Chances are you’ve said that or something along those lines over the course of the last 48 hours.
Along those lines.
Meh, too soon? Perhaps, especially considering we may never know the exact phraseology of Kriss Proctor’s apparent “taunt” following his overtime touchdown run in Saturday’s 35-34 loss to Air Force. And while something tells me Proctor didn’t exactly drop an “excuse me, future brother-in-arms, would you politely make way so I can celebrate this accomplishment with my teammates?” it goes without saying that an official making a call of commission at that point in the game seems a bit absurd.
It’s also a bit absurd to think that the call alone beat Navy on Saturday. It didn’t. But then again, it certainly didn’t help either. True, John Teague’s extra point attempt would have been blocked regardless of whether or not the attempt had been moved back 15-yards, but who’s to say the pressure of the backed-up extra point didn’t in some small way – some immeasurable, Phil Steele stat-defying way – contribute to the low trajectory of the kick? I’m suddenly reminded of a recent ESPN documentary about the Steve Bartman saga in Chicago, and how the reaction of Moises Alou to Bartman’s fan-interference seemed to throw an interrupting stream into the Cubs’ momentum. No, that kind of error or mental lapse on the part of a player shouldn’t affect what happens next, but maybe it’s the hopeless sports fan in all of us to wonder whether – and perhaps, once more, to assume – it could have.
And after the weekend I just had, I’m inclined to view just that.
Can you blame me?
Unlike the vast majority of Naval Academy graduates who suffered through Saturday’s heartbreaker, I wasn’t intimately familiar with the bitter taste of losing to your intensely and sincerely disliked rival on a regular basis. Sure, I grew up going to Navy games in the 1990s, but seeing as though my interest in the program only really took off in 2003 (at the tender age of 13, mind you), you would have been perfectly within your rights as a grad to scoff at any claims I might have made to sticking with my team through thick and thin.
Key phrase, of course, is would have.
On Friday night I watched my college lose in the closing seconds to its rival. Scratch that. I saw the dudes I used to have lunch with everyday get beat by a series of freak, act-of-God-type plays by its rival. Its highly disliked rival, which, to add a final act of insult to the fine people of Logan, was being led by my town’s once favorite son. It stung. It sucked. It’s life as a sports fan though, and it’s part of what we gamble for when we turn on our TVs or settle into our seats. Expecting anything different would be to get complacent, and Coach Niumatalolo will always be the first to tell you that he never wants his team to get that way. He’ll also be the first to tell you he never wants his team to lose focus, or to drop the ball of intensity against any opponent, much less a rival.
But they did. At the end of the day, Navy lost not because of a blocked kick, and not because Tim Jefferson played the game of his life during the first quarter. Contributing factors? Maybe, but the simplest way to understand what happened Saturday is to understand that one team came prepared to play, and one team did not. One team was flying off the ball, while the other had linebackers misfiring gaps, and slotbacks zoning out on blocking assignments. That the latter of those teams managed to right the ship on the scoreboard by the end of 60 minutes is amazing, but it doesn’t take away the initial lack of focus, and ultimately, it couldn’t fill the hole that had been dug. A few inches short, and a tackle or two late– those are things that led to the result on the scoreboard. But they’re not the things which lost the game. That result, based on what we saw in the first quarter, was etched in stone thanks to the contrast in attitudes as the teams ran out of the locker room.
I just wish it didn’t have to happen two days in a row.