On the harsh reality of football

This past weekend, Penn State played Ohio State. I did not watch the game. I was at my sister's wedding, which although I give her credit for not scheduling during a home Penn State game, she still could have chosen the week we play someone not ranked #1 in the country. By the way, Cheryl's wedding was great -- to give you some idea how great, I made it all the way through about 30 minutes of the ceremony before even wondering what the score was!

Anyway... back to football. When I was an undergrad, Penn State was good. It all culminated in the 1994 undefeated season. You can say whatever you want and you will never, ever convince me that we did not deserve the national championship that year (just to remind everyone -- that offense included Kerry Collins, Bobby Engram, Kyle Brady, Marco Rivera, and Jeff Hartings -- who are all still playing in the NFL 12 years later). I think that's where my perspective comes from -- ever since 1994, I expect every year that Penn State will be a contender, that we can win every game, that we are in every game even when we are underdogs. Even during the lowest of the low (which I define as the 6-4 loss to Iowa), I never lost hope. For example, during the 3-9 season, we were 2-6 when it was time to play Ohio State. I was probably the only one in the stadium who believed that we could win, and in fact sat there the entire game thinking we were going to win. I don't know if anyone else remembers that game, but I remember the score being 20-21 with time running out and Joe put us in position to let our rocket leg kicker David Kimball try a 60+ yard field goal attempt. He missed it by a matter of feet. To this day I think that had that field goal been good, things would have been different -- Joe probably would have not gotten as much criticism and there would have been more optimism around the team.

As everyone knows, in 2005 things turned around, we finished 11-1, beat Bowden and Free Shoes U in the Orange Bowl, and except for the extra 2 seconds the refs gave Lloyd Carr, we might have played for the National Championship.

So I was thinking that this year things would continue where we left off -- we might lose a game or two, but we had every reason to believe we would go undefeated, knock off ND in South Bend, OSU in Columbus, and finally get the Wolverine off our back at home. So, how did that work out? Well, ND was bad, OSU was good except for the last few minutes, and for the first time in my life, I am not optimistic about playing Michigan.

I think that I have come to the conclusion that I've been deluded into believing that Penn State is an elite team that should be preseason ranked top 5 every year, considered a threat for the mythical national championship every year, and should be expected to beat both OSU and UM at least half of the time. It is now clear that we are a second tier team (which isn't a bad thing -- it's just that I could never bring myself to admit this before) that should be expected to be a 7 / 8 win team each year, and maybe every once in a while can be expected to pull off an upset over a truly elite team.

I wish it wasn't true, but it is.


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