Sitting among 80,000 orange-dressed fans in Clemson’s behemoth Death Valley Stadium Saturday, the harsh truth started to sink in with me mid-way through the third quarter: Wake Forest was not going to win the football game.
How sweet that would have been, clinching the ACC title against the league’s dominant team.
But no. Life’s full of no experiences.
It was at that moment I started to reflect on how I felt about the game in the larger context of this Wake Forest football season. Rather than feeling bitter and angry and thinking “there goes Wake Forest blowing a big opportunity again,” I thought about the gift this team has given to me without them even knowing it.
It’s been a gift much more valuable than championship trophies and bragging rights against Duke, Carolina, and State; a gift more lasting than one fleeting football season; a gift more meaningful than what the scoreboard reads at the end of a football game.
The gift I’m referring to is two-fold: a re-connecting with friends I’ve known for some 35 years who attended Wake Forest with me; and just as importantly, making new Wake Forest friends.
At the Army game in New York – the 70 to 56 thriller we won – I saw long-time buddies Marlan, Steve, Dave, Zman, Pistol, Snake, Mike, Hogge, Coene, Rip, Mac, and others. We partied in the parking lot after the big win.
At the Duke tailgate I met Fireball Frizz, Gregg, and Woody, three guys I’m going to hang out with and share a few laughs within in the coming months and years at Wake Forest football tailgates. Those guys are cool, amusing, and love the football team as I do.
Fair to say that these new friendships probably would not have happened if the Wake Football team wasn’t playing games this Fall and drawing us to them with their thrilling offense and unusually high number of wins.
There’s more. My wife and I went to the Carolina game with my friend Dave and his wife. We got to know each other better. My guy DJ, a long-time friend I hadn’t seen since college, also tailgated at the Carolina game. DJ’s awesome.
Friendships matter. If you live long enough, you realize they matter more than even winning and losing.
Sure it would have been great had Wake beaten Clemson yesterday. But sports are a microcosm of life. There are highs and lows, wins and losses, firing and promotions, births and deaths, arguments and settlements.
Since yesterday’s loss, I’ve been accused of jinxing the Wake Forest team by writing with excessive exuberance about the team’s performances and upcoming games. Critics have said I get too excited and suck people into that feeling. They accuse me of jinxing when Wake loses because I get their hopes up and their feelings get hurt when Wake loses.
I don’t apologize and never will for being enthusiastic about the Wake Forest football team. If you live your life always lowering your expectations so you won’t get disappointed if your team loses, you’re not enjoying the highs of life.
You’re only protecting yourself against having fun because you’re afraid of being hurt. You can live your life that way but I prefer to get enthusiastic about life. It’s more fun, for one thing. It’s more conducive to improving interpersonal relationships, for another thing.
On the subject of enthusiasm, we’re now having to ponder what the pulse is of the Wake Forest football fan base now that we all know what’s what: The team has to beat Boston College next week or this wonderful season will be a lot less wonderful than it appeared to be when they rolled to 8 and 0 just a few weeks ago.
Should we fear what might happen to protect ourselves from the pain of losing? I say not. Let’s look forward to the game and enjoy the friends we’re watching it with and talking about it within the days leading up to it. Let’s get intrigued and engaged about whether this special team can punch its ticket to the ACC title. Before the season started, none of us would have bet this team would have had this chance, win one game and go to the championship.
There’s nothing more powerful in the world than enthusiasm. It feels much better than fear and trepidation.
If our team beats BC, there’s even more to get enthusiastic about. The ACC title will take place in Charlotte. That’s in my neighborhood. Before the game, I envision sending out invites to my Wake Forest friends to join me for a party in my home garage and in and around my yard.
There will be grills cooking burgers and steaks and hot dogs. There will be potato salad and coleslaw. There will be Bojangles chicken and Cook Out milkshakes galore.
For everybody. For Wake Forest long-time friends and for Wake Forest new friends.
Bonded forever, we’ll come together as one enthusiastic crowd of Wake Forest football fans.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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