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Sunday, September 11, 2005

"Being a sports fan is largely about having to cope with losing."
--Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, (omg. buy it.) Warren St. John

This isn't going to be about credit or saying "good game" or even owning up to incorrect things I said earlier. That's for later. Now is about pain. It's about helpless incomprehension. It's probably about death, too, since apparently everything is.

I didn't really ever "decide" to do this blog thing. It just sort of started it, and now I find myself here, very far away from any place I thought I'd be. I think cocaine works like this. And, like cocaine, I now find myself having to do something extremely unpleasant because my addiction demands it. My big cathartic Rose Bowl wrapup was something like "ugh, talk more later," which I never did. That was fine because no one read the blog (not that there was a reason to then). Now, given that people actually seem to read this, I am in a nasty spot. I have to write something; I would rather crawl in a hole, avoid the Internet for six days, and show up at the Eastern game.

So you get this. It's about pain. What else would it be about?

"Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it may seem, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career."
--Confessions of a Winning Poker Player, Jack King (as told by Mike McDermott in Rounders)

As a good but fundamentally flawed poker player I can vouch for this statement. No particular winner stands out as a golden cow to worship, but bad beat stories, I've got a few. (Omaha with bottom set on a 9-5-3 against a preflop raising maniac who managed to catch the nine and five spares on has AAxx and the runner-runnered a flush; Omaha again, massive preflop raising capped off by me and my AAxx. Flop a flush draw, guy pots in front of me, raise all in, catches runners to make two pair. I could continue if you like but I've made my point, and confused and bored probably 98% of you.) Now I have one more.

I've touched on similar topics before: we are wired to know pain, and feel it, and fear it, and remember it. So when we find ourselves in the silly, unnecessary position of feeling pain over sporting events we remember what caused the feeling above all else, especially if it violates our models of the way thing generally work. If the events are evil and unexpected of they are new information that's desperately important to recall so that we do not find ourselves in a similar situation once again.

But, then, life is also built around meaningful action--all this learning is directed at changing behavior--which is horrifyingly absent from spectation. So the newly terrible experience dredges up the past experiences, combines with the helplessness of it all, and reinforces the previous experience (we quite literally learn only by repetition, though the rep count can be "1"), stripping away all the incidental, varying data and leaving behind the constant: a tiny white-hot ball of dread in the mind that feels like it's somewhere in the stomach, reaching up into your throat with its wicked black talons.

If something vicious and painful reoccurs regularly, that is.

"To a Michigan fan, every Irish loss over the past ten years has been due to an unfortunate, ridiculous confluence of unlikely events: fumbles, ridiculous refereeing, blocked punts, hilarious deflected passes, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not (though it is): that’s what it feels like."
--Me, like two days ago.

And so it is again. A deflected pass caught for an Irish touchdown. Two laser-guided smart bombs that Breaston could not catch. Four offensive starters out. And then the end of the game, a hair-tearing, son-disowning thing. Hope proffered and quickly snuffed out, each EKG-blip of life followed by a droning flatline more terrible than the last. The end of that game was a parody of each soul-crushing loss, the kind of thing Joe Ezterhaus would reject as unrealistic (and desperately lacking girl-on-girl action). It was calculated for maximum psychic distress.

Some part of me acknoweldges the fact that if Brady Quinn could throw an accurate pass longer than six yards we probably wouldn't have been close enough to even make a painful run at the end and might be inclined to rationally approach the game, but it's a small part that must content itself with screaming into the wind, which does not listen and would not care if it heard.

That's why I wrote the way I did on BGS, because that's the way it's felt amd that's the way I am, a roiling cauldron of emotions. I strive for total transparency here. You get what I think, what I feel. This has its ups (I rather liked the top ten sporting moments posts) and downs (repetitive, useless sophistication bashing). So believe me when I say there seems something cosmically unfair about games against Notre Dame. They've been historically cruel. That sort of thing drives you slightly insane after a while--or completely bats in the case of Buckeyes under Cooper. I mean no disrespect to the university or the program, and while I lace them with jokes I would hope you notice that my own beloved team is no stranger to the same treatment.

I now am coping with the fact that one of this year's twelve precious babies was born stunted and malformed. If you're looking for schadenfruede, here it is: As the game ended, I sat with my head in my hands as the last seconds ticked off the clock. I walked silently from the stadium. My friends and I drove home silently. Thinking about the events of the game makes my fists clench. Food tastes like sawdust. If you would like to take this opportunity to taunt... well, I see you already have, which places you firmly amongst those bound for the very maw of Satan upon your earthly demise. If you are the kind of fan who knows about this site, cares about BGS, and would go so far as to post comments, you're a diehard. You know what myself and other Michigan fans feel like, and you choose to kick us when we're down. May it be visited upon you a hundredfold--you know exactly what you do. At BGS they celebrate the victory by posting pictures of our coach and taunting me instead of, oh, I don't know, talking about their team. Congratulations, guys. Your team won, but while your coach is large you have proven yourselves to be very small.

(Analysis later... there will not be a big EMU to-do and I don't plan on going over the game tomorrow so it may be somewhat late-ish.)