The slates are clean. The win column, as well as the loss column, bears no marks. The possibilities remain endless. Every team is in the playoff or national title hunt.
The preseason brings boundless optimism. If your team won it all last year, you’re on cloud nine, basking in the glory complete with signs, t-shirts and other paraphernalia celebrating the accomplishment.
If your team didn’t win it all or had a less-than-stellar season, you can point to 2017 with the hope of better results.
After contributing on 13 team previews, plus a couple of other articles for both the high school and college football preview editions for this publication, I couldn’t help not tackling a subject all Southern football fans and fans of any sport come across.
While positive vibes, good hopes and high expectations abound at this point of the season, all it takes is a mark or two in the loss column to see all the hope and happiness dry up and fade away.
As our favorite teams pursue excellence and winning it all, fans often don’t dwell on the moment and enjoy what is happening.
In 2008, Rome High reached the state semifinals, losing in a controversial ending to Marist. That same season, Pepperell came within two points of a region title and reached the Class AA State Quarterfinals.
Both teams and fan bases enjoyed the season and the results. Although the squads graduated several players, hope abounded that the next year’s teams could reach the same goals or possibly surpass them.
Pepperell wouldn’t win another playoff game until last season, when the Dragons reached the quarterfinals again.
Rome wouldn’t win another playoff game until 2015. Rome did win the Class 5A State Title last season, but when asking Coach John Reid about it, his answer proved short and simple.
“That was last year. The players enjoyed it. They had the banquet. They got their rings. But this is a new season.”
That being said, fans can enjoy the Wolves’ magical 2016 run, which brought the first state title in any sport to the school. Rome sits among the favorites for the 2017 state title, but so do a handful of other teams eager to knock the Wolves off the throne.
Coaches have to focus on the future and the next season. Fans can enjoy the moment a lot longer. Especially when a team does something as magical as what the Wolves accomplished.
Following our teams during the season is like riding roller coaster. There are highs, lows, topsy-turvy seconds, upside-down moments and times where we feel sick.
Ask Falcons fans about the Super Bowl, UGA fans about the 2012 SEC Championship game, Bama fans about Deshaun Watson, Braves fans about every World Series except 1995 and the response you elicit could get violent.
We still love and pull for our teams. But our zeal and hope for the top spot sometimes gets the better of us. A close win doesn’t bring cheers but doom and gloom about how it might affect the remainder of the season or the next game.
The reality remains only a handful of teams reach the top of the sport. An old t-shirt bore a slogan that read, “second place is the first loser.” That attitude means unless you win it all – you’re nothing.
Over the last 25 years, only 13 of the possible 129 FBS teams have claimed a national football championship.
Understatement alert -winning it all is tough.
So, when my beloved Auburn Tigers won the title in 2010, for the first time since 1957, I was elated. When they lost the title in an epic contest against Florida State in 2013, I was devastated.
The loss to the Seminoles stung for a lot of reasons, but I realized I couldn’t be too mad. My team won a conference championship and played for the national title. They finished second. According to the shirt, they were the first loser. According to me, they had a magical season that fell just short of perfection.
Many moons ago an SEC team, I won’t name which one, lost two early-season games against top-10 ranked foes. The losses meant the team wouldn’t be able to win a national title.
The team still won a lot of games, a conference championship and a bowl game. But home attendance for the rest of what was a great season by all indicators except one; fell by more than 30 percent.
The fan base had morphed from loving greatness to expecting nothing short of perfection. Those types of fans will be disappointed more often than not.
And when your team falls short of the state title, conference title or the national title, firing the coach and finding someone better might not be realistic. The list of active FBS coaches with national title rings stands at four. Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Dabo Swinney and Urban Meyer most likely aren’t going to come to your school. Les Miles is available, though.
So as the new season begins, fans can revel in the possibilities. My advice is simple. Enjoy the games, celebrate the wins, mourn the losses but not so much that it spills over into everything else.
The day after the Braves lost the World Series in 1991, the sun still came up. The loss did nothing to dim a magical season and memories of that amazing team run remain stronger today than they were 26 years ago.
So, soak up all the moments and enjoy, because nothing lasts forever. While your team may be one of the ones on top right now, there are no guarantees how long it will last. In short – enjoy the moment.