Down 28-10 as the 3rd quarter ended, I heard a lone Boise State fan yelling from behind me, “Let’s go-o-o, Bronco-o-s!” I looked back into the empty bleachers to see a man with hope in his eyes, whom I believe never sat for the entire game (and not just because the bleachers were frigid and wet). He had been yelling encouragement to our team before every play, holding onto the belief that this team could come back from any deficit.
The contingent of Boise State students dressed in orange cowboy hats and masks directly in front of me couldn’t be bothered to take up the cheer. Where they had been engaging in cheering and dancing for the majority of the game, they now stood with their hands tucked under their arms, just waiting for the bus ride back. It seemed the writing was on the wall, and this game was already in the books.
But we had one quarter left, and this was the same team that battled back to beat Florida State in the season opener, with the same coach that orchestrated a gutsy overtime win against a Colorado State team that surely had the game in the bag a few seasons ago.
There was still hope...
I walked up to the man on the bleachers and offered my hand to shake, telling him I appreciated his spirit and enthusiasm. He shook mine and thanked me. I then asked if he’s on OBNUG.
“Yeah, I’m Spay!”
“I’m Russ Wood!”
I then hugged a perfect stranger in the stands.
We now had so much more in common. He is a friend I’ve had for many years; we just hadn’t actually met. And it actually made perfect sense why he was so full of hope and would stay through to the very end. This man was a Nuggie.
We bonded over stories of past games and continued to cheer for our team, believing that we would ultimately come away victors.
...And we nearly did!
Regardless of the outcome of this game, we would still back our Broncos.
Our first tendency on a tough loss is to look for someone to blame. After all, someone has to be responsible for the loss, right?
Let’s take a step back from that negative line of thought for a moment, and consider that another team has to do a lot of things right in order to beat the Broncos, and the Cougars did a lot of things right.
Another thing to consider is just how many millions of factors come into play in a football game. If you take the most basic sport, wrestling (RIP Broncos team)—with a single individual pitting his or her skills against an opponent where random factors are controlled (they have to weigh the same, etc.)—there are still a multitude of reasons why someone might win or lose a match (talent, style, conditioning, coaching, preparation, diet, health, attitude, etc.). This is attested to by the fact that only one individual (Cael Sanderson) has been able to go undefeated for 4 years in all the history of the NCAA. Losing is inevitable for most, even in the most basic of sports.
Now multiply the individual factor by a sport like football, where you have a team of one hundred individuals, compounded by the other team of one hundred individuals, not to mention the variety of formations offensively and defensively (that can be audibled out of at any time) and the math starts to blow my mind.
You can’t tell me this sport isn’t pretty random: Just try to bounce a football.
Of course, levels of preparation, coaching, and talent factor in, as well as player injuries (which have affected both teams last night at the highest levels). But to try and point to the ultimate reason why and place blame is a fool’s errand, in my opinion. None of us have that level of understanding, even the mathiest mather here. (NO MATH!)
Maybe that’s why I love this sport so much. Not necessarily the losing part—yes that stings me too—but the excitement of seeing something new every time I watch a game. And as I exited LaVell Edwards stadium with my son, dreading the 3 and 1⁄2 hour drive home after midnight, I had to admit to our gracious hosts (who, yes, were very kind believe-it-or-not) that we had just watched a pretty exciting game.
I saw coach Harsin and his supportive family going into the locker room, and made sure to tell them thank you. We need to be their supportive extended family, especially now.
We will bounce back from this. Let’s not worry ourselves sick dwelling on a tough loss. Focus on what makes you happy this week and let the team focus on getting to the MWC Championship game. Fill their ears and eyes with encouragement, because surely, we Nuggies are very blessed to witness their talents year after year.
You are all my friends that I haven’t met yet. I owe you all a hug if and when I do.