Almost, but not quite…

Three months ago, my alma mater met up with some school from the SEC, and lost its very first game of the 2006-2007 football season. This was pretty impressive, really, considering that we’d played 12 games already, and had even beaten That School Up North, our main rival.

Four days ago, my alma mater met up with that same SEC school, and lost its very first game of the 2006-2007 basketball championship series. This was also pretty impressive, considering how many games we’d won — again, we even beat That School Up North (3 times!), and are ranked ahead of our entire athletic conference for the end of the season. We repeated last year’s new conference record (the womens’ basketball team did very well this year, giving us 3/3) and everything.

Yet, for some strange reason, the bookstores on campus (and stores for miles around — all the way to my little town, located in an adjoining county) are selling anything with the words “2007 National Championship Game” on it for 50% (or more) off. Most of them are even selling “2006/2007 Big Ten Champions” shirts and mugs and banners (and hats, and posters, and commemorative programs, and water bottles, and branded facial tissue dispensers, and…) at a deep discount. One of the ladies who works in my department de-OSUified her entire cubicle by 7am on Tuesday morning (a considerable feat, involving a sudden explosion of photos from a grandchild’s recent birthday party.)

I’ve had similar experiences in my own life — I was admitted to one of the schools I applied to for undergrad, years ago, but not into their (very exclusive) Honors program. I received a 5.0 on the Foreign Service Oral Exam (5.25 is the passing score) in 2005. And, I missed being first in line for Star Wars by only 131.75 hours — pretty much the amount of time I set aside to visit a church member’s house and go to Sunday services with him and his family each week, during the line event. Even after seeing how much #1 and #2 in line suffered, I still felt that I’d erred in judgment, and managed to convince myself that showers and pillows and a roof were totally overrated.

All of my reactions to these events, and the response of Central Ohio to recent point-balance shortfalls on the part of our athletic squads, share a single trait: disproportionate disappointment, relative to what was actually achieved. Though I was never struck by despair and unending gloom by my own failures, they were quite frustrating. I didn’t go to the school I was accepted into, I decided to try law school instead of going for the Foreign Service a second time, and I kept the title of my personal blog “Eleventh in Line” (my line position from my other major Star Wars line experience.) And honestly, it’s more than a little silly to call these things “failures”: I was admitted to a fine school, I did better than almost any other candidate did on the FSOE, and there were over 180 people behind me in the Star Wars line (that’s just the ones who were counting hours with us.) Coming up in second place (or first runner-up, or whatever) should feel a lot more like victory than defeat, really. I know that, and I try to keep it in mind when near-misses pop up in my life. In fact, I’m practicing right now, looking at our team stats for the January football game… sigh.

On the other hand, if they tell me I’ve missed getting into the Celestial kingdom by virtue of only a handful of minor sins, I’m going to be really annoyed.

8 thoughts on “Almost, but not quite…

  1. It’s all about Ohio pride. We can take being ranked 5th, or 8th, because then it wasn’t just one team that took us down but a group. Being number 2 means that all it took was one. I know it makes no sense, but we’re a proud state.

    I’m pretty sure that entrance to the Celestial kingdom won’t be quite as nonsensical as the Ohio ego.

  2. Well, the Elder’s Quorum down here had a really nice Monday night activity–watched the game on a big screen in the cultural hall with the satellite dish and projector.

    There is a downside to attending or teaching at a school that has notable athletic success. You wonder why bother to bring in grant dollars or ace that test, when apparently all that counts is the ability to toss a ball around. And it was a big kick in the pants when one of the television sponsors was Powerade, a rival to Gatorade, the drink which was invented here, and the medical school still gets a percentage for each use of the trademark.

    The other issue is the “Doug Flutie effect,” first noticed after that Boston College athlete rose to national fame. There is an increase in the amount and quality of applications to a school when they excel in athletics. This year, our school had an all-time high of 25,000 applications for a mere 6,600 spots. About 3,000 of those applications came in the week between winning the football national championship and the mid-January deadline.

    Next year, all applications are due in mid-November, to avoid that kind of thing.

    It might be a good thing for the University to have its pick of students, but not so good for families trying to get their kid into the local U. Our family moved to this town specifically so that our children could get a college education, by living at home the first few years and with the state’s merit scholarship program. We never dreamed this might happen.

    And yes, if anyone is wondering, the men (at least in my family) did go to priesthood last Saturday night. In our time zone the Conference session started at 8 p.m., preceeded by an ice cream social. Tip-off wasn’t until 9:21, and folks survived the first few minutes of play with text messages of the score from loving spouses.

    And your “some school from the SEC” makes it sound like “Voldemort.” It was the University of Florida, Go Gators. (Note, no pretentious capitalized “The” is necessary.)

    BTW, the executive director of the UF alumni association is a latter-day saint, with a wonderful family. He had been introduced to the gospel by another football player, back when they were both playing Gator football in the 1970s.

  3. Aaaw the UF alumni association executive director is LDS! And he has a wonderful family! Gosh!
    I wonder how else they stack up. Do they have a former president of the University that is LDS. How about a former starting quarterback? I’m sure they do. And I’m sure that mormon stats is the way to show your school’s superiority.

    I, for one, enjoyed the anonymity of the all schools involved. This sort of humor makes those who can read between the lines feel part of one particular club. And it’s a great example of proud midwestern humility and sensitivity.

    Guess who doesn’t have a sense of humility or humor, but will always be hated for being stuck up sports snobs? You got it: “Da Gatah boys” (Note: That’s a quote from the preview to the game. I’m not entirely certain that you all know how to talk, either.)

  4. I’m sure we all can find wonderful things to say about our own, and everyone else’s schools.

    And for what it’s worth, my school might have an overabundance of enthusiasm for “The,” but we can still take comfort in knowing that we’re not the ones who tried to copyright “Ohio.”

  5. Sarah, as a Florida resident, I can tell you the Gator fans are pretty annoying right now. But they deserve their moment in the sun, so to speak: they have been excellent. And they are not nearly as annoying as the University of Miami fans during UM’s long streak of dominating the national college football world.

  6. What’s all this “we” stuff? How many baskets did any of you score, and how many tackles did you make?

    Did the hirelings who scored all those baskets or made all those tackles have anything in common with the thousands of students who attend those schools?

  7. When I say “Yankees” or “Ohio State (better paid players than the Yankees)” with any volume at the dinner table, my four Notre Dame fan sons loudly yell, in unison, “stinks!!”

    It brings tears to my eyes every time.

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