A Brick Too Far – Part Two

What’s that old saying, attributed to Oscar Wilde, about “life imitating art”?

The notion that real life is far more likely to take on the characteristics of what happens in a work of fiction than the other way around.

What about “life imitating life”?

Deja vu … take one

Last weekend, I posted my last essay of CU’s long off-season, entitled, “How Will You React?” . In it, I described my observations about a high school team and how it responded to events as they unfolded in their season opener.

Like Colorado, this high school team was coming off of a long series of losing seasons.

Like Colorado, this high school team came into the new season with optimism and enthusiasm.

Missoula Hellgate’s season began like this: three-and-out to open the game, short punt, three plays for the opposition to score a touchdown and take the lead for good.

Less than a week later, Colorado’s season began like this: three-and-out to open the game, blocked punt, three plays for the opposition to score a touchdown and take the lead for good.

What had been what my psychologist wife would call “naturalistic observation”, had now become an opportunity to judge myself. Instead of gauging the reaction of the players and coaches of Missoula Hellgate as they their built up hopes and dreams of nine months of practicing were dashed in a handful of plays, I had to be witness to my own reaction.

How to best describe my reaction?

If I had to pick a word, it would probably be “resignation”.

For much of this past off-season, I was happy to drink the Kool-Aid. There was, however, a fairly large reservoir of skepticism which had accumulated over the past decade.

“We’ve put in a lot of work this offseason and we want it to show out there on the field,” quarterback Sefo Liufau said in the days leading up to the 2015 opener. “Hopefully, we can go out there and be consistent and execute, because we know how we can play. Now we just have to go out there and show it to everyone.”

Liufau was not alone. “We’re just a more mature football team,” coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I’ve been around these kids now for a few years. Some of those kids have grown into men and we’re still waiting for a few of the kids to grow into men. But I like this team. I like how they work, I like the progress, and I look forward to seeing them perform better on the field.”

With closed practices and no preseason, the Buff Nation had to take the coaches and the players at their word. The Buffs were better. The Buffs were more focused. The Buffs were sick of losing and would play with renewed dedication.

And we believed.

For about six plays.

Deja vu … take two

“People are talking about the Buffaloes, and we’re excited about the opportunity in front of us,” said the coach at the CU Kickoff luncheon. “I know we were picked 13th in this conference out of 12 teams by the media. That’s all right. So we’re picked 13th. But here’s the good thing. We get to go play.”

When asked about the status of his team, coming off of a stretch of losing seasons, the coach replied: “That physical mentality, that mental toughness that I talked about in the first team meeting, it’s here, we got it. These guys have done everything we’ve asked them to do and more.

“You’re going to be proud of this Buffalo team.”

Coach Mike MacIntyre last week?

Nope.

Try Jon Embree, right before the Buffs left for Hawai’i for his first game as the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes to open the 2011 season.

There was uncertainty heading into the 2011 campaign which was similar to that of 2015’s off-season. The Buffs were coming off of a five year run with Dan Hawkins as head coach, and they had a bad taste in their mouths. It was an off-season of trying to put the debacle at Kansas (turning a 45-17 lead in the fourth quarter into a 52-45 defeat) behind them, and the off-season had drug on for what seemed an eternity. The team wanted to get back out on the field to show that what had gone on before would no longer be tolerated.

And we believed.

The 2011 season opener was against Hawai’i, on the road. A good team, but a beatable team. The Buffs just had to play their game, and take care of business.

Jon Embree in 2011: “It’s all business. They can see (Hawai’i) when we land and again when we take off. They can see everything they need to see then. We’re there for one reason.”

Other than a side trip to see Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona memorial, the Colorado trip to Honolulu in 2015 was also a “business trip”. There were plenty of distractions in Hawai’i, with the Buffs’ hotel on Waikiki Beach. But MacIntyre said his team had no trouble keeping an eye on the task at hand. “They’ve done well,” MacIntyre said. “Everybody is showing up on time, focused … it’s been good.”

The 2015 trip to play Hawai’i was not a “Brick game”, as it was back in 2011, when Jon Embree instituted what proved to be a short-lived plan to insert a series of bricks into the walls of the Dal Ward Center to honor important victories in CU history.

But the end results were painfully similar.

The final score in 2011 … Hawai’i 34, Colorado 17.

The final score in 2015 … Hawai’i 28, Colorado 20.

The 2011 team would go on to post a 3-9 overall record, and while there were some positive moments in Jon Embree’s first year (a win over Colorado State; a road win over Utah to close out the season), there were as many – if not many more – negative moments.

Here we go … again.

So, what do we take from Colorado once again disappointing its fan base with a loss in a game it should have won?

If my observations of the lowly Missoula Hellgate Knights are any guide, there are at least three options: anger; sulking; or false bravado.

None of those options sound especially appealing right now. Perhaps when I am less sleep deprived, I will have a better answer.

The one thing I do know for certain is that I will be in the stands next Saturday when the Buffs take on Massachusetts. “It’s what we do”, to paraphrase James Earl Jones’ character in A Field of Dreams. We soldier on, and come back to cheer for our team once again, hoping again for the best, even if it is against our better judgment.

