Monday, November 06, 2006

Ball State!?!? (Sorry, my bad) ...

There are a number of things that one can say about last Saturday's near-disaster vs. Ball state, the least of should probably be that it wasn't quite the near-disaster that ESPN and the rest of the college football world made it out to be. I read a number of articles today discussing our near loss, none of which seem to recognize that being Ball State, being first and goal, down eight, with the clock winding down, is still a long, long way from actually beating Michigan. You still must score, convert a 2, stop the Michigan offense and score some more in OT to actually win that game. The odds of all of that happening - against the ones - are staggering.

Still, there was plenty of reason to be shaking your head if you were wearing maize on blue on Saturday. Normally, I would break down the film, and carefully, though apologetically and in an encouraging fashion, identify the various culprits. This time, however, I'm putting this one squarely on myself.

Over the past ten years, I have watched or attended every UM football game, save one, where an immovable flight plan forced me to leave the television early and board a plane during a non-conference tune up game several years ago. Call it hubris, stupidity, temporary insanity, ESPN-U inconvenience, whatever - for some reason, this past week I made a last minute decision NOT to watch the Ball State game. In fact, I decided to take a bye on my entire Saturday routine, not watching a single pre-game show or game throughout the afternoon. In reality, I saw it as a great chance to remind my wife, who has seen me do nothing other than work and watch football the past three months, that I am not a complete jackass. Back in the spring, I had counted on this Saturday (previously a bye week) to make up some marital ground lost during the recent guantlet run.

So, instead of watching the scrubs play against Ball State, I decided to take my wife to a movie. A so-so, overrated movie (The Prestige) at that. I went into the theater having read a few "YES!" text messages (sent by a great friend who knew I was feigning not to be miserable as I escorted my wife to brunch and then the theater). As I sat down with my $8 diet coke to watch what seemed like 2 hours of previews, I felt comfortable with the recent text knowledge that we were pulling away and dominating with the rushing game. I turned off my phone, and settled in, hoping to be at least somewhat distracted by the big screen.

As we left the theater, debating whether we should have seen another film, I turned on my phone. I was greeted by a barrage of beeps and bells, indicators that something had gone terribly wrong. Afterall, this is Ball State. Surely, no one is sending me messages to congratulate us on victory. I flipped open my Razr to see that I had 16 text messages, 5 missed calls, and 2 voicemails. I looked at my wife and I could see the panic in her eyes. She, who would have a hard time distinguishing a football from a frisbee, immediately knew something was wrong. "They didn't lose," she said sternly, knowing what was running through my mind. We stopped on the sidewalk as the post-film crowd rushed by, stuck in time as I went through each text message in order, unable to just jump to the back and see how the story ends.

"Sears gets smoked on a long TD"
"Stewart gets beat deep"
"This is getting embarrassing"
"They have the ball first and goal, down 8. I'm genuinely embarrassed."
"Jamison sack! Yes!"
"Fuck. Facemask."

Then silence. Dead, cellular silence. My heart was pounding. I could feel it in my ears. I wanted to throw up, but there was no time. I was dragging my wife accross the parking lot, needing to get to my car and the XM radio to find out how it ended.

The radio gods were kind. The first words I heard after turning over the ignition were "Michigan survives a scare in Ann Arbor." I exhaled, my wife grabbed my arm, and we sat there for what seemed like 5 minutes as I thought about what I had almost done. She sat patiently, understanding her subtle, yet equally guilty role. We are in the midst of a run for the ages, and I nearly blown it. We could have waited two more weeks to catch a Saturday matinee, and she knew it.

Sorry. I won't do that again.

EPILOGUE: After watching the highlights and reading several trusted accounts, I have concluded that things are not as bad as they might first have seemed. There were lots of guys getting beat in the second half that are normally covering kicks and not recievers. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of things to be concerned about, but then again, I could say that about every team I've seen play this year at one point or another.

In the end, it's a W. I don't need style points. I need W's.

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