In sports, you get used to heartbreak. You get used to people losing by milliseconds — by inches. You may even get used to the sort of thing that happened to my Steelers last season.
They needed eight games to result in a certain way over the final two weeks in order to make the playoffs. The first seven did — a one in 64 chance, if each game were a coin flip. The eighth also would have, if the kicker for the Chiefs, Ryan Succop, had just made a simple 41-yard field goal with four seconds left.
But, he missed.
Season over. No playoffs for Pittsburgh, after all of that. I’m looking at you, Succop. And, no, I guess I’m still not over it.
This is kind of how I’ve felt about Cal football.
When I came to Cal two years ago, Cal football for me was associated with superstar names like Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson and Tony Gonzalez, so I definitely had high hopes for that year’s team. Yeah — that didn’t happen. We went 3-9. After so many years of coaching a winning team, Jeff Tedford himself was gone.
I was hoping for the Axe; instead, he got the axe.
Sophomore year, I was pumped. Game days are always the best days, and last year, I thought we could tighten some stuff up and actually put together a decent season — at least, one that was better than the prior year’s. Sure, we lost a phenomenal wide receiver in Keenan Allen, but head coach Sonny Dykes’ air raid offense looked promising, and Jared Goff was labeled a consistent quarterback who had a good arm and was relatively mobile.
Then we went 1-11, 0-9, in the Pac 12. Ouch.
People blamed the poor year on defense and injuries, but by the end, I was too frustrated to care about the causes. I was too disappointed. I kept getting my hopes up, screaming “Go, Bears” at the top of my lungs and killing my voice only to be silenced by embarrassment.
That’s why this year, I just don’t care. I’ve already had my heart snapped into little pieces by this team too many times. I can’t handle games against Oregon in which we hang on for the first quarter and a half only to fall apart. I can’t handle being in our stadium when an away team’s red color and chants are taking over. I can’t handle getting my hopes up only for them to be crushed.
Yeah, we’ll probably have a better team this year. The kind of offense Dykes runs is the kind that needs a couple of years to really develop and settle. I don’t think we could have more injuries than we had last year — knock on wood — so having our best players in the starting slots will certainly be helpful.
And, of course, you can’t talk about this year’s team without mentioning our new defensive coordinator, Art Kaufman, who had better pull some sort of scheme that, if nothing else, can stop that Bears from giving up what has felt like four touchdowns a quarter. Defense really does win championships.
Obviously, as a sports fan, there’s nothing people want more than for their team to succeed. People want to be able to scream for the Bears at the top of their lungs and wear the blue and gold proudly at football games. As a reporter covering the team, I want to see the Bears somewhere in the top or middle of the many Pac-12 rankings my job requires me to read, instead of seeing the team either at or near the bottom.
But, this year, I’m not — I repeat: not, not, not, not — going to get my hopes up.
Well, maybe I will.