Friday, January 04, 2008

Why Do I Care?

College football is my favorite sport by a wide margin. Yet as a person who believes himself to be intensely logical it is ultimately disappointing. Even with the Gators winning a mythical national championship in 2006 I find my dissatisfaction with college football growing markedly. This postseason has seemed to add to my disillusionment. Why is this so?

To examine my quandary, I need to ask, “What is it I enjoy about this sport so much?”

In reflecting the season just passed, I find most enjoyable or – equally important – most agonizing moments to be those games against our long term rivals. I think it is“equally important” to look at joy and agony alike, as you cannot have one without the other – there is no joy in beating a team like Georgia unless you know keenly what losing to them feels like.

Were I to rank this season the games based on pure intensity of emotion involved, to either the positive or negative, it would look like this –

1. Agony of loss to Georgia
2. Agony of loss to Auburn
3. Joy of beating Tennessee
4. Satisfaction of beating Florida State
5. Pain of loss to LSU
6. Relief of beating Kentucky
7. Satisfaction of beating South Carolina
8. Exasperated relief in beating Mississippi
9. Annoyance in loss to Michigan
10. Equal indifference in beating WKU, Troy, Vanderbilt and FAU

Why does losing to a Georgia hurt so much, while my feelings at losing to Michigan is, “Err, oh well?”

Because Michigan didn’t matter.

Sure you might think it hurt recruiting at the margins, or put us one debit down in the never ending Big Ten – SEC debate, but on an emotional level I barely cared about the game an hour after it ended. While losing to Georgia effectively eliminated Florida from the SEC race, losing to Michigan made us what – a few places worse in a final poll no one will remember 2 days after it is issued?

Now were I to do a similar ranking in 2006 obviously the game against Ohio State would rank at the very top, win or lose. No matter how fake the national title is, something of great import and recognition was on the line. Yet in all honesty the win over LSU that year was nearly equal in joy, made only perhaps a bit less so because Florida was not expected to beat Ohio State (not to mention the arrogance of the Buckeye fans).

Goal wise I have a similar ranking system –

1. Win SEC Title
2. Win mythical “national” title
3. Beat Georgia
4. Beat Tennessee
5. Beat LSU
6. Beat FSU
7. Win any BCS bowl game (if applicable)
8. Beat South Carolina
9. Beat “other” SEC teams
10. Win “other” non-BCS bowl

I think that list is a pretty accurate representation of my feelings. Winning the SEC is paramount. The list of the teams is subject to change (and is my current feelings – FSU has been higher in the past). But I would rather beat UGA, UT, LSU and FSU and subsequently lose in a non-title BCS game to, say a team like Oklahoma, then lose to any one of those four rivals.

I guess what this ramble is getting at is why I don’t really care about bowl games that don’t have huge importance. Perhaps this is a symptom of success, as many teams are just happy to make a bowl game, and that game is a reward in itself. Personally I don’t give a damn if Florida ever plays in one of the Tampa/Orlando bowls again.

So why do I care? When so many seasons end with such a dissatisfying whimper do I keep coming back?

Because it is the season that matters, not the postseason and the bowls. Standing in Jacksonville on a late October day staring out at a stadium that is half orange & blue, and half black & red, is worth more in a moment than every non-BCS bowl the Gators have ever played in - combined.

SEC teams win or lose the championship that matters in early December. And since I don’t believe we aren’t going to much change the system, my season pretty much ends by then.

Perhaps there is no practical way the season "after the season" will ever matter that much to the majority of the fans. Or maybe its just me and a few cranky other folks. But unless and until games played in college football's post season have any real meaning, I'm pretty much going to keep on not caring.


Senator Blutarsky said...

"Because it is the season that matters, not the postseason and the bowls. Standing in Jacksonville on a late October day staring out at a stadium that is half orange & blue, and half black & red, is worth more in a moment than every non-BCS bowl the Gators have ever played in - combined."

Amen, brother.

That's why I'm an agnostic on the subject of D-1 playoffs. I don't particularly care what we wind up with in the postseason, as long as it doesn't screw up the pain and the pleasure derived from the greatest regular season in organized sports on the planet.

Great post.

JJ Gator said...

Good points, Mergz. I too wish there was a playoff instituted, but who knows if and when that will happen.

You know, I have to laugh at some of these other posters on Gator boards who go into complete meltdown over a loss, especially after losing to Michigan. Hell, I was disappointed after the loss too, but unlike others I didn't go and wet my pants over it. I'm over it and ready to move forward - in fact, I'm jonesing for spring practice in March already!

To hell with the BCS and all this other crap that blemishes college football - it's all about love of the game and the Florida Gators as far as I'm concerned!

Michigan Dan said...

Know the feeling bro

it will always be about the season and the rivalry that means the most.

DolFan 316 said...

I think Mergz and Mrs. Mergz need to go on a weeklong getaway that's non-football-related.

That way Mergz doesn't have to watch the meaningless bowls, gets "entertained" in a different way, and isn't all grouchy to kick off the new year. Everybody wins!

And yes, I know they have a kid but that sure didn't prevent my sister and brother in law from doing it. They just handed off their son to me, and I was happy to have him.

DolFan 316 said...

BTW the way Mergz feels about the bowls is how I feel about this NFL season. At least the college season was exciting, try being a fan of a team that comes THISclose to 0-16 while another team in their division goes 16-0 and gets fellated so much by the media that pro football might as well be renamed the PFL (Patriots Football League). Oh yeah, and every other game between every other team was rendered completely meaningless.

From my perspective, the bowls were the only thing keeping me going right now, since pro football long ago became unwatchable. And I have to enjoy *something*, right?

Gator Boys said...

Yea, being a Dolphin fan sucks...I hate the Patriots and USC

GADawg said...

Mergz, you are a master of the obvious and I commend you for stating exactly what has been on my mind for the past four days. Beating Hawaii, so what. Beating Florida, Hell yes! Losing to West Verginia, big deal. Losing to Florida, "one thousand suns of suck"! Give me a nail biter against Tennessee (please?) any day. You, sir, are right. Here's to Rivalry!

Eric said...

I'm an LSU fan.... We have no "real" rivals. Florida? Only in the past few years. Tulane? Right, and beating up my 4 year old nephew is a boxing match. Auburn? The closest thing, I think, that we have, but they're too focused on Alabama. Speaking of whom, Nick Satan might have finally created a rivalry, but we Bayou Bengals don't warrant their attention because of Auburn.

USC would be a team I'd love to face year in and year out, but I doubt our AD has the cajones to try to make it happen.

I say all this, because I've gotta disagree with you on this one, Mergz. I know you're just stating your "cranky" opinion, but I'm an optimist and see the good we currently have while dreaming of the way it could be better (i.e. a play-off).

I love the blog guys, I've been reading since the Florida-LSU game when you swapped with ATVS. Keep up the good work.

Go SEC! Geaux Tigaz!!!


Gator Boys said...

Beating all the SEC teams and then losing to Oklahoma would suck. If we beat all the SEC teams and win the championship, odds are very high that we're better than Oklahoma. It would be embarassing for the SEC. Bowls are not THAT bad. They settle some of the uknown stuff during the season EX: Hawaii sucks

KG said...

What happened to the Conference Bowl Series you had last year? Was that a one year wonder?

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with the post. 100%

winning the sec title is always my #1 hope for the team. a national title is great but too much nonsense has to happen, even if you win out. but an sec title is there for the taking. the streak in the '90s was such a joy because it was pure domination of the conference. the title in '96 was the cherry on top.