Immediately after Alabama’s loss to Auburn, Nick Saban’s penetrable glare issued the edict that every boy age three to dippin’ age in the Rammer Jammer State practice field-goal making ‘til their toes curled into their feet. The immediacy of the loss stung. Fans of the program were distraught, dumbfounded, and willing to to bust a cap after Chris Davis returned a missed field goal for the winning score. What a cruel, unceremonious way to bring a dynasty to a momentary halt. However, is the last-second, someone-even-told-the-drama-majors-on-campus-about-the-defeat the worst way to lose?
Any fan experiences the multitude of ways to lose a big game if you vest any interest in sports, but what type of loss produces more gut-rot, malaise, and uneasiness when one’s team is on the short end of a game?
The contingent of Roll Tide faithful bemoans the outcome from last Saturday. They experienced hiccups of annoyance and unease, but only suffered real pain, genuine pain when (as most Alabama fans will refer to him) “Curse-word” Davis ruined the Tide’s chance for a three-peat. The victory presented itself, well overtime did at least. Missed kicks, highly improbable circumstances, and a confluence of other things shifted the tide from tie to loss. Based on the manner in which Saban’s invitation to the SEC Championship was revoked, Alabama fans surely lived in denial, the first stage of grief, for quite some time.
The type of loss sounds bad, borderline awful. I offer the nominal sympathy one can for a team that’s dominated college football for around the better part of five years. Lay a few flowers at the feet of the Saban statue, because you know casting a coach’s likeness in bronze is an act of permanence. For all the disgust the loss gives Alabama fans, it beats losing in a blowout.
Hope, optimism, and the dare to dream for the best wash away with the stench of 17 unanswered points to start a game. What happened to Red-Rocket-Double-Zebra Cakes-73 that bailed your team out on countless third downs this year? Where is the blitzing weak-side corner that stunted multiple drives during the season? A blowout eliminates all the good and confidence you built in your mind about the team.
In the blowout of a supposed close match-up, your values are shaken, your ideology denied. How could it be? Your guys had enough ass up front to combat the power run game. Their corners bit on play-action the entire season, why didn’t they in the big game? You thought and thought from hours spent watching your team and in the end not only did they disappoint you, they proved you wrong.
With tight games, your team might have done all the things you expected them to do. They fulfilled your expectations of them. So the game turns on a few downs, big deal. In a blowout, you are made to look dead wrong, awfully dumb, and as inept as your team. If my team can’t win the big game, at least keep my credibility is intact as someone who watched them the entire season.
Big games mean you’ll often watch from start to finish. You may flirt with a few more networks in a blowout, but you’ll stick with the game. Close games don’t allow any time for announcers to genuflect at the team with a big lead because no big lead exists. In Auburn’s case, Verne Lundquist detailed Davis’ run, a few post-game interviews took place, and then it was back to the studio to watch highlight after highlight of the same play that in full-disclosure, left me pounding the table and making the same noises Cosmo Kramer did to investigate if in fact Joe DiMaggio dunked his donuts. Blowouts give announcers time to exercise the hyperbole they attempt to shelf the entire game. You’re forced to endure cutesy anecdotes and bits of wisdom. Close games force announcers to do their job. (The pissiness of Moises Alou and the sure hands of Alex Gonzalez taught me to turn off a game the moment it’s over. No post game shows, suspend your Twitter account, and avoid the Sixth Circle of Hell that’s Facebook after close games.)
There’s no guarantee any Alabama fan will agree with this particular opinion. Why they might run up to Chicago and attempt to poison the fake Christmas tree in my parents’ basement, but in time they’ll get over the loss. At least they knew they had a chance, had some hope that at least kept them interested and entertained. It’s not life or death, but it’s hell to sit through a blowout.