Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Football Snark

I tend to get snarky at this time of year, typically because school is starting. Well, I have no classes this fall, and I'm still getting snarky. So I have figured out that my snarkiness exists for reasons not exclusively tied to classes. And one of those reasons, dear readers, is because it is nearing football time in Oklahoma. Yes, it's time once again for my annual rant against Oklahoma football fans.

Well, I should clarify. I'm a fan of the Sooners, a big fan. I like football, too. Not as much as basketball and hockey, but I have spent many a fall Saturday watching game after game with a bratwurst in one hand and a remote in the other. And I don't think all Oklahoma fans are annoying, or even a large percentage of them. No, I'm snarking against the Sooner fanatics. The fans who talk about the players in May, who count down the days to the next football game starting in February, who think a coach should be fired for losing one game in a ten-plus game season.

I dealt with this in Nebraska for eighteen years. It is no better here, and after observing both the Cornhusker and Sooner football empires, I can honestly say that neither fan base is significantly better or worse than the other. It is just as bad here as it is there, so any complaints I have expressed against Cornhusker fans are just as valid here.

My least favorite Mondays of the year are autumn Mondays, when the spectators of the latest game discuss in excruciatingly minute detail every play of the previous game. I don't mind a brief discussion of the big moments of the game, but details on how players sluggishly broke from the huddle on particular third downs are a little much, thanks.

And, as much as I abhor I-80 in Nebraska on game days, the painfully unprepared streets of Norman are beyond an inconvenience. The streets are downright anarchy before and after the game and deserted during. So, if anything is to be done during the four-hour Sooner lovefest, it is to be done during the four-hour lovefest, when I'd much rather be taking part in the lovefest from the comfort of my lovely sofa.

Now, the streets of Norman are not Oklahoma fans, but I think they are a very convenient metaphor for them. See, the least annoying part of Oklahoma fandom occurs during the game, when spectators are so caught up in the moment that I can observe their genuine love for the sport. The most annoying part is before the game, when everybody is in "Can't wait for the game" or "Here's what I think will happen" mode, where the fanatics and fake professionals, respectively, sort of dominate the airwaves at the expense of the more grounded fans. And after the game, everyone's a critic...or, in this case, a coach. And although it is tempting to believe that you could coach a team better than some of the coaches after the bad games, I personally contend that that is an incredibly arrogant and naive take on the sport. On any sport, really.

Coaching sports is commonly about war strategy and the unspoken truths of human emotion. A strategy for winning a game is a lot like an investment. It's hard to say that an investment is a failure and to formulate a new plan when you are the formulator of the original plan, even when the thought has festered in your mind that disaster is approaching. It's an admission of failure, and as someone who knows a lot about failure, I can tell you admission of it does not come easily. Why would coaching be any different? Add to that the concepts of rivalry, a battle of wits, and an omnipresent zealous fan base who demands victory after victory, and the buildup of pressure is something that 20/20 hindsight is blind to. *This* is what I cannot stand about the Oklahoma fans I'm trying to exploit here, and football fanatics in general. People may be able to diagnose the reasons for failure, but contending that you can do better than the coaches? Shut up.

All snark aside, I reiterate my love for college football, and Sooner football specifically. And I am looking forward to a new season coming to a television near me. But, I know real fans when I see them, and I'm finding fewer and fewer of them in football stadiums. I can always count on them in soccer stadiums and volleyball arenas, though. Popularity can be a good thing, but it has its caveats. Oklahoma fanaticism is absolutely one of those caveats.