Since I was in first grade, I’ve tried by best to consume sports knowledge at an unreasonable level. Every morning before school I would watch ESPNews instead of Sportscenter, solely because even during their commercials, they would run scores and stats along the sidebar and bottom line.
During that time I possessed only one love in my College Football world: Georgia Tech. My father did a good job of convincing me that they were the only good guys in the sport. Sure, there were other teams, but to steal a laughable line from our buddies up the road, there was “no institution worthy of such loyalty, as [Georgia Tech]”.
But I think my first real foray into the rest of the collegiate athletic landscape came with the 2006 Rose Bowl, through a screen that looked a hell of a lot like this:
I’m pretty sure that somehow, before this famous fourth-and-5, I was blind to the game as it existed outside of Grant Field. I had always enjoyed watching the NFL prior to this Rose Bowl. I remember sitting at my Uncle’s house watching Adam Vinatieri bury idol 1A) Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI, and claimed it was payback for how badly idol 1B) Brett Favre beat them five years earlier. And that “it was okay, their luck had just run out cus of the last one.” Obviously referencing this, with all the vague ambiguity of the English skills possessed by an 8 year old:
But for all of the love of sports I had, I never saw college football in this same light until Vince Young danced into the end zone in Pasadena. Then it was on. It was the right time to deep dive into the game. Troy Smith, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram, and Cam Newton were the next five Heisman winners. It was an electric time to have a new favorite sport.
The only problem was, in realizing how much else was out there in the world, I also realized that none of that came to the Flats. Sure there was the 2000 season, where I watched LSU beat us senseless in the Georgia Dome. Or the 2008 season, where I watched LSU beat us senseless in the Georgia Dome.
But I never really equated Tech’s successes with those that I saw other team’s achieving. That should have been my first clue that things were always a little different for us. Whenever we won eight or more games between 2000 and 2016, the season ended with a win only two times out of eight. So despite relatively great seasons, there was always more to be had.
Upon enrolling at the Institute, I really put the horse blinders on. I enjoyed watching the best players in the country on the highlight reels, but was more invested in Tech athletics than ever before. What was I rewarded with? The only 7-7 campaign in the history of the modern sport. I didn’t enjoy the game for what it was unless Tech was winning to go along with it.
The 2013 season was largely forgettable, then 2014 came along and gave me the satisfaction I had waited on for nine years. Tech was good, and it was a point that couldn’t be diminished by an asterisk or a disqualification from a Coastal program with less upstanding moral fiber (see the two asterisks that put us in the 2012 ACCCG). Tech took me to the top of the mountain, or at least close enough to where the pictures turned out the same.
And for everything that 2014 did for me to tell myself that it was okay to be publicly proud of Georgia Tech, 2015 took that positive fandom and stabbed it in the heart. Repeatedly.
That was the season where Tech games really took a toll on my psyche as a college football fan. The georgia game was the only consistent drain on my emotional well-being every year, but during the 2015 season, I began to notice that each game began to matter more and more as we fell further and further from the mountain peak that was the 2014 Orange Bowl.
Now, call it maturity, or call it not wanting heart issues before I turn 30, but the 2017 season saw a newfound peace with results of each game. Sure, I might have screamed at the TV following the Miami game. I might have watched the Clemson game in a room by myself during a Halloween party in which I was the bearded equivalent of Gaylord Focker. But after each game, I’d vent for some period of time to a couple of friends, then wipe it from my system. The disappoint never lasted through Monday morning, whereas it used to boil for seemingly weeks on end.
And as the Ted Roof Rage left my body, I began to take in the landscape as a whole, not focusing all of my attention on one dark corner. It became the case that I could watch other games and not always have to compare my team with who I was watching. The mentality that had spoiled my viewing experiences since that Rose Bowl no longer plagued me. I accepted the differences between Tech and the rest of the country and began to truly love the sport again.
Tech losing didn’t mean I couldn’t love watching Oklahoma State play catch against Pitt’s secondary. It didn’t mean a 10-win Army had to immediately be tied to “WHY CAN’T TECH DO THIS”. I could go back to the great teams of the past five-plus years and really enjoy the simply stunning concepts that other teams were running.
Football became fun again. I could tell you more about the state of conferences, out of conference teams, hell the FCS, than I ever could before. I just wish that this mindset had found me sooner. I would have been able to enjoy games like Wisconsin-Oregon pictured in the cover much more than I did behind jealous eyes of my prior self.
Last season, I mentioned needing help finding a second team. And after looking high and low across college football, I came to a much different conclusion than what I originally sought. I didn’t need to find another team to invest in like I had done with Tech so many seasons ago. I could just watch them all, and find joy in every shovel pass, Coach O impersonation, wide left field goal, and scoop n’ score this sport has to offer.
Now, sensing the increased rage within the fan base since the end of the 2014 season, I want to leave y’all with what I think was the biggest key for me personally.
You have to treat Georgia Tech like family, not like a partner. You put partners on a pedestal, expect them to be incapable of doing wrong, and have your heart broken each time they fail you. It’s perfectly normal to do, but that’s not what Georgia Tech is to us. It’s family. Problems and all, it will not change, nor will it ever leave you. So when you begin to see Tech as the entity with which you choose to spend your Saturdays, not the be-all-end-all of your happiness, the rest of the game becomes so much more enjoyable to take in.
Now, whether you choose to give this way of thinking a try or not doesn’t make a difference to me. I wholeheartedly do not expect Tech to win a championship for as long as I’ll have season tickets. But I’ll go to each game and don the White and Gold just the same, and then go home and enjoy the hell out of Wisconsin playing with 10 people in the box just the same.