Monday, October 08, 2007

That Feeling In Your Stomach? Yes, That's Dread

Watching sports on TV as a big sportsfan is a unique experience. If you do it long enough, and have a good understanding of the game, then you get sort of a sixth sense about things. Now, they don't always work out the way you think they will, but for the most part you can be pretty accurate in certain situations. The problem with this is that when something disatrous happens to your favorite team, playing your favorite sport, you get this bad feeling in your stomach.

It's sort of a combination of fear, anxiety and bad seafood mixed together. Like when you did something bad, and instead of your mom yelling at you she said "wait until your father gets home". The problem was he wouldn't be home for another 3 hours, and you were stuck in this quasi-punished purgatory while your insides gurgled. That's exactly what it's like when something is going wrong for your favorite team.

It's also exactly what I experienced on Saturday night.

Florida came into their game against LSU as the underdog. Shocked at home the week before by a suddenly resurgent Auburn team everyone wondered how they would respond. Would they bounce back tenaciously and pull out the win? Or would they hang around for a little while, but ultimately wilt under the pressure? I knew it was a winnable game for them, and was full of excitement and confidence as I entered a local establishment to watch the game.

To set the scene, I would say that the crowd was about 80% pro-Gators. There were some Seminole fans mixed in, but they would be quiet until the 4th quarter(by the way, you know your season sucks when the only thing you have to look forward to is your rival losing). Also, there was at least one fan of either Nebraska or Missouri because someone complained when the huge TV closest to where I was sitting got changed from Nebraska vs Mizzou to UF vs LSU, so it had to get switched back.

For three quarters, everything went Florida's way. The problem with penalties seemed to be righted. Florida had put up 24 points on the nation's stingiest defense. Tebow and Kestahn Moore were able to run the ball well. Even the defense was getting pressure on the quarterback(s), and not getting burnt deep. But then it happened. The "orange blue" chants got a little quieter, and the Gator chomp wasn't seeing quite as much action. What had happened was that Kestahn Moore fumbled on Florida's 49 yard line to end the 3rd quarter. Florida had the momentum most of the game, but that play at that point in time energized the LSU crowd through the break between quarters, and they started the 4th quarter on a mission.

My stomach started gurgling just a little bit at that point.

I knew that turnovers could bring about a quick change in the score. I started feeling a little uneasy about that 10 point lead, but that settled a bit when Colt David missed a 37 yard field goal.

Alright, no points off of the turnover, great. But then it happened again.

Tebow threw a pass that bounced off the receiver's shoulder/helmet and right into an LSU defender's hands. At the Florida 27 yard line nonetheless. Just like that, two consecutive drives ended by turnovers.

At this point, that feeling of dread had fought its way through a few layers of beer and wings. Enough to make sure that I felt it, and understood what was happening.

LSU drives, goes for it on 4th down and scores a touchdown. Yes stomach, I hear you.

Florida now holds a tenative 3 point lead, and there's a lot of time left. But by now I can feel the momentum shift all the way from Baton Rouge. Florida goes three and out and punts. What happens next, for the next 8 minutes and 6 seconds only serves to increase the dread until it's replaced by a feeling of disappointment.

LSU mounts a 16 play drive, complete with two successful 4th-and-1 runs to score the go ahead touchdown with 1:09 left. There are no more chants or chomps. Just FSU fans cheering for LSU, and a crowd of people hoping for a miracle, but realizing that the probablity isn't exactly high. At this point my stomach feels hollow, like someone has sucker punched me in the gut. Repeatedly.

Florida drives to the LSU 45 yard line where they commit a 10 yard penalty(always save the best for last), and Tebow heaves a prayer into the end zone but it's futile.

The damage had already been done to the scoreboard and my stomach.

Like I said, watching sports as a sportsfan is unique. As soon as Kestahn Moore fumbled I knew something very bad was on the verge of happening. The missed field goal seemed to only delay the inevitable. Maybe it's just my memory being clouded by hindsight, but after that second consecutive drive ended with a turnover I didn't like Florida's chances at a win anymore. That "sixth sense" was telling me that things weren't looking good, and dread was creeping in from all around.

The funny thing is that that's the best part of being a fan of college football. The same thing that makes winning so great also makes losing so hard.


And you know what?

I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Well, maybe a case of Pepto Bismol.

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