Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Punching A Hole

I examine the hole in my wooden closet door. It's staring back at me, laughing at my sadness and anger and momentary lapse of judgement. It taunts me everyday in a way only damaged personal property can. I open that closet door everyday to grab the day's clothes and there it is, smirking. I open that closet door later in the day to retrieve a pen, and the hole chuckles. I examine this hole and it looks like a poorly executed scoop of ice cream.* The brown-colored wood is not dark enough to pass for chocolate ice cream. A thin horizontal crack runs over the top of the damaged area to further punctuate the sadness which led to this hole's creation. It's only been here for three days and I already cannot stand this fucking hole in my closet door. This hole is pissing me off more than what led me to put it there.

*Upon further review, the hole also resembles the outline of Hitchcock's face in the intro to Alfred Hitchcock Presents...

I've always prided myself on being a fair, level-headed sports fan. I don't let team tribalism affect my ability to enjoy other players or teams or the sport as a whole. I couldn't imagine taking shit-talking beyond some good-natured jabs, much less swinging on someone because they don't support the same team I do. I don't let the outcome of a game ruin my day. I'm barely even nervous or frustrated while watching because I'm doing just that, WATCHING. The teams I root for have been on the good and the bad side of the score plenty of times and neither outcome has changed anything about my life. My view goes: sports are a diversion. A beautiful, time-consuming diversion from things like work, bills, illness, taxes, and spirituality. When serious, non-diversions cross over into the sports realm, as they often do, I become bored quickly. I just want to see the ball cross the goal line or put through a hoop.

I struggle to maintain this calm and collected ideal while watching college sports. I don't know why this is, but I always manage to lose my shit while watching the University of Wisconsin play football or basketball. Maybe there's more of a connection there because I walked the same campus as the athletes. I have just as much right to take pride in the school's name as they do. Maybe it's the lower skill level or the absence of 5-year 50 million dollar deals. I don't know. I've though about this often and have never come to a satisfying conclusion. All I know is I'm more invested in the outcome of college games even though, if given the decision, I'd much rather see the pro teams I root for win championships. Which makes the way I acted during the Rose Bowl so puzzling. These are real thoughts, quotes and adamant beliefs I expressed during the game:

Oregon is cheating with those shiny helmets. The sun is reflecting off them and making it difficult for the Wisconsin players to see the ball.

"Oh, fuck you Musburger, you insinuating son of a bitch." In response to Brent Musburger pointing out Wisconsin's sideline was in the shade, while Oregon's was roasting in the Pasadena sun.

Sure, it's easy when you're only 800 fucking miles away from Pasadena.

"Phil Knight is buying a championship for Oregon. The program would be completely irrelevant without him. No players would want to go there."

"That's a hold!" After 95 percent of Oregon's plays from scrimmage.

These are just the ones I remember. Point being, I said and thought some stupid things in the middle of the game that I wholeheartedly believed at the time. Then I see Jared Abbrederis -- the most dependable player on the team, the player I would specifically put in the ball in the hands of if I wanted to make sure it would NOT be turned over -- fumble the ball with the game on the line. The football stopped and lay dead like a fumbled football is never supposed to do. It fell to the grass and did not even make an effort to squirm out of bounds. The football lay there for what seemed like 30 seconds for an Oregon play to come and swoop it up. An Oregon player did swoop it up. "HE DIDN'T HAVE CONTROL," I shouted as the replay clearly demonstrates that he did have control.

Wisconsin gets the ball back at their 13-yard line with all of 16 seconds and no timeouts. My faith is nonexistent. Russell Wilson completes a pass to Abbrederis to the 42-yard line. The clock stops until the ball is set. Wilson completes another pass, this time to Nick Toon, down to Oregon's 25. My faith skyrockets. Surely, they can do this. Only 25 measly yards. But the time, oh I forgot about the time. Only 2 seconds. Not enough time to spike it. They'll have to run to the line, snap it and hope Oregon's secondary is the more confused of the two units. There's Russell Wilson, and he's spiking the ball. Zero seconds are on the clock. "ONE SECOND," I yell at the TV. The replays show the ball is still in Wilson's hand when the clock runs out.  Even my dilapidated brain is processing the information correctly. Wisconsin just lost a second straight Rose Bowl.

I calmly got out of my chair walked over to the closet door and punched it harder than I've ever punched anything before. Then I walked out, no emotion or feeling whatsoever, like I used to do after punching the old time cards at work. I didn't notice the damage until a couple hours later. My first thought was how could this have happened? Me of twelve-year-old-girl strength is not capable of punching a hole in a wooden closet door. But apparently I was because I was staring right at the fucking thing. When that thought sunk in I became ashamed. I had let the game become more than a game. What if the closet door had been a small child wearing an Oregon jersey? If they could see this closet door now, my loved ones would surely be embarrassed for me, a sober 24-year old who reacted like someone half his age would to a stupid football game. Like Michigan State, like Ohio State, all I wanted was a proper last play. A final chance to keep the ideas of glory and shared athletic experience alive.

I don't remember a single thing about last year's Rose Bowl. I remember the Badgers lost to TCU and the final score was 21-19. That's it. I very likely repressed the memory of that game. This year's Rose Bowl will not be so easy, mainly because it was such an amazing game. Oregon's speed and athleticism countering Wisconsin's bruising runs. De'Anthony Thomas. Montee Ball. Kiko Alonso. Russell Wilson. LaMichael James. A dizzying pace, two great offenses waiting for the other to have a letdown, an improbable fumble and last second spike that incredibly was even an option. I don't think I'll forget this game. If I do, there's a hole to remind me.           

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