. Of course it’s only good when it’s positive, but that’s mostly what I’m deriving from it. I may be going into this year without a girlfriend and with my GPA not where i wish it was, but there will be football. There will be touchdowns, walks to Memorial, train trips to the Stick, hours jumping on metal benches, and just maybe a trip to Pasadena. There are 45 games that will determine if I get to make that trip to Pasadena. The first of those 45 is Stanford-Oregon State. and its less than 5 weeks away.