On Sunday September 4, 2016 Notre Dame lost to Texas 50-47, in a game that went into double overtime. The Fightin' Irish, ranked number ten in the nation were were 4.5 point favorites over the Longhorns—in their house. Just last year, in another Labor Day weekend showdown, the Irish came out of the gate with gusto, defeating UT 38-3. Though that game ended the season for Irish running back and starter Tarean Folston, the 2015 season looked very promising.
Today, even two days removed, I found myself still upset about the outcome of the 2016 meet-up. Certain encounters at work left me irrationally angry or frustrated. Though I have written about winning and losing, and in particular why losing hurts, I needed to make sense of my sentiments. So, here are but a few additional insights and take-aways....that I hope you can either a) relate to b) forgive me for holding or c) pass along to therapist near me.
Nuances are important
I will admit, Sunday's contest was an exciting game. I would not however say it was a great game. I saw TONS of holes on both sides of the ball (by both teams) and a whole lot of mistakes and missed opportunities. Granted it's not October and we're not in full stride, so I should be kind...but I need to be honest, too.
So what can one say? How should a football fan talk about a game like that one?. I'm still not a fan of the pity party, but a number of people did offer a humble and sincere "sorry about the loss." It's the best thing they could say. Many of those who offered these simple words of consolation "get it." It helps....thank you.
A co-worker decided he would share for me that he lost his passion for Notre Dame football. Consequently, the loss didn't upset him in the way it once had or...remotely in the way I was feeling. I understand that our interests and passions change. For example, thirty years ago I would be glued to the TV right now watching the US Open. Tennis under the lights in New York really is electric. Today, I check in for but a few matches at best.
But, the conversation he started is worth having at another time and in another place. The guy is smart and knows a ton about football. He also knows that I am irrationally passionate and/or dedicated to my alma mater. I would have sincerely appreciated any of his thoughts on what he did observe or notice....not that his psyche wasn't the least bit crushed. #narcissist.
Did I mention the Irish came back from an 17 point deficit in the 3rd quarter? AGH!
Never add insult to injury.
What may have been worse, is that another co-worker—generously listening to this strange conversation—(may?) have tried to relate to my colleague by telling him "you're a father now. That's what happens when you become a parent." Though I understand the message he intended to pass along, again my irrational anger and frustration did not leave me listening kindly. I started to wonder if he and I were inhabiting the same planet. Is this what parenthood does to adults? It makes them not care about sports? about their favorite teams? Maybe....but clearly he hasn't been to South Bend....or to any SEC stadium....#jackass
Be careful of the voices you listen to.
After a loss, it's important to debrief with people you know, trust and respect. Personally, I seek out those who I know a) care about my team—genuinely care about Notre Dame and b) know something about football.
If you did not watch the game—and I've heard these people spew their venom—please refrain from polluting the airwaves. If you don't know much about football and what makes a good team work, keep your insights and words brief. A wise person knows what he/she does not know.
For those that do know—thank you for your time. I want to hear your thoughts on why our defense does not tackle and hear your thoughts on our defensive coordinator, Brian Van Gorder. I want to sing the praises of DeShone Kizer all day. Do you agree that if Torii Hunter, Jr. hadn't taken that hit in the end zone that we would have won the game? Do you miss Jaylon Smith and Will Fuller as much as I do? What do you think of Brian Kelly's play calling?
Griping and whining just doesn't assuage the irrational frustration and anger. Unpacking, reviewing, reconsidering and next steps does...a little.
Never Be That Person
I have always believed you can learn as much from the example of who you do not want to be as the person you do.
There are teams and college programs that I despise. I have little to no respect for their program, their coaches, what they stand for and so on. As strong as those feelings are for me to share (and admit), I would not tell an alum from that institution in the way I hear those sentiments said to me about Notre Dame from time to time.
For example, someone said "I never cheer for Texas but since they're playing Notre Dame, I am now." I suppose a charged statement like that beckons a glaring retort. I just don't want to be that person. Either one.
Be that Person
But who I do want to be isn't without a gentle internal reminder and peronal exercise in generosity. I have to remind myself—because it's not easy —that after a tough loss, I want to be a fan who takes the higher road. I want to reach out to Texas fans and say "exciting game, Congratulations." (Notice I didn't say great game).
I was able to share that I am genuinely happy that their program seems to be on the up-and-up. I think they deserve to be ranked. I respect their coach, Charlie Strong. I sincerely wish him well and think he's good for the game. When you lose, it's easy to hang your head. Instead, look up and look at the winners in the eye. It's not an easy pill to swallow. You may have to fake it till you make it, but it's the right thing and the right way to be.
A very small part of me wishes I didn't care so much....but I do. It's in my DNA. Ask any Stricherz around. The cost of caring is that when you lose—at times when it matters A LOT e.g. against Stanford at the last regular game of the season or a lot, e.g. the season opener—there's a price you pay (one of my favorite Springsteen songs). Your emotions play with you, and it's not easy. But....being a fan of a team and a program like Notre Dame means there are many more stories to tell. And, not all of them end this way. Grateful for the many I've had and all those to come.
And our hearts forever......