The 5 Stages of Grief: UT Football Edition
For all my life, I have foolishly invested my emotional well-being in the whims of professional and collegiate sports teams’ seasons. Having accepted my admission to UT almost two years ago, I knew difficult times were ahead. It was simply inevitable. Witnessing the harshly meme-ed claims of Texas football coming “back” and early March Madness exits for many years was enough to curb my usual optimism. Last year, I was thrilled to see Tom Herman come off of a Bowl-winning season, knowing we could build on our returning players and aura of energy. Handing OU’s Kyler Murray the second loss of his life in Dallas was essentially the highlight of my semester. We could actually make the playoffs this year...
I let my guard down. Big mistake.
After watching the disintegration of our perfect conference record against an Oklahoma State team sitting nearly dead last in the Big 12 Conference, I knew this loss had to be a fluke. How could it be? We had just beaten Oklahoma. Sam Ehlinger was playing like vintage Colt McCoy. We were getting the right results. The real test would be next week against top-15 ranked West Virginia. Up by seven with 25 seconds to go. This was our game to win. We would see Oklahoma in the conference championship game. West Virginia was around midfield. It was ours to lose…
25 seconds pass.
I sat there in disbelief for what seemed like an eternity. I felt alone. I felt betrayed. How could I have known? Nothing could have prepared me for the way Saturday’s game ended. After some reflection, I realized that this feeling was not entirely unique to this game. I had been here before. And so I began to reflect on my emotional transition between the stages of grief as the night progressed. Here is what I observed.
Stage 1: Denial
This settled in very quickly after West Virginia QB Will Grier strolled into the end zone to put the Mountaineers up by 1. “There’s still 16 seconds left on the clock… we can just get good field position and kick a field goal… we have Dicker the Kicker, we still have a great chance… Sam Ehlinger is huge he can throw this ball all the way down field… the Bears almost beat the Patriots this past month just like this!” Two erroneous plays and the opposing players stormed the field. It was over.
Stage 2: Anger
“Why didn’t we play an extra safety? Who’s idea was it to send in a blitz when we only need to prevent a touchdown with 25 seconds to go? Is it too late to fire Todd Orlando? My mom could have called a better defense at the end.” Whether or not any of this was true, I was furious. With less than half a minute to go, I didn’t know why we weren’t playing deep and forfeiting the middle of the field as we had been throughout the drive. Our only job was to prevent a touchdown. Somebody had to pay for this.
Stage 3: Bargaining
“You know we could probably still make the conference championship. We just have to win the rest of our games, and OU or West Virginia will lose when they play each other. We still have a chance. Who knows what could happen with three weeks left. At least we’ll still get a bowl game. It can still be a really prestigious one too. Texas A&M still has a worse record so it’s not too late to do better this season. We had some of our starters out too so it was pretty good that we did as well as we did.”
Stage 4: Sorrow
“Everything hurts.” I had nothing to say as I watched the later college football games of the day. I ate my Tex-Mex in silence.
Stage 5: Acceptance
With all this madness, here’s to more sports sadness.