I used to make the case that following sports was religion for the non-religious types. With regularity, sports fans could congregate to participate in rituals, revel in their membership to this or that exclusive group, and experience emotional highs and lows out of all proportion with the thing you were actually doing, which was just sitting there watching some guys do random stuff. Plus, more than anything else other than religion, sports is an excuse for many of us to suspend all rationality. It’s a chance for otherwise intelligent people to wholeheartedly embrace superstition, prophecy, and destiny.
Which is why I found myself looking over this weekend’s college football matchups and knowing, just knowing with absolute certainty, that the Wolfpack would beat ranked Boston College on Saturday, despite the fact that we’d barely beaten Appalachian State and had been pummeled by Akron and Southern Miss. I knew we’d win for the following reasons:
1) There was no way on god’s green earth that we ought to win.
2)Â The best thing for State would be to lose all seasonÂ so we could fire our coach with no misgivings,
3) Look, it was just clear that we were going to win. If you’d asked ten State fans whether we’d win, probably nine would have said yes, and they all probably would have been upset about it.
Now, the more optimistic of the Church of Wolfpack (Our Lady of Perpetual Disappointment) will tell you that we’re now undefeated in the ACC, and therefore a shoe-in for the conference’s BCS slot. Here’s what I predict. We’ll win at least one other big game. We’ll lose at least three other games against teams that you, me, and the Vienna Boy’s Choir ought to be able to beat, if we practiced a few times. And we’ll finish just out of contention for a bowl game, but with the real hope that next year we might be pretty good maybe. And next year, of course, will be exactly the same. Real change in the quality of State’s athletic programs moves at the speed of Vatican reforms.
Which leaves me in a weird position concerning one game on the schedule. You may or may not be aware that the UNC Tarheels have an absolutely wretched football team this year. Worse than ours. If we got rid of the two coordinated Boy Choir kids and replaced them with some of those footless pigeons that limp around Trafalgar Square, we’d still beat Carolina, mercy rule style. However, some years ago,Â as some sort of divine plan that belongs in the book of Job,Â the good lord gave those kids from Chapel Hill our number, and they have yet to give it up. Now I hate losing to UNC more than anything, but I suspect that if we were to limp to .500 this year, but lost to Carolina, that might be the end of Chuck. I feel, though, that if we only win four games, but one of them is over the boys in blue, then he’s good for at least another year. So you can see my dilemma.
If I felt like staying with the metaphor I’ve got going here, I’d spin this into some sort of parable with moral lessons and stuff, about when we ought to want the team to win and when it’s ok to lose or something. But I’m just going to leaveÂ it at that: don’t know if I want to beat the Tarheels this year. Except, of course, that I do want to beat them badly, because how else are we going to wrap up the undefeated conference season en route to the BCS bowl? Amen.