Things haven’t been normal on the Flats for a while.
2019 was the season of hype, shoes, catchphrases, and gaudy hubris. 2020 was the season of COVID, empty stadiums, and general weirdness. 2021 was the season of crumbling dreams, anger, rake-stepping, and painful obliviousness. 2022 was the season of why-is-this-still-a-thing, drama, hope, and more drama. Now, in 2023, maybe we can just be a plain ole football program.
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All I want to do on Saturdays this year is tune in to the team I love and not feel a deep sense of dread and anxiety about where we are. I don’t want to feel like every loss is some poetic microcosm of a rotting regime and I don’t want to feel like every (rare) win is a too-small dose of relief laced with the feeling that it all really could be so simple. I just want to watch football games and feel normal. After four long years, I think normalcy is finally what we’re going to get this season.
To be clear, losses are normal and I’m expecting plenty of them. I’m not really worried about losses in 2023 at all; we’re back to a program-rebuilding phase and there are many challenges associated with that. The big difference here is that I’m not expecting anyone to gaslight us about that rebuild phase. I’m not expecting anyone to gush about how we’re a sleeping giant that’s going to shock the world and condescend about how if you only paid attention we’re actually way better than the results show. So far this new coaching staff has proved to be pretty clear and honest; I think they’ll tell us they have high expectations but that they recognize we aren’t where we need to be and that there’s a plan to get there. Y’know…normal coach stuff?
If we end up losing to a team we shouldn’t, I don’t think Key is going to stand up and try to convince anyone that that team is actually really good; I think he’ll say the normal “we shouldn’t have lost to those guys and here’s what I’m going to do about it”.
I don’t think we’re going to see any of the weird juxtaposition of a 3-9 team wearing What’s Important Now t-shirts or doing barbell curls on the sidelines before blowouts.
I don’t think we’re going to see gold lambos on the field of one of the most financially-precarious programs in the country for recruiting visits (besides, shouldn’t it be a Hyundai supercar now?).
I don’t think we’re going to give the national media (good) reason to mock us for four months straight.
I think we’re going to run real practices where players work on real plays instead of whatever the heck experimental stuff we were doing before.
I think we’re going to have a real depth chart and not an Above The Line chart.
I think we’re going to see a real division of responsibilities amongst the coaching staff based on their skill sets and expertise and not a micromanaged autocracy.
I don’t think Key is ever going to tell us about the shoes he’s wearing (I’m also convinced he’d rather just not be wearing shoes if he wasn’t forced to by society).
I don’t think we’re going to have a rift within the fanbase over whether or not you’re a “Key guy”.
I don’t think how we perform on the field will be a distant second priority to the circus of what we say and do off of it. I don’t think we’re gonna have a circus off the field at all actually, quite the opposite.
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In short, I think we’re just going to be a regular ole football team, and I for one am ecstatic about that. Dealing with all the extra insanity over the last few years has been exhausting, and it’ll be nice to feel normal and sane again. Even with 4 wins, at the end of the season I don’t think we’ll feel the same sense of despair we’ve felt in recent Decembers. I think a new sense of normalcy will give us the right stable platform to build on for 2024 and beyond. Let’s just enjoy some regular football this year y’all.