It is a truth universally acknowledged (in my family) that every September my overall mood begins to track a little too closely to the success (or lack thereof) of a certain football team. When my team wins, I’m elated and hopeful and spend my spare time planning the inevitable January Bowl Game trip. When my team loses, I mope and brood and develop a back-up plan for my significant sports-directed energy.
Last weekend, my back-up plan began to break down.
This is painful to write so I will type it quickly with my eyes closed: my beloved Michigan Wolverines lost in the very worst way to Notre Dame last Saturday. Playing under the lights (and under the suspiciously biased gaze of Touchdown Jesus), we were shut out 31-0 in the final game of a storied rivalry series.
I commenced my personal journey thought the Five Stages of Grief.
- Denial. That couldn’t have just happened; I must have been dreaming.
- Anger. Where on earth was the defense – do any of these kids actually deserve a football scholarship?
- Bargaining. If only we had played at home, we would have won. Can’t we extend the series against Notre Dame by one more year?
- Depression. The best days are surely behind us. Michigan will never be a football powerhouse again. The coach will get fired and we’ll have a revolving door of mediocre staff and players until I am cold in the grave.
- Acceptance. If my team can’t win, I will cheer for other worthy teams. What other good games are on?
Lucky for me, there WERE other good games on. I executed my back-up plan.
USC vs. Stanford caught my attention. I always like to see USC lose, ever since they beat Michigan in the 1990 Rose Bowl. And Stanford is so easy to like, with their high academic standards and that crazy tree mascot.
Then Stanford lost.
So I turned to the rest of the Big Ten conference and the prospects of Michigan State, a team I always like to see victorious (well, almost always). They were in a close match against #3 ranked Oregon, but it wasn’t close for long.
Michigan State lost.
Ever hopeful, I looked forward to Sunday. The weekend was not totally shot, because the Patriots were scheduled to play their season opener against the Miami Dolphins. I knew Tom Brady would not let me down. The Patriots don’t lose to the likes of the Dolphins.
But the Patriots did lose. Disastrously. Tom Brady was sacked 4 times in the second half. Just when I thought the weekend couldn’t get any worse, the Red Sox lost, too.
I worried I might actually have to learn something about tennis and become interested in the US Open, but I feared that rooting for anyone at this point was just cruel. I was clearly jinxed.
Then on Monday night, a glimmer of hope and possibility came from the unlikeliest of places.
The Detroit Lions beat the New York Giants, 35-14.
Under normal circumstances, I might have only given this victory passing notice, but when that time clock struck 00:00 I felt like a lost desert wanderer who discovered a freshwater spring. Finally!
I’m not entirely new to Lions fandom. My parents are from Michigan and my husband is from Detroit. But being a Lions fan wasn’t really something anyone talked about (at least, not proudly). The team was best known as the background entertainment on TV during our annual Thanksgiving after-dinner food coma. No one really expected them to win. The game was an existential exercise: the Lions had to play and lose so everyone could complain about the Lions losing.
Fast forward to this week. After many losses and many disappointments, I am cautiously optimistic about a team that looks surprisingly good. I will watch the Lions on Sunday not only because they are my back-up plan, but also because I am a fan.
I hope I’m in a good mood on Monday.