“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination” - Mark Twain
Pause for minute. Close a few browser windows. Flip your phone over. Tell your boss to pound sand (Ed. note: don’t).
Amid the Twitter fire takes, the national blowhard pundits, and just the general chaos of our adult lives, pause and think about the pure joy that got you to care about this insane, flawed, corrupt sport in the first place.
For joy to be realized, there must be pain. Think of all the meaningless late October road trips Texas A&M football has been on under past coaches during lost seasons. Teams going through the motions in a half-assed effort to become bowl eligible.
Think for a second (NOT TOO LONG) about the times this silly sport has ripped your heart out and left you wondering why you even give a damn. Feeling SHAME for giving such a damn.
You give a damn because of weeks like this. In the summer of 2011, when the college football world was one big game of RISK in realignment (Chip Brown lost), your mind wondered what it would be like to play a big time game with huge stakes in the Southeastern Conference.
Think of the peaks and valleys in the journey to get here. It’s been a fast, helter-skelter five years.
Alabama hasn’t walked that journey. Alabama doesn’t remember what those valleys feel like. Alabama has reached a level of such robotic, mechanized success that it almost seems somehow joyless. Their past pain isn’t fresh enough. They live in a world where winning is merely satisfactory.
Don’t get me wrong - I envy and admire this kind of success, but tomorrow, embrace being the underdog. Sports is the best unscripted theater on earth because everyone can bloviate and speculate and dish the hottest takes about how they think - nay KNOW - a season or game or whatever will play out.
Then the game starts.
To hell with those people. Tomorrow, your Fighting Texas Aggies are going to run into college football’s Roman Coliseum as huge underdogs. They know this. But you know what? Most of them were born for this.
This team has gone through a calendar year of having to vigilantly block out outside noise. Noise saying that their coach should be fired. Noise saying that the culture of the locker room is a mess and everyone wants out of the program. Noise saying, “yeah, they’re talented, but they’re soft. They’ll collapse in October again.”
You think Justin Evans knows what it’s like to be an underdog? Take it from someone who made his way to A&M through a JUCO - junior colleges give you plenty of time to reflect on life. Evans busted his ass at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and is now one of the very best players on the No. 6 team in the nation.
You think Trevor Knight knows what it’s like to be an underdog? His personal peaks and valleys over the last five years mirror those of the Texas A&M football program pretty damn closely. Knight was born to lead the 2016 Aggies.
And what about our head man? Coach Sumlin has fearlessly led this program into the toughest division in the toughest conference in college football. He’s humbly learned and grown on the job. Do you know how well this guy does as the dog? Kevin Sumlin has been a double-digit underdog seven times in his head coaching career. He’s won FIVE of those - all on the road.
Sumlin has just the right balance of humility and wry edge. Just this week he was reflecting on the underdog status:
“Someone said to me, ‘Well, nobody’s giving you a chance.’ I said, ‘Well, I guess it’s a good thing nobody’s playing.”
This team has steadfastly stuck to their mantra of #itsaboutus. They fight like hell for one another. Last year the offense went through the motions for themselves. The defense is led by a Chief of high character that has molded fearless, ferocious kill machines out of some really great young men.
Tomorrow you can bet your ass this team will give a damn. Tomorrow you’re allowed to go a little insane over a game played by 18-22 year olds. You’ve been through the pain. We’ve all witnessed what it takes to get to these moments.
Tomorrow, be the underdog and give a damn.
Tomorrow, we beat the hell out of Alabama.