The weekend came and went like each of the last 20, or so, that came before them. The last few pangs of the 2011 football season each serving as fleeting reminders of the year we wish never was. The mistakes reign supreme over the triumphs once again. We’re almost used to it by now.
Even the games highest levels couldn’t escape its demons. And as trophies were hoisted the illusions of grandeur fall on deaf ears. What’s so “super” about two teams backing into a championship game anyways? For the first time I can remember, possibly ever, I’m ready for it just to all be over.
It’s been the worst football season, particularly in the college ranks, that we could ever imagine. Scandal is no stranger to football, but like a thin layer of soap scum we strip it away year after year to expose a captivating sheen, imperfectly perfect.
This year, we scrubbed mercilessly only to find that the filth never ends. Every act of improbity is met with some form of contrition, reproach or irreverence, natural human reactions to the humanization of a sport we’ve spent so long deifying. “The system is broken,” some will say. They’ll be called anarchists.
In Tennessee, they’ll long for the days of Fulmer and even The General himself, even though these so-called “simpler times” came long before the birth of most. In books of record it will just read 5-7 next to 2011, but it’ll be more widely recognized as an apparition, or a casualty of a down year in football.
The injury-bug got us, too much inexperience, and a brutal schedule will all serve as reasonable cop outs to a season that made us all cringe. It’s a shame for 10 seniors who face unprecedented challenges during their time in Knoxville, but the 2011 season has already been scheduled for termination in the mind of Volunteer fans everywhere. Despite it's improbability, we'll atempt to euthanize time.
But the Volunteer faithful aren’t alone. Outside of the select few who have earned the right to call themselves champions, and a few more that seem content to call themselves champions regardless of merit, 2011 has been a season we’ll be happy to forget.
We’ll always remember Joe Paterno and the defining lines that his life created in his last days, and we’ll probably remember who wins the Super Bowl despite its trivial nature in comparison, but little else will be of consequence in five years. The die-hards will remember a bit more, as is always the case, and the cynics will use it as fuel (petrified turds burn the longest), but we’ll be generally eager to disregard the rest.
There’s no reason to anticipate 2012 will be better or worse, but we’ll make the general assumption that better days lie ahead. Unfounded optimism is one of the things that make sports great, not just football. No matter how terribly your season is going, you can take solace in the fact that you are no more than 12 months away from 0-0.
So as we count down the days until we can officially put this awful season behind us, we’ll reflect on the year that was. Thursday, a memorial service will be held for Joe Paterno, and nine days later a decidedly less meaningful service will be held in jest as the football season officially comes to an end. But unlike Paterno, there will be no mourners as the memories are laid to rest.