Expectations are the worst. I don’t know how any person could ever be an optimist for long. Perhaps that’s why there’s a word for grumpy old people — crotchety — and not really as succinct a word to describe an old person who has a sweet disposition.
The longer you live, the longer you have to be disappointed.
Wow, that’s a dark sentence. Maybe right now is a good time to write that I believe in God’s grace and that he allows human beings the ability to get back up after they fall and to forgive others. I believe that’s the only way we’ve survived this long without killing each other.
But this is not meant to be a theological essay. This essay is about college football and how our teams can’t help but disappoint us (with the possible exception of Alabama, which is on its way to being the most boring team in the history of college football. I know the Crimson Tide is amazing, but I have no desire to stop down to watch them. The national championship game last season was not borderline unwatchable, it was unwatchable. I passed up having drinks with a lady in order to watch it and that might be the worst decision I’ve made this year).
Because of the way the schedule sets up, we have the perfect setup for a vicious cycle that is the college football season.
Here’s how it works. We begin sizing up next week’s opponent based on Saturday’s game and the upcoming opponent’s performance. Using that data, we form expectations that do nothing more than assure that we will be standing in the stadium shaking our heads in disgust or screaming at the television in our living rooms.
There’s also the possibility that our team, which we expect to crash and burn, will actually thrive and pull off an upset. That happens and it’s glorious when it does. It’s glorious until it inflates our expectations for the next week when our ill-founded hopes get dashed and we’re right back to shaking our heads and screaming at the TV and scaring the dog.
To further illustrate this point, here’s a brief summary of the pulp of the season of the Texas Tech Red Raiders to this point.
Texas Tech 24, Iowa State 13 … Sept 29 — Having convincingly won three nonconference games against weak competition, the Red Raiders showed they could chomp on an opponent that had a little more meat on its bones. At first glance, this is the one game of the season in which Texas Tech precisely met my expectations. But that’s not really the case because I didn’t really know what to expect. What it did was set up the expectations for the rest of the season.
- Oklahoma 41, Texas Tech 20 … Oct 6 — I expected Texas Tech to give the Sooners a fierce battle. But Oklahoma pushed Texas Tech around, dominating the Red Raiders physically.
- Texas Tech 49, West Virginia 14 … Oct 13 — Confession, I covered many of these games for a company that’s hired me as a freelancer. So I traveled to this game thinking it would be cool to see Geno Smith, the likely Heisman winner at this juncture, in action. And then it would be cool to interview him in the aftermath. Instead, Texas Tech destroyed West Virginia. (See the previous paragraph about having low expectations that are far exceeded.)
- Texas Tech 56, TCU 53 … Oct 20 — I expected Texas Tech to take control of this game early. Instead, the Red Raiders needed three overtimes to outlast the Horned Frogs. Still it was thrilling and I took it as a good omen and a sign that Tech could fight through adversity. And that’s the sign of a winner. The Red Raiders lost the next two (and counting).
- Kansas State 55, Texas Tech 24 … Oct 27 — I really thought Texas Tech could go to Manhattan, Kansas, and establish itself as a Big 12 Championship contender and a BCS bowl team by beating the Wildcats. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
- Texas 31, Texas Tech 22 … Nov 3 — If ever the Red Raiders had a win against the hated Longhorns right there for the taking, this was it. Texas Tech was ranked higher and a 7-point favorite at home. Instead, Texas Tech put forth its most disappointing effort of the season. Texas also failed to make it a blowout in the third quarter, making this one of the most frustrating games I’ve watched in a while.
So, there you see the knee-jerk reactions, culminating with the fact that in eight days I went from hoping the Red Raiders could be BCS bowl-bound to hoping they finish strong enough to get an invite to the Alamo Bowl.
Here’s the problem with the expectations that we set (in sports as in life). We base them on a few variables. But the reality is that any important event, like a college football game, is determined by a huge humber of variables.
That’s why the house always wins.
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