Even In Futile Situations, Football Can Inspire Hope

In case you haven’t heard, USC is coming to town on Saturday to—unless something very unexpected happens—deliver BC an enormous beatdown. In honor of the Eagles’ impending matchup, let’s take a moment to delve deeper into the pessimism that’s so easy to associate with such a game.

The situation is hopeless. The Trojans are coming off a win over Stanford after demolishing Fresno State. They held those two teams to a total of less than 300 yards rushing. Reveling in their sanction-free status, even while riding waves of bad publicity surrounding allegations of racism from the coaching staff and an over-heated athletic director, the Trojans look pretty unstoppable, at least for BC.

You shouldn’t want to go to the game on Saturday. Any rationally thinking human being should know that no good can come of a visit from our friends from California. Andre Williams and Chase Rettig are gone, so there will be neither good football or good looks to enjoy, and with the way the weather’s going, it’s probably going to be about 50 degrees come 8 p.m. on Saturday and you’re going to be cold and tired, or more likely drunk, and everything is going to suck.

That’s not even mentioning the fact that, if we’re to continue our theme of excessive pessimism, BC’s season is pretty close to dead at this point. The only thing that you can hope for—after BC already sustained one loss with a few more almost surely to come—is a spot in the Idaho Potato Bowl. So there you’ll sit, burning your eyes out watching while the blue turf glares out from your TV screen and you desperately reach for your color settings wondering what went horribly wrong, both with the picture on your screen and with this season.

And yet for some godforsaken reason—no matter how pessimistic you’re feeling right now—come Saturday, I’d bet you’ll be there. I’ve never been that great at being a cynic, at least when it comes to football. Call me naive, but I love seeing that a fan base—even when it knows that its team is heading into the battle of Troy sans wooden horses and that the all-powerful Trojans are most likely going to smash a hammer down—can still be there and be excited.

I love that there are at least a few moments of pure irrationality—maybe in a good punt return or that first defensive stop—in which pessimism is set aside and fans are somehow able to convince themselves that, in some strange world, their team can pull the upset. People spend so much of their time focusing on the rational—gauging net present values and probabilities and risk factors until the dead horse is beaten into a pulp, and there’s no room for anything but that essential truth that you must have just discovered through your excessive rationality.

Despite all of your rational thoughts heading into the weekend, though, while you’re there and watching the game, you get to let some of that slip away.
It’s that moment when you’re wishing so much that it could happen that, just for a second, your will overcomes your common sense and you believe that your upset might just be possible. You’ll find the same kind of emotional turmoil when watching Friday Night Lights. At this point in the column, if you haven’t watched NBC’s finest drama, I suggest you put down the paper (or close the browser window) immediately, skip classes and any sort of food that can’t be found in proximity to your bed for the next few days, and watch the series in its entirety.

I’ve never had another pilot make me cry. Normally, you can’t feel nearly involved enough in a show that early on to have any sort of emotional stake in it. Every time I see Jason Street go in for that tackle, though, as that “Explosions In The Sky” song slows into its rhythm, and I know it isn’t going to end well, and the tears come before they even get a chance to show Jason lying there, unable to move his legs, his cheerleader girlfriend Lila in hysterics on the sideline.

It’s heartwrenching, and from that moment, the rational person inside of you knows that nothing good is going to come of Jason’s storyline for a very, very long time. The situation is hopeless. Jason is paralyzed, he’s going to be stuck in Dillon, and this show is just going to make you cry again if you keep watching, and everything sucks.

But for some reason—and I think for the same reason that people keep attending BC-USC football games—you keep watching. I’ve been calling it irrationality, but another good word for the feeling is hope. So, hoping for the best, you follow Jason’s journey as he attempts to come to terms with his paralysis. You know from the start that he’s never going to play football again, but somehow, as Explosions In The Sky moves into its rhythm and Jason’s face contorts in concentration, you want so badly for him to get up that for a moment, your hope overcomes your rationality and you actually think, just for that fleeting moment, that he’ll be able to do it.

There are a lot of bad things that people can say about football. It’s violent, it creates massive egos, players get injured too often, the NCAA is too strict about this thing, the NFL is too lenient about that thing. Those things are true, and those with the means should be constantly working to overcome those flaws, but football can also inspire beautiful things on those moments of unadulterated hope and uncalculated irrationality.

As Street quivers on his hospital mattress and the team comes bursting from the tunnel, the game inspires a hope so strong that, just for a second, you let irrationality overtake you. You put aside your jadedness, your cynicism, and your doubt, and anything can happen. You know that Jason will not only walk again—he’ll play football.

But then the song fades and only a few notes trail on. Jason still can’t walk, nor will he ever, and his relationship with Lila can’t stand the test of such a trauma. Unless something absurd happens, BC will lose to USC. It’s the only rational conclusion that you can come to. At least as a fan, though, you’ll have your moment.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

About Marly Morgus 46 Articles
Marly Morgus was the Associate Sports Editor of The Heights in 2014. She's going to France and will only return to America if Grant Hedrick and Chase Rettig are given contracts in the Arena Football League.