There's one vital concession to embrace before a MAC football season or else you're not doing it right. Remember that your team is not the best team. Someone else will win the national championship.
Phew. The pressure is now off. Now go and have fun for 12 games and hope that the super-ball caroms off the correct runes allowing your team entrance into a championship game and perhaps a bowl game sponsored by potatoes or pizza or something else rampant with more carbohydrates than sold tickets.
There are some who detest the "sports is life" allegory. I'm in the other camp, throwing all variants of sporting balls and fresh fruit at your camp in derision, but missing by several feet due to my aim. The tao of being a MAC fan, or fan of most singular sports teams, is a porthole into accepting one's own worth, and not being "OK" with it, but having pride in it.
I got married this past summer. That was a very good thing. Still can't believe she decided to sign on a blogger for a lifetime contract, but there it is in writing stowed away in a courthouse. No doubt that was the best day of my life, supplanting the day I finally beat Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. But throughout this year, I was inundated with a 45-hour workweek. Five hours of overtime a week for eight months gets to you. But you get through it because you know those awesome moments will happen in between.
We are going to have a child someday. It's going to learn about Josh Harris and Dan LeFevour and the time a punter won MAC Defensive Player Of The Year. And many days in between there will be trying, taxing days at work, in traffic, paying bills and having to deal with the occasional random stranger who seems to have misplaced their thinking hat or is an ass. The wonderful milestones are the reason you tolerate and survive every other day.
Specifically for Bowling Green football but especially for all MAC teams, you can file away most of their seasons and you will not miss much. Most seasons are forgettable, familiar, and riddled with mediocrity. Bowling Green went 2-10 in 2010. Aside from the beautiful symmetry, there were some plays I still remember today despite the slew of bad days. By "some" I mean "one," and specifically this one:
Every once in a while they're going to experience a season with great memory. 1999 Marshall. 2003 Miami. 2008 Ball State (well, the first 12 games). And despite all that glory, in comparison to everybody else, somebody's better.
When you're a casual college football fan, all you ever watch are top 25 teams. The only pedigree of football seen in January is that of champions. You grow numb to greatness. 99.9 percent of us will not experience that on a daily basis in our own worlds. We're just hoping to get through the day without being run into on the interstate, hoping the job's still there, praying that when you get home, it's not (a) on fire, or (b) picked clean by a thief.
What I watched in the 2011-12 MAC sports season was a collection of great accomplishments, at least in our own scope. A nation of casual college football fans fell in love with Tuesday night MAC football ("MACtion"), where in consecutive weeks Toledo football games saw the loser scoring at least 60 points. Five teams reached bowl games and they went 4-1, with the one loss being of the last-minute narrow variety. OHIO reached the Sweet 16. Four volleyball teams reached the NCAA tournament. Two MAC teams reached the NCAA hockey tournament (WMU and Miami) and both of them were in the CCHA championship, with the third one (BGSU) reaching the conference semis. And when I thought all the glory was over, suddenly there's Kent State finishing in the top eight in both men's golf and baseball.
Pretty killer season, if you ask me.
Ask a PAC-12 fan if that type of two-year stretch would be deemed "successful" for them. You may have to explain to them what "hockey" is.
The pessimist/realist in me says that the conference overachieved in their combined postseasons. OHIO basketball got hot. So did Kent State baseball and golf. BGSU hockey definitely got hot. But hotness, much like real-life hotness, fades quickly. Maybe someone else will get hot. Maybe they won't.
Success is not only relative but fleeting. Dynasties in China and European empires had good runs but eventually someone else supplanted them. The Mid-American Conference features 12+1 teams tightly packed together in terms of geography and budget. A true dynasty might last as long as, I don't know, a month? You enjoy three weeks in a row when you can, and if you're losing, you appreciate the couple of athletes who are doing super-wonderful things that would break your back if you attempted it. Looking at you, Jordan White.
We have seen over the years what can happen when fans deify sports entities and react to losses. They fight each other. They poison trees. They lay out their well-meaning hearts to defend a statue representing a bad man. They root for Ohio State. It's quite astonishing.
This type of mentality has helped me survive the season that is the 2012 Detroit Tigers as well. Coming into the season, everyone in the team had expectations of a do-or-die trip to the World Series. Anything else is a disappointment. Christ, do they know how many other teams have this goal? There are 30 teams. About 15 have a playoff "chance," 10 of them make it, and unless Solomon intervenes and slices the trophy thirty ways, only one team gets what they are chasing. In the meantime, I've been able watch Justin Verlander do incredible things like pitch 100 mph in the ninth inning, Miguel Cabrera hit baseballs very far to all fields and Prince Fielder basically run over any other object in motion on the basepaths, being thankful that he doesn't run me over, ever.
And the same goes with global politics. (Thought to self: Oh, God, these are dangerous waters on a sports blog.) The United States is my favorite country ever because I live here and get to work and write and make stupid jokes without being beheaded, but is it the greatest country in the world from an objective standpoint? Heck, does it even matter? There are too many smart people all over the globe to have USA get 500 years of privilege in that category.
OK, I'll bring it back home. One of the greatest struggles I've had as a sports blogger, a Serious Internet Profession, is the obsession that there are so many other writers better than me. Sometimes you think, God, I'm doing my best over here, combing over statistics and stories, exhausting multiple minutes on the perfect pun, looking for the angle that hasn't been mentioned, and just going nuts on a longform article ... and then another writer goes and does it all better and makes it look effortless. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was driven to near madness trying to be better than the Beatles. His band may have been better then the Fab Four for a summer, if that, but that was it. The Beach Boys are still amazing.
Just because you're the second or third best country, sports team, writer, swimsuit model, NES role-playing game ... doesn't mean you're awful, and sometimes I think we forget that. It's easy to put all this in perspective when watching MAC sports. It's high quality entertainment where it shouldn't matter, to the fan, who the best team is. The season will figure that out for us.