Do you hear that? I ask that question knowing full well that there’s nothing to hear. The college football season’s more than half over and the teams getting beat can’t talk, and the teams worthy of talking won’t. We’ve just broken the surface of the annual “jinx season,” and most in position for greatness are in 24-hour fear of falling victim to a sixth-sense backlash, from a sixth-sense breach.
That’s right, I’m talking to you Oregon State. Oregon’s been here before. USC more than that. The Beavers, on the other hand, have spent the better part of this decade clinging to the “Fiesta Bowl Year” amidst a run of mediocrity, with a couple near misses sprinkled-in. And due to such, they’re walking a fine line. Do you blame them? After-all, they were a game from the Rose Bowl in 2008, a game from that same Rose Bowl a year later, and suffered through back-to-back losing seasons leading into this season’s mind-boggling start. Now they find themselves knee-deep in the mix for a Pac-12 title and like most people living a dream, don’t want to risk waking up.
Last weekend I texted a friend of mine shortly prior to kick off in Corvallis. He’s a Beaver alum, season ticket holder, and upstanding member of Oregon State’s “Beaver Nation.” He lives and dies with his Beavs but due to recent disappointing seasons, had crawled into a thick shell of negativity. He’s enjoying his ride and isn’t ready for it to end. So when I messaged him a simple question regarding a prediction for the game … crickets. That’s right, no response. Therefore, not being one to let sleeping dogs lie, I tried again … louder crickets. He wanted none of it and due to such ignored my request for a simple prognostication concerning a game against an opponent most considered to be little of a threat. After-all, this was Utah; a team whose resumé since joining the Pac-12 would be unlikely to garner even an interview from a league not titled WAC, Sun Belt or Mid American, given that they’ve tallied a 4-9 record and been outscored 319-244 in conference games alone. So why no prediction? Why no response? And why blatant disrespect to a loyal friend? Fear, plain and simply.
Not the type you feel when unprepared for an important exam. Not the type a high school kid feels seconds prior to an initial phone call to a potential date. And not the 1990’s movie co-starring a future starlet and budding leading male better known for making “good vibrations” with his Funky Bunch. This is the type of fear you experience when you care too much about something and believe wholeheartedly that your indirect actions play a direct role in its outcome. You know, the thought that a prediction of victory will directly result its loss, or the thought that breaking a routine will lead to an injury or poor play. In a nutshell: Superstitions. Their existence makes my case and fear of their result is why today’s winners won’t talk.
I’m not picking on the Beavers, we’re all guilty of this to some respect. In spite of recent success and despite my earlier proclamation, the Ducks and Trojans fall victim to irrational anxiety as well. In fact, no one is entirely free of such behavior and that’s why teams with still so much on the line are talking less than a criminal in custody on “The First 48.” There’s too much to lose … and they know it. No one wants to be responsible for their ride coming to an end and if it does they’ll sleep better knowing they did everything in their power to prohibit it.
People like to win. As much fun as it is going to games, watching and rooting from home, and/or feeling a part of something to some fanatical extent, winning makes it all that much better. With every win the high becomes higher and the inevitable loss becomes that much lower. If you’ve ever been privy to said success you know what I mean, and if you know what I mean you understand why people don’t want it to end. Things are going well for our in-state college football teams and those without a vested interest in it will be happy to let you know, but you’ll never hear it from those who care the most, and if you do, it’s likely about to end … so I’ve been told.