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What 'Wet Hot American Summer' Can Teach Us About Expectations

I like talking about expectations. I like Wet Hot American Summer. I can talk about both now.

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When it came out in 2001, Wet Hot American Summer grossed $295,206 at the box office. Doing some very rough math, that means I was one of only about 24,000 people to have seen it's initial release in theaters. #NotEvenRemotelyHumbleBrag

Suffice it to say, WHAS has had a special place in my movie-going heart since. So when I heard that they were making a prequel series on Netflix, I had mixed feelings. I was excited to go back to Camp Firewood and revisit these characters but I was also scared that the result would be a diluted version of something I loved made just for nostalgia's sake (Hi, Arrested Development).

I'm taking the Netflix series slowly so I can appreciate it but so far I'm enjoying it. In the meantime I've been enjoying hearing the people behind the film and series talk about what it was like to make it as well as everything that went into it. I've also learned a lot about how director/co-writer David Wain and c-writer Michael Showalter dealt with the fact that their movie bombed in theaters but eventually became a cult hit.

The duo stopped by the Bullseye podcast recently to talk about it and it was amazing to hear just how differently they reacted.

Michael Showalter expected WHAS to be The Next Great Comedy and dreamed of huge box office numbers.

"It is devastating when you think you've done something good...we felt like we had made the movie we wanted to make so to have people reject it in such a harsh way was on a personal level very, stings.

...I had very grandiose goals. I had a very grandiose idea that it would become Animal House. Like, you know when we were making the movie I had this feeling like this is gonna be Animal House or this is gonna be, you know, Caddyshack. We're doing our "that"... so when it didn't even come close to that, it was just this crushing disappointment. Like, wow, I really misread that...and what does that mean?

David Wain, meanwhile, had a more grounded goal in mind.

The...goal was, can we make this movie and pull it off? And make it the movie we want to make? I feel like we did...and even from moment one, certain audiences were loving it and to me that was the win. And the fact that it then got a theatrical release, which was absolutely in no way a guarantee for an independent film was also like the benchmark. It came out in a theater in New York City, the New York Times reviewed it. That was sorta the goal that I had in my head and that happened. And nothing beyond that happened and it sucked, but, I was psyched that we hit that mark and then we could move on to the next thing.

Same result, wildly different reactions.

Expectations. It's something I feel like I talk about a lot. I think it's because they influence so much of how we feel about, well, anything. As sports fans, expectations could be the difference between seeing a .500 season as a success or as a failure.

Being a Syracuse Orange fan is very much all about your expectations. If you don't expect much from this year's team, who knows, you might end up getting surprised. If you're like this guy, there's no way you're not coming out of 2015 severely disappointed.

I'm guessing that guy will also be at the front of the line calling for Scott Shafer to be fired. Because if the Orange finish 5-7, that's incredibly-short of 10-2. That's not good enough.

Of course the other problem with expectation is is fluidity. Right now we all have an expectation about the 2015 SU football season. That expectation goes out the window by halftime of the first game and gets replaced by a new expectation based on what we've seen. A week later that expectation changes again based on the results. It's not uncommon to get to the end of a season, see that SU has the record you thought they would back in August and be disappointed. Because along the way your expectations looked like a housing market graph going up and down and up and down...

Ultimately, if something you want to succeed bombs, there's no getting around the fact that it's a sucky experience. David Wain wasn't saying he didn't care that WHAS did terribly in it's theatrical release. All he was saying is that he had very specific goals in mind that he wanted for himself and ultimately if those goals were achieved then he accomplished something whereas at the time all Showalter say was failure.

Whatever that means to you as a Syracuse fan is up to you. If you're headed into this season like Michael Showalter expecting an ACC title and playoff appearance, God love ya. But expect to be disappointed.

If you're headed into the season expecting to see improvement and some follow-through on the things the Orange have been talking about all off-season, well, chances are you're more likely to be pleased by December even if there's no bowl game to be played. That doesn't mean you have to like the outcome, it just makes it easier to count your victories along the way.