Sorry: this post has more to do with me than with Auburn.
But it’s my blog, so I’m the one who gets to take a moment and express how this moment, this afternoon, feels like the final few seconds before your favorite band takes the stage at a concert you’ve been waiting on for months. The house lights switch off, the sound guy fades away the filler music, the conversations around you yield to giddy applause and whoops as the crowd turns towards the stage, and you know, you know, that if you can wait just a few electric seconds more, something incredible will happen.
That’s my today. Signing Day has something to do with that, but there’s more to it, tons more, acres of more, the more that Spencer describes in his brilliant defense of the Winter Olympics:
I have my own faith, too: Florida football. Unfortunately, she’s only around five months of the year at best, and a man like any man has serious needs. For seven months these eyes wander in search of spectacle, especially heart-stopping, violent, and often dangerous spectacle. Thus the appeal of the Olympics, and especially the World Cup—the stunning Brazilian in the short skirt that almost gets us fired every four years—which forces us to abandon home, family, and common sense in the name of soccer and incoherent international hullabaloo.
The same applies to MMA, or the Triple Crown, or to March Madness, the NBA playoffs, or to any ridiculousness that catches the eye and can reasonably be called sport.
If you are me or someone who shares my particular passions, the 2010 calendar year promises to be the greatest year for sport in a long, long time. It begins tomorrow, when my college football team and the fans, family, and friends I share that team with spend an entire day celebrating the building of what should be a foundation for years of excellence.
It continues a week from Friday, when Vancouver holds the opening ceremonies and kicks off two weeks of obsession. One of the (by now, well-documented) problems unique to the American sports fan is that we don’t get to combine our love for our country and our love for sport very often; our national games are almost entirely devoid of the thrill of serious international competition. The Olympics solve that, however briefly, and I for one couldn’t care less how bizarre the biathlon sounds or how fixed figure skating might be or how big a pain-in-the-ass Shani Davis might be away from the speed skating ice; the United States is my team, all the time, in everything, and I want my team to win*.
So how does the sport involved matter? There can’t be a worse one for television than bobsled, which following a brief burst of excitement at the beginning of a run lapses into the same identical shots of dudes-in-a-sled for every single run. Even the analyst has no idea what’s happening aside from the splits. And yet one of the most riveting moments of the past sporting decade–for me–came at the Salt Lake bobsled track in 2002, when after a half-century of failure not one but both U.S. teams stood to land on the podium with one team–the omnipresent Swiss–still to go. Todd Hays’ team had already clinched at least a bronze, but both teams–all eight guys, still steaming in their jumpsuits–stood transfixed on the post-race platform watching the Swiss finish … fourth. Both teams went absolutely nuts. They tore themselves loose. They screamed and whooped and could not be any happier than it is possible for human beings to be happy for each other. I teared up then, and I swear, I’m tearing up now. (It kills me I can’t find a clip of this. I’ve looked all afternoon.)
That’s winter. Over the summer, there’s the World Cup. Take the same spectacle and Team U.S.A. principles that apply to the Olympics, ratchet up the attachment to the team and athletes wearing the stars-and-stripes, and a sport that I love even when I don’t have a rooting interest, and you’ve got my favorite sporting event ever invented. The England game–like every World Cup opener for the U.S.–is going to be the end of the world.
In the fall, Auburn returns. And not just “they’re back on the field”; they’ll be back to being Auburn, the team that terrorizes favorites and terrorizes their fans as a favorite and finally thrills us all. They’re going to capital-M Matter in 2010. My faith in this–and in Auburn’s coaching staff–is blind.
Those four things would be enough to make 2010 beyond awesome already. But there’s so much in-between: Championship Week and the NCAA Tournament, always the best 2-plus weeks in the annual U.S. sporting calendar. After a lifetime of casual-to-the-point-of-nonexistence fandom of the Atlanta Hawks, I got caught up in their 2008 playoff series against the Celtics and have steadily ramped up the interest since; now I’m watching two regular season games a week and am already drooling for a second-round playoff series with a shot at Cavs on the line. The Braves will be there as always. Auburn baseball starts up soon.
Put it all together and: incredible. It’s going to be an incredible year.
And it starts tomorrow.
*This is ultimately what’s so pathetically wrongheaded about the Will Leitch column that Spencer’s post responded to; he seems to assume that if a sports fan doesn’t consistently follow a given athlete or sport, he or she either has no rooting interest or isn’t entitled to one. To which I would say: I’m an American. There’s my interest. “Sports fans enjoy history, enjoy context, enjoy the alternating joy and pain that come with following a team/player/franchise for decades on end“? True: which is why I’ve been following the U.S. Olympic team my whole damn life. It’s like Leitch decided that Dan Jansen’s Olympic career–which as you can see below couldn’t have alternated pain and, finally, tear-inducing joy more forcefully–doesn’t count because he just-so-happens to be a speed skater. Right. Up yours, Leitch.