Why was I not all that surprised? Because I am a pessimist by nature. This tendency doesn't serve me well most of the time, but, when things go bad, I am usually less taken aback than the people who always walk around on happy feet. But I must admit, this one hit me hard. I had really started to buy into the hype, feeling like Tech had a legitimate shot at the Big XII title, and who knows, maybe more. I know a Big XII title shot is still theoretically possible, but c’mon: who really believes Okie State will beat the unofficial NFL franchise of Oklahoma?
Because of my pessimistic nature, I prepared for this loss by deciding to avoid watching the game in the company of others, and instead, opted to go it alone. I could tell, by the end of the first quarter, that it was not going to go well. By the middle of the second quarter, I became so distraught, I turned the TV off and retreated outside, where I cracked open a bottle of wine. I dispensed with the fancy glass and, in a scene reminiscent of a 1950’s western, where the bad guys trade whiskey with the Indians, began chugging it straight out of the bottle. But this was a pretty good cabernet, not rotgut. “Hmmm… An amusing little firewater. Presumptuous, yet eminently palatable.” I drank myself into a stupor and quickly fell asleep.
I awoke the next morning with a sense of dread and a terrible hangover. People around me acted as if somebody had died. All the sharp objects had been removed from their usual places of storage. My firearms were hidden away. People kept their distance. I avoided watching any sports-related reporting on television. I didn’t look at the newspaper. I went to the office and logged into the computer, and in a blurb on the MSN web browser, I saw the score. Holy shit.
My mind sort of went haywire. This couldn’t be. How could they blow it that badly? I ran into some doofus later, one of those “zippiddy do dah” sunshine pumpers; he is the type who, even under normal circumstances, makes me want to kick the stuffing out of him. He wanted to talk with me about the game. He tried to convince me that it wasn’t all that bad. He is now buried beneath the floor in my onion cellar.
However, time does heal all wounds. Well, at least it helps abate the hangover from drinking a full bottle of Franciscan. Discussions with people much better adjusted than I am (that covers pretty much everybody), including my fellow scribes on this blog, have helped me see that it’s not the end of the world. I’ve managed to cobble together a few seemingly healthy rationalizations why:
1. I can quit sweating it. I’ve been fretting this all season; this game I mean. At the beginning, I said if we could go 10-2, I’d be pretty happy. I always figured the game in Norman would be one of those losses, with another thrown in just to satisfy my pessimistic side. Now, I can quit worrying about it.
2. We’re 10-1, with a decent shot at going 11-1. If you’d told me that at the beginning of the season, I’d have been thrilled.
3. Just a bad day? I’m still convinced that Tech is not as bad as they looked on Saturday. This was, as I see it, one of those “perfect storm” things. There were a lot of things lining up that made this outcome occur. It was in Norman, always a tough place to play. Stoops may be a turd, but he can coach and he can damned sure motivate his players. He knew he’d need to turn Tech into a greasy spot to make a statement for the pollsters. His players were still pissed from last year. Plus, our guys just did not seem to have the intensity they had against UT or OSU. I’m not sure any level of play by Tech could have overcome the OU steamroller last Saturday, but I suspect the lopsided score wouldn’t have been quite so, well, lopsided, had Tech not been flat.
4. Hey, blowouts can happen to anybody. Tech did it to Kansas this year. To OSU too. UT got blown out by OU by 52 points just 5 years ago, and by 49 points a few years before that. The folks who dealt Tech this butt kicking got beat pretty bad by USC in the Orange Bowl a few years back. It happens. It sucks when it does, but, it happens.
5. Maybe we get to keep Cap’n Mike. One of my other things to sweat was, and is, Coach Leach leaving us for another, bigger school. Face it, before this loss, most of the talk was about him hauling ass. The humble folks from Tennessee kept posting on their Scout board that Leach was already as good as there, that they “could have him if they want him” and that nobody would choose Lubbock over Knoxville. I never really thought Leach would be a good fit there, if, for no other reason, that I don’t think he’d want to be at a school with a double negative in its fight song. Still, the talk caused such trepidation that people started websites to collect funds to bribe him to stay. I hear somebody started trying to erect a faux mountain near his home to try to combat the “flat Lubbock" vs. “we got mountains” swill the Tennessee people kept spouting. To this end, somebody managed to pile up 30 feet of cottonseed hulls in his backyard by the time of Saturday’s whuppin. Now, it’s not that I think Coach Leach isn’t going to be sought after anymore, because I know better. He’s the most innovative coach in the country, and he will surely still be wooed. However, he may not seem quite so bootylicious now. Let’s face it: all the Simonize, buffing and elbow grease in the world can’t put a shine on the turd Mike’s team laid in Norman last Saturday. Maybe he’s less of a hot commodity now. More importantly, however, maybe this will make him want to stay and prove this blowout was a fluke.
6. At least the Tech game had implications. Not all that long ago, we’d have been at 5 & 5 and coming down to the wire needing a win just to get into some crappy bowl. The fact that Tech was in a game of this magnitude means that the program is progressing. You’ve got to go through stuff like this to get to the promised land. As I’ve heard a lot of people who should know say, it takes a lot of talent and more than a little luck to get to a national championship. Any good team can have setbacks (see above). Tech now has to show it has the character to put this loss behind them and keep moving on. I think they can, and I think there is nobody better situated to do this than Coach Leach.
7. This loss can be liberating. A guy I sort of know suggested this, and he’s smarter than me (that’s damning him with faint praise, but he really does know something). He’s right: I can have my life back. I gotta be honest…I was getting a little obsessed there. As each win was amassed, I’d get more and more wound up. I kept bargaining, making all sorts of crazy deals. Heck, I even promised to get my tax returns done “early” if we could just win the Nebraska game. Tech won, and a deal is a deal-I got them in on October 14, a full day early. It was unprecedented. The cost of these bargains kept going up. At one point, I almost said “If we can just beat Texas, I’ll…I’ll, well…I’ll stop drinking!” Note that I wrote “almost.” Come, on, who are we kidding here? I love Tech and all, but let’s be reasonable. I offered up a garage cleaning instead. As the season progressed, things started getting downright scary. I even said I’d be willing to give up some somewhat unnecessary bodily appendage if Tech could just beat OU in Norman. I settled on my pinkie toe. I guess it’s a good thing we lost. I need that pinkie toe for balance on my follow through. Now that we’ve lost, life can settle down a bit. I can quit playing The Matador Song on my ipod, my dog can take off the little TT t-shirt I’ve been making him wear, and I get to keep my body parts. It’s all good.
8. There’s still some ball left to play. Tech can still make a good showing against Baylor, I hope, and maybe go to a decent bowl game and do well. It’s looking like the Cotton Bowl, which is a bit of a disappointment given our earlier ambitions. But hey, at least it’s a New Year’s Day Bowl, and moreover, I’ll save on travel costs. Sure would have liked to see Miami or Phoenix, though. However, in the back of my mind, I’m still hoping for a minor miracle in Stillwater (See? I’m not a complete pessimist.)
So, you see, it’s not the end of the world. Things could be worse. Life has its setbacks. We all have them, and this is how it goes. If these reasons aren’t good enough for you, there is always one more thing you can consider. The one thing that I always find consoling, and I bet it works for you, too: At least we’re not Aggy.