You were watching it all slip away Friday night, weren't you?
As Villanova marched down deep into Syracuse territory with time expiring, thoughts of a dark time in our recent past began to creep upon us all. Over the past five years, Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer slowly, even miraculously rebuilt our program following The Four Years That Will Not Be Named. They mended recruiting ties, established a strong and physical identity after years of tickle-fights, and more than anything, put competence back on the sidelines. Three bowl victories in four years had finally alluded to stable times ahead, and we as fans had our sanity and self-esteem back...at least enough to give us optimism heading into the 2014 season.
But no sooner than Terrel Hunt went all Jon Jones on a Villanova defender Friday night, Syracuse lost composure and momentum, allowing Villanova back in the game, and to the brink of an improbable and hugely embarrassing victory. Like many of you, I could hardly take it. No, I wasn't some idiot making a fool of myself. Rather, I began to shrink into a pit of doubt and despair. Could we have actually taken a great step backward under Coach Shafer? Was our talent level only that of a solid FCS program?? Could my younger sister, a Villanova grad, have bragging rights on me over FOOTBALL??? Gaaaah!!! I was losing it. And fast.
And even though Villanova's game winning Field Goal missed, and Syracuse made a great escape thanks to CBA grad and hometown hero
Greg Paulus Riley Dixon, our 1-0 start to the season did nothing to make me (or you) feel too good about the win or about our prospects for the remaining 11 games of the regular season. And to be fair, I was pretty down on SU football for most of Saturday, thinking about how I went from euphoric and highly confident about the start of football season to pretty much terrified in less than a day.
My psyche was trashed. And as I desparately tried to think about how I could best protect myself from a season of misery, I reached down into my own personal bag of coping mechanisms, and pulled out the only one that made sense...the Mulligan.
The Mulligan, for those of you not familiar with the term, is a special informal rule in golf whereby a player can call a "do over" on a shot -- most commonly on the very first shot of a round. If, for example, one hits their first shot deep into the woods rather than straight down the middle, said player can gleefully call "Mulligan", and take a second tee shot with no penalty. More often than not, the second shot stays down the middle and off you go happily on your way with the chance to start strong!
Many look at the Mulligan as a way to improve the chances of starting out a round of golf on a high note, but the reality is that it really is used to save a participant's sanity and bolster one's self-esteem. Rather than start in deep trouble and set yourself up for a round of frustration and angst, you give yourself a chance to re-start, find the fairway, and hopefully find joy in the process.
And as a Syracuse football fan, this is precisely what we need! Yes, we played pretty poorly Friday night. Yes, we have MUCH tougher opposition ahead. But we should know by now that Scott Shafer's Syracuse Orange have a way of resetting themselves after a terrible week and come out fighting. Remember Georgia Tech last season? That was beyond Villanova-level futility. We won the next one. When we kind of laid an egg against Clemson? We came back the next week and won on the road.
Point is, we have shown an ability to tee it up after a bad shot and knock the next one down the middle. And rather than let my 44-year-old level of immaturity lead me to doubt my faith in our coaches or players, and turn me into something other than what I love to be -- a complete SU Homer -- I am simply calling a Mulligan following last Friday night, and will tee-it up in less than two weeks with a clear mind and 100% faith.
Central Michigan will be the start of my round this year. Whatever happens from there will shape my hopes for and faith in 2014 Syracuse football.
...Can someone fetch me a ball out of my bag? I'm ready to hit another.