My teachable moment from the Beavers’ battering (heh)

People ask me, DC (because I’m a man of the people like that), how is it that you retain some equanimity when USC loses to teams like Oregon State? And I start out with logical explanations – if you don’t establish the power running game when Stafon Johnson is making some headway, if you only adjust to an aggressive short-arse waiting out your over-commitment on defense for one quarter, if you drop the ball or throw interceptions, then you can’t really expect to win, can you? (Also, deflecting a bad pass into a Beaver’s hands for a touchdown when you’re already behind is perhaps too generous a host gift…)
And they say, no, DC, not the logic, we want to know about the zen like calm that descended on you in the early fourth quarter and then again after the botched on-side kick.

Ah.

Well, it’s pretty easy, really. You try supporting Scotland in international football for a while and if you can’t develop the capacity to cope with disappointment, you’ll go mad. Some examples, based on last night in Corvallis and the last couple of seasons for USC. To recap, USC comes off two games in which they battered Virginia and smothered Ohio State, only to have their ass handed to them by an Oregon State team that was prepared and motivated. The press response is split pretty evenly between hammering USC for exposing their (the press’) failure to learn from the past, and pointing out that USC has a habit of losing games they should win and then winning the rest of the season.

I can point to games in just the last ten years or so that got me prepared for this.

The Let-down: Scotland beats France twice in Euro 2008 qualifiers, and then proceeds to lose to Georgia in Tbilisi, a team which fielded a 17 year old in goal and two feral 8 year olds on the wing. This requires that they then beat Italy. Scotland are hanging on to a draw at home against Italy (admittedly on an offside goal) before one of the worst free kick decisions of all time hands the Italians a set piece from which they score, sending Scotland crashing out of yet another tournament.

The In-Game Generosity: Scotland opens World Cup ’98 against Brazil in the Stade de France and scores two of the three goals in the match. Unfortunately, one of them is an own goal, and the Brazilians walk away with a 2 – 1 win.

Getting Walloped by Teams They Really Should have Beaten: Even though it was a draw, this another opportunity to air out the 2002 draw against the Faroe Islands, a team of part timers who make their money teaching arithmetic or fishing (or both), and which has a league where the half-time entertainment is chasing people’s dogs off the pitch. Or, just a few weeks ago, losing to Macedonia because they gave themselves 24 hours to get used to playing in 100F weather. Or, going out of the World Cup in 98 after losing 3 – 0 to Morocco*.

The Pointless Strong Finish: For Scotland and England, qualification for Euro 2000 came down to a two game play-off. England beat Scotland at Hampden, and fully expected to win at home in Wembley. Scotland proceeded to come into Wembley and beat England in the last game played at the old stadium. Of course, England qualified anyway on away goals and Scotland watched the tournament from home.

So in the grand scheme of things, the once-or-twice-a-season episode of bed-shitting for USC is pretty easy to take. It’s all a question of having the right perspective.

* Incidentally, I walked into the Five Guys around the corner from the office in February or thereabouts, wearing a Scotland rugby hat, and the guy behind the counter turns out to be from Morocco so of course we have to reminisce about that. Even though I couldn’t remember the game in question when I started, I knew where we were going…

This summer, I was collecting my daughter from a pool party locally and one of the lifeguards accosted me because he was Macedonian and thought I was English, and wanted to taunt me for the time that England pooed the bed against them. It was only the luck of timing that saved me from getting another maudlin reminiscence about how Scotland provided them with a real win over one of the originators of the game etc., etc.

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2 Responses

  1. Nice post. The “feral 8 year olds” got a serious giggle out of me.

    For me being calm about a USC loss is just a matter of remembering the 80’s and 90’s. I was there when they were on top and saw the slide into mediocrity,
    When a down year is 1 or 2 losses, life is pretty good. (It sure beats having to remember back to Archie Gemmill for consolation).

  2. Isn’t that the truth? I was insulated from the worst of the 90’s by being on the other side of the country and without a television, but complaining about a 2 loss season still seems a little ungrateful with that decade in the background.

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