Following the weekend's conquered favorites and other wounded notables through the stages of grief.
Normally in this space, we associate a single loss with a single corresponding emotion in the famed Kubler-Ross model; rarely do you find on Sunday evening that a fan base has already careened through all five stages in barely more than 24 hours. But this week, well, Ohio State's 26-18 face-plant at Purdue was just that kind of loss.
Denial: The Buckeye Blog's immediate reaction to the upset was to point out how a loss a 1-5 team that was recently vanquished by MAC also-ran Northern Illinois clearly demonstrates not Ohio State's oft-lamented shortcomings on offense, but rather the obvious "strength of the Big Ten":
In other conferences, there are enough soft games that teams can heal and regroup after meeting the occasional tough in conference opponent. In the Big Ten however, unless you schedule mid-season out of conference games like Delaware State, chances are, you don’t get a break.
At some point, the BCS must recognize the strength of the Big Ten schedule and recognize that a one or even two loss Big Ten team still belongs in the BCS Championship.
Thankfully, we're pretty sure this is satire, even if some of the commenters aren't.
Anger: Gleeful haters and heartbroken homers alike in search of a bracing dose of spleen need look no further than the vicious postgame comments thread at the blog Eleven Warriors, the same forum where some of the first rumblings of the "fire Jim Tressel" meme began following the Buckeyes' loss to USC in September. In fact, there's so much rageahol flowing through 11W's "Here's to Fail" thread that the commenters instantly begin turning on each other as the nearest available reminders of their despair. This blog is going to be even more interesting when they start making avatars that can fire on one another.
Bargaining: What can be done to stave off the death of Jim Tressel's career and/or reputation? Block O Nation's Tim Bielik sums up the feelings of many Buckeye fans (and strikes a chord with my fellow Georgia fans) with his answer: Fire a bunch of coordinators, particularly offensive guru Jim Bollman. Otherwise, "a coach such as Cincinnati's Brian Kelly could and should be the next man at the helm in Columbus." Yes, you just heard a Buckeye fan express envy toward the Cincinnati Bearcats, followed by the sound of the universe beginning to fold in on itself. Welcome to 2009.
Depression: Alongside what I'm presuming is a picture of Nero fiddling (or lyre-ing?) whilst Rome burns, Vico of Our Honor Defend paints his own picture of a very sad state of affairs on the Buckeyes' offense:
We're a ball control offense in that we control the ball very little and are a field position team in that we largely position the opposing offenses on our side of the field. In short, our offense is average at best and lousy at their average. Problems go uncorrected and adjustments have not been forthcoming and why am I to believe that it'll get any better any time this season?
This is somewhat optimistic, actually, since statistically the Buckeye offense is nowhere near "average."
Acceptance: Over at the Columbus Dispatch, columnist and token soothing voice Bob Hunter is in an accepting mood when it comes to a once-unthinkable conclusion: Terrelle Pryor isn't Superman, and may not be on the track to becoming Superman:
Pryor was cast in the role of Superman before he played his first down at Ohio State. People didn't ask whether he would play as a freshman, but how much. They didn't want to know if he would win the Heisman Trophy, but how many. There was talk of All-America teams and championships.
Hard as it is, it's time for everybody to forget that Pryor was once judged to be the top high school recruit in America and think of him as just another talented but erratic second-year player. As Superman has morphed into Jimmy Olsen the past two weeks, the built-in expectations add a lot of noise and a little more tension to what is beginning to feel like an awkward situation.
With Jim Tressel already knocked from the pedestal, it appears the Buckeyes are fast running out of heroes.
Congratulations, Buckeyes: You have set a new NCAA record for speediest execution of the five stages of grief, and are thus more than prepared for what will almost certainly be a joyless funeral dirge against Minnesota this weekend regardless of the outcome. Godspeed.
After that whirlwind journey, peeking in on anyone else's grief almost seems anticlimactic, but a few fan bases managed not to disappoint:
Anger. Maybe "anger" isn't really the right word for Houston Chronicle columnist/blogger Jerome Solomon's reaction to Texas A&M's latest loss -- "passive aggression" seems somewhat more appropriate -- but after a 62-14 embarrassment in which Kansas State had to take its foot off the gas with a 59-0 lead barely five minutes into the third quarter, A&M faces virtual excommunication from the ranks of America's proudest gridiron population:
Aggies, this isn't funny anymore. You guys are bringing down the state's reputation as a football state.
Got a message from a noted Aggies detester last night semi-gloating about the disastrous events in Manhattan. I told him that as pathetic as it was, even a Longhorn like him couldn't enjoy this, could one?
"Sure we can," he replied. "Anything worthwhile requires effort."
Well, Longhorns might take pleasure in this, but I'm sorry, the rest of the state is joyless. We can't keep claiming these Aggies if this is the best they can do.
This weekend, the Ags have to travel to Lubbock to face Texas Tech, which beat K-State by 52 a week ago; by the transitive property, we can deduce that the Red Raiders will beat A&M by an even 100 points. One senses that Solomon will not approve.
The only somewhat optimistic note came from Aggie Sports' Robert Cessna, who agreed the loss was "as bad as it looked," yet somehow concluded "The Aggies never quit, and I'm sure they played hard," even though "It didn't show." So ... you're sure, Bob?
Denial. What is it with Oklahoma Sooners fans? When their team's national-title hopes (along with Sam Bradford's shoulder) were dealt a crushing blow by BYU on the very first Saturday of the season, they responded with upbeat free verse. Now, with the Sooners sitting at 3-3 after a heartbreaker of a loss in the Red River Shootout, their lingering Big 12 title hopes all but dashed and Bradford's throwing arm once again in a sling, they've turned to ... upbeat Bon Jovi songs. Crimson and Cream Machine titles its post "We're Halfway There!" while never stating exactly where "there" is; mathematically, at least, it's 6-6 and a Christmas visit to Shreveport, but maybe they're OK with that. When the Bon Jovi tune du jour becomes "You Give Love a Bad Name," then we'll know the slow-burning fuse in Sooner brains has finally hit the TNT.
Depression. The Auburn Tigers won the Depression award last week for going all Sylvia Plath following their first loss of the season at Arkansas. This week, following a loss to a Kentucky team that came to the Plains sans its starting quarterback, Tiger fans' misery is perhaps a little more understandable ... until they begin invoking the disastrous 2008 campaign:
Someone cue up the storm so lightning can hit the clock tower and make sure Marty and Doc are ready with the Delorean. I want to get back to 2009. Was it just me or did I just watch an Auburn game from 2008? Think I am making this up? I am not, it was like a replay of last season. Is this loss going to be the Vandy of 2008?
Really? Let's keep in mind that your team is still 5-2, guys, with as many wins in mid-October as it had all of last year. When y'all get that bowl-eligibility-clinching sixth win -- which will come on Nov. 7, at the very latest, against Furman -- we suspect you'll be turning some of those frowns upside-down.