Monday, January 4, 2016

Beware the Omniscient, Righteously Indignant Fan

I know, I know, the New Year is pressing on.  Other events are clamoring for our attention.  There is fresh tension in the Middle East, along with a bizarre standoff in Oregon and racial frustration in Cleveland.  But I am still reflecting on the Alamo Bowl and TCU's stunning come-from-behind victory.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must count myself among those who had given up.  It wasn't until after the fact that I learned of the outcome and heard the details and rushed from the rear to catch up with the bandwagon.  More embarrassingly, count me among those who had counted them out before the game had even begun.  They had no more arrows in their quiver.  One by one the potent athletic weapons had been laid aside by injury or stupidity.  It was, I anticipated, going to be a long night.  On that point -- and on that point alone -- I would prove to be correct, just not in the way I expected.  The length turned out to be literal -- three overtimes.  And the result, at least for TCU fans, was something to savor.

I insist, however, that my pessimism is forgivable, born as it is from long experience with defeat.  I grew up in the days -- and was a student in the days -- when the Horned Frogs simply didn't win; when keeping gridiron opponents out of triple digits was considered to be a victory.  Suffice it to say that back then no one "Feared the Frog.”  It still feels strange for my alma mater to be a contender.

Strange, to be sure, but good.  It's more fun to win than to lose.  Even more fun to win like this, with a team rather than a couple of franchise players; with underdog backup players that the coaching staff tenaciously believed in, replete with heartwarming back stories and due justice.  The team, the coaches and the university behind deserve all the accolades coming their way.

The backseat driving, capriciously moralizing fans?  Not so much.  Throughout the seasons of quarterback Trevone Boykin's stardom, purple fans came out of the woodwork.  We fawned over him, hero-worshipped him, touted him for national awards.  We were ready to name buildings after him, and probably our children.  We were Horned Frog proud.  And then he made a selfishly dumb choice -- hardly the first time a heady 22-year-old bullet-proof college kid made a stupid choice, but a stupid choice nonetheless -- and a line formed at the exit.  Suddenly, erstwhile fans were indignant, offended and “embarrassed to be an alumnus”, never mind that it was a student who had embarrassed himself while the institution and its representatives responded commendably and admirably.  There is nothing quite so mercurial, I observed, as a football fan.

But not to worry.  Embarrassment -- and righteous indignation -- are apparently easily assuaged.  As soon as victory was achieved -- you know, that victory that had been pronounced by fans and “experts” to be “impossible given the circumstances” only hours before -- the world was once more tilting with steadfast Horned Frogs fans awash in their purple who “always knew they had it in them.”

Which leaves me wondering who caused the most whiplash in this wonderful and troubling story:  the team in their win, or the fans in their duplicity.  Let the saviors beware -- and the disciples who clamor for them:  watch your back and lighten up, respectively.  We’re just people here, trying to do the best we know how to do; sometimes getting it right, sometimes getting it wrong, but even then still capable of pulling out a win with some integrity intact.