Unreasonably reasonable expectations
I hate what my fingers are about to type.
But the simple truth is this – anything less than a BCS title this year will be crushingly disappointing.
This just isn’t one of those years where “well we came close and the boys played hard” is remotely good enough. Just winning the SEC – not enough. A nice Heisman for Tebow – not enough.
Only the whole enchilada will do.
I’m well aware of the bitter disappointments of Gator history having been around to experience firsthand many of the lowlights. During my first season as a Gator we won the SEC – then had it stripped from us (1984). In 1985 we would have won it again but were ineligible. I experienced the doldrums of ’86-’89 with seasons of 5, 6, 5 and 5 losses, respectively.
I sat in the rain in Knoxville in 1990 – Spurrier’s first season – as the Vols whipped us 45-3. I watched Jerome Bettis run over the Gator defense like a steamroller in Spurrier’s first bowl game (a 39-38 loss to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl). Antonio Langham’s game killing interception in the ’92 SEC Championship? Well that was right in front of me. The fifth quarter in the French Quarter? I saw it live.
I stayed until the entire end of the 1995 Fiesta Bowl. I was young and stupid then.
We decided in 1997 to have a good friend’s bachelor party at the LSU game in Baton Rouge. You ever see 80,000 plus drunken Cajuns storm a field after knocking off a number one team? I have.
I watched Steve Spurrier walk off Florida Field for the last time (as our coach, at least) on December 1, 2001 after losing to Tennessee by 2 points. The 2001 team was one of the most talented squads the Gator’s ever had, and a total of 5 points kept them from the SEC title game, and likely more.
The Ron Zook years. Enough said. (But I was at Starkville in 2004 for the 38-31 loss that cost Zook his job, and have to admit to mixed emotions there…)
My record in Tallahassee was 0-8-1. My friends used to beg me not to go, figuring I was the curse. That span included the “Choke in Doak” tie 31-31 tie in 1994 (where I learned not to taunt the opposition until the game is over) as well as the heartbreaking, although later avenged, loss of 1996. Ron Zook, of all people, finally got me a win in Tallahassee in 2004. I will never go back. (As an aside, the non-fan-taunting lesson came in handy in the Orange Bowl in 2003 when I learned that a lead of 33-10 midway through the 3rd quarter isn’t enough).
Now don’t get me wrong. Although I’ve seen plenty of disappointment in the roughly 25% of the Gator’s total history I have shared, I’ve also seen plenty of triumph. I am not complaining. I’ve seen 8 “official” SEC titles, and 3 “national titles” (or 4, if you like).
It is a record that any football fan would be lucky to have.
The reason I cite here the bitter disappointments of year’s past is my acknowledgement that anything can happen, and as a Gator fan anything HAS happened. I know that what I am thinking – what Gator fans are thinking – is fraught with the possibility of peril and letdown.
For this year anything less than everything will not be enough.
For the 2009 season we return, as a senior, the Heisman winner of his sophomore year who already has two BCS titles on his resume. Virtually the whole offense returns.
However it is the defense that offers the greatest potential in 2009. Has any school ever returned all 11 starters and their backups? We bring back a defense that is 22 deep, a defense that last season, on the biggest stage of the year, held the decade’s best offense to 14 points, or 38 points lower than their seasonal average.
Put in a statistical context, the 2008 Gators ranked the following for the decade (2000-2008) –
Scoring Offense – 16th (43.64 points per game)
Scoring Defense – 20th (12.93 points per game)
Margin of Victory – 5th (30.71 points per game)
It is not inconceivable that Florida, especially defensively, could improve on these stats this season. We could be talking about one of the best statistical teams in the past ten years.
Even more than that, we are talking about history. Earlier this year I looked at a Sports Illustrated piece about the 12 greatest college football dynasties. Of the 12 only a couple of them could claim 3 “national titles” during their dynastic runs. Where the Gators might rank among the 12 I can’t yet say, but they would most certainly be in the discussion.
So, despite my reluctance to say it aloud, nothing less than an undefeated BCS title season will be good enough this year. Would I take a one loss BCS championship? Of course, but you can only play with the “1-loss fire” for so long before you get burned.
I’ll admit it now – I want, and expect, it all. There will be no backing away from it later on, no partial victories, no half loaves. Does this make me an unreasonably demanding fan? Yes it does. But if the time isn’t now, when it is?
It is All or Nothing in 2009. History, or infamy, awaits.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Unreasonably reasonable expectations