I walked down College Hill with my roommate for the last time this season. I don’t know when or if I’ll make that walk again. “It wasn’t supposed to end that way,” I said.
Minutes later I began a quiet drive around town for a fast-food place that wasn’t flooded with people which turned into an hour-long escapade anyways. I ordered a Big Mac combo with a sweet tea. I punched my straw in my drink and had a sip of Coke. That wasn’t what it should have been.
I had the pleasure of walking out onto the field with others from my senior class to form a tunnel the players would run out to after halftime. My adrenaline was boosting. I dished out dozens of high-fives including one to NCAA Record-Holder Justin Hardy. On my way off the field I grabbed a handful of purple grass from the end zone because it seemed important to me.
It was already a special game. I took in everything for the last time. I appreciated things other than the score. I was satisfied although it looked like UCF was going to run away with it. The Pirates refused to let that happen, though.
Justin Hardy caught the go-ahead touchdown pass from fellow senior Shane Carden with 2:17 remaining. There was no better-scripted ending than that. That’s how it needed to happen.
With 10 seconds remaining in the game, I left my seat to go sing the Alma Mater with the players like we do after every game, win or lose. I was standing in the stands just behind the left corner of the end zone. The ball was launched towards my corner. I could have made a play on that ball. It soared over 3 ECU defenders and into the hands of a Knight. I could hear the ball touch his hands.
The UCF bench cleared and dog-piled mere feet in front of me.
I never got to sing the Alma Mater on Senior Night.
What happened on the field was no longer in anyone’s control. The game was over and everybody was pissed. Fans stood in the freezing stadium and cheered until they lost their voices when the team was twenty points down. Those fans didn’t walk out on the players when things weren’t going well. Those fans didn’t deserve to have the players walk out. If I’m mad about anything, that’s it.
I watch sports because it’s the only way for me to experience and feel certain things. Outside of sports, I primarily feel only happiness and anger. I’m numb to all other feelings outside of extreme circumstances.
I write to sort out these feelings. If you want to know why I post on this blog so rarely I have your answer. It’s because I only write when I have these rare feelings. I blurt thoughts out onto a word document for a few hours while it’s all fresh. The next day I’ll do light editing and post it. If on that second day I feel like I have to change a lot, I scrap the whole thing. I do this because it wouldn’t be real after a certain point. The brunt of these words are coming at 1 a.m. because otherwise they would never be read.
In this particular block of 3 and ½ hours I felt anxious and nervous. I felt defeat, elation, and finally sadness in about that order. I emotionally got my ass beat. It sucked, but it made me feel human.
I was sad. Not only for the loss, but because of how it happened. We weren’t supposed to be in the game, but the team clawed and scratched its way back. Days ago I said this:
“ECU Football was ferocious as the “underdog” in those games. At times they appeared unstoppable. They played like a pride of pissed-off lions. The fans cheered like everything mattered in those moments.”
“A seemingly different team emerged from the inflatable skull after [the win against Carolina]. There wasn’t the same intensity when we played SMU or Temple. We’re slowly regaining that mojo as we come crashing back down to reality.”
The team I saw in the fourth quarter was the team I was talking about. That’s the team that was ranked in the top 20. That’s the team we were all proud of and still should be. It just didn’t end the way it was supposed to.
Posted by Brandon Alandt