Whether you went to school in Boulder, grew up with the Buffs, or have some other connection which led you to become a Buff fan, you will be back.

We’re not going anywhere.

I’m reminded of a line from another great 80’s movie, Mr. Mom (if you haven’t seen it, or don’t remember it, find it on Netflix. It will help ease the pain of Thursday night’s debacle). In the movie, Michael Keaton, believing his wife (Teri Garr) has cheated on him, is presented with the opportunity to cheat by a seductress neighbor (Ann Jillian). With Ann Jillian waiting for him in the next room, Keaton ponders his options as he stares at himself in the bathroom mirror. Starting with “A”, Keaton goes through the alphabet, listing reasons why it is okay for him to cheat. By the time he gets to “Z”, though, Keaton concludes, “Z … You’re not doing anything, because you, my friend, are in love with your wife”.

So, just like Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom, we will spend the next day or two listing all of the reasons that we are not going to be taken in by the Buffs ever again. We will not listen to the hype, we will say. We will not buy into the false promises.

But by next Saturday, though, we will be back again. We are not going to leave our Buffs, even though we just had nine months of built up excitement flushed down the toilet … again.

Because we, my friends, are in love with our team.

—–

 

9 Replies to “A Brick Too Far – Part Two”

  1. There are many, many reasons to be disappointed in the Buffs performance. But the significance of this loss is tough to gauge. I’ve been going to University of Hawaii football games for 30 years. Many, many good football teams have come to Hawaii and lost or come close to losing games they should’ve won (on paper at least). That’s one of the reasons most top tier teams don’t come any more. And they used to. There’s the travel west, time difference, distractions (beach, girls, bars, etc.), and last but not least, officiating. I’ve seen UH get the benefit of some crazy calls over the years. This game had some gems. And the ending was absurd. So while I nearly threw my Buffs jersey on the hibachi after the game, upon reflection (i.e. sobering up), I think it’s too early to reach any conclusions. But that will change quickly if the Buffs don’t beat up on U Mass at Folsom.

  2. I too was on plus side of optimism this last nine months. Though I think our coaching is adequate I don’t think we will improve until we can upgrade the talent. Call it what you want we need more speed and more depth.

    BUT…………..Never say never and never roll over and play dead!

    GO BUFFS

  3. I’ll be there Saturday with my Buffs gear. We are always there, it’s just the mood that is different as we work our way through this.

  4. Stuart, thanks for talking me off the edge once again…

    I’ve drank too much Kool aid over the last 9 months to pack in just yet. I know the Buffs are a PAC 12 team and should be more than ready, but let’s face some facts: 80% humidity in 80 degree heat are brutal conditions to play in. By the end of the third quarter, you could see that the Buffs were gassed. Hell, you could even see that the Warriors were tired. Whittick (sp) looked miserable and couldn’t wait for the game to be over. Even though coach Mac said that “these kids are nocturnal” playing a game when their body clocks were starting a game at 11 pm (a first game of the season) took its toll. Hang in there Buffs.

    Special teams coach and offensive coordinator are the week links to the success of this team. IMHO

  5. I have my own high school story from today. My daughters high school where she is a cheerleader has been a losing program for the last 8 years. The HS coming into town had blown them out 56-0 last year, and they went up 21-0 in the first quarter. At that point you would think here comes another blow out, but that is not what happened. They learned from the first quarter and they played solid defense, nothing spectacular just no major mistakes. They proceeded to pick off four passes over the next 3 quarters from a team that had at least 3 inches and 30 pounds on our players. The offense ran the ball with enough passes thrown in to keep their defense honest and again no major mistakes (no game changing mistakes). The special teams stopped there fake punt attempt after the coach sniffed it out and called a time out to prep the team for it. Solid coaching, no major gaffes on either side of the ball and they walked away with a 29-24 victory over the #3 ranked team in the state.

  6. Stuart, you have a way of perfectly encapsulating my thoughts about the Buffs, and you did it again here.

    As I stood in the shower this morning, contemplating why I let the Buffs do this to me year in and year out, I said outloud, even though I was by myself, “It’s just who I am. I can’t change it. I love the Buffs. I hate it, but it’s who I am.”

    *sigh*

    This one is very much like the others, in the sense that the outcome is the same, but this one stings a lot more than a blowout loss to USC or Oregon. I think the sting is from the large drop off from what I expected. I let my confidence in the Buffs grow to a 10-year high, and man was it crushed.

    It will take a while to get that confidence back up, but I know it will get back up again. It’s who I am.

  7. Yes we do love our team, otherwise non of us would even be reading this or (anything else about the Buffs for that matter). Getting harder to keep the faith but I am a Buff for Life!

  8. I’m with you, Stuart. After 45+ years why would I abandon our Buffs now?
    I checked it last night, the 1990 season started with a tie (Tennessee), a win, and a loss (Illinois) and we went on to win the rest as well as the NC.
    Go Buffs!

  9. This was truly heartbreaking!!!!! Hawaii owns us on the rock. they looked more mature and ready to play. i hope that this was the “bad practice” that the buffs will have and that they come out better for the rest of the season. truly heartbroken and now have to find other things to occupy my time while knowing that my alma mater will be once again at the bottom of the Pac 12.

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