Friday, November 29, 2019

Tomorrow is for Everything. Or is it?

Yeah, so, tomorrow, huh? Pretty, pretty, pretty big day for our favorite team, the U, the State of Minnesota, the Arctic ice cap, and cosmic justice. I’m going to do my best to just take it all in; but getting started at 5.30, watching GameDay, wandering bars/tailgates, hitting GopherHour and then sitting down for 200+ minutes of ulcer-inducing drama where the payoff is everything we’ve ever wanted is going to be a lot for my monkey brain to manage.

“A LOT” is about the only way I can describe tomorrow. The B1GW, the Axe, a chance at the Rose Bowl, a chance to knock off Ohio State for a B1G championship and a shot at the College Football Playoff, another year of not having that rancid fan base constantly chirping. It sucks that most of that list is still in play if we execute in the red zone just a little bit better at Iowa. Then tomorrow is just about the Axe and a better shot at the Playoff. It sucks if we lose, because it always sucks to lose to Bucky. Beyond that though, we win the division and have bragging rights and everything else to play for. Alas.

I mentioned this on TAWPod and I’m certainly not the first person to say it, but there is a certain right-ness to the way things have played out. Wisconsin owns us for 14 years, is more or less the one consistent power in the B1GW since its creation, and we need to beat them to win the division and take the next step as a program. Don’t get me wrong, it would have felt great to win the B1GW without beating Wisconsin; but it’ll feel better if we win it having beaten Wisconsin. So, there’s the task: beat Wisconsin. No problem!

I think, given how it’s A LOT, many Gopher fans, myself included, have built tomorrow up as THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT DAY IN THE HISTORY OF GOPHER FOOTBALL. In a lot of ways, that’s right, it certainly is the most important day in recent Gopher football history: We’ve not played in anything with the stakes this high since the 1960s. Wisconsin 2014 was the closest, but there was zero chance of the CFP there, the Rose Bowl was a CFP game and a win probably sends us to the Outback Bowl. While that would have been cool, it’s a little like winning the set of steak knives in the Premiere Properties monthly sales contest. So, for those of us under the age of 55 or so, this is the only experience we have with what are legitimate playoff games for our squad. The basis of any comparison to what this means is all hypothetical.

We’ve never been this close to the top of the mountain. And now that we’re this close, we HAVE TO REACH THE FUCKING TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN OR IT’S ALL FOR NOTHING. Before we dig into that, I’ll admit that I spend most of my time here. Tomorrow means *everything* because I paid $80 grand to climb Everest and, dammit I don’t care that I’m out of oxygen and my Sherpa left me because it’s too late in the day to summit and I will 100% die if I keep going I am summiting this bitch.

That’s a really dumb way of looking at it. The season has legit been awesome, win or lose tomorrow, and the journey here has been more than almost anyone could have hoped for. But for a lot of us, maybe most or all of us, that’s how we’re programmed to see it, either through evolutionary processes, cognitive distortions or both.

Simply put, we’ve got something – a chance at transcending what we’ve been for 50 years – and there’s a risk of losing it. And people hate losing shit. The bias toward loss aversion is a real, proven thing. People would prefer to avoid losing a thing than acquiring a thing of equal value: I’d chose not losing $5 over gaining $5. Further, we’re all caught up in all-or-nothing thinking: we win tomorrow and it will be sublime or we lose and everything is a failure and sucks and we suck. There’s only two possible outcomes – the best thing ever or the worst thing ever. A coin flip and we might spend the next two weeks in despair. Coupled with our aversion to loss – in this case positive vibes – this creates a lot of existential distress.

These are really distorted ways of looking at the world and probably why many of us have spent most of the week wanting to throw up when thinking about the game. I’m sure this kind of thinking helped my ancestors when they were bashing each other with rocks and feces to get the last piece of mammoth; but dang, Gina, I’m running out of trash cans to lay waste to in 2019.

I haven’t been terrifically successful at combating my madness this week, but it has helped a little to reframe the situation in a way more amenable to constructive thought. For example, tomorrow isn’t about potentially losing something. We don’t really have anything to lose at this point. Rather, it’s an opportunity to do something we’ve never done before. It’s awesome to have opportunities like this and after years of having shitty teams, it’s amazing to have this chance. Doesn’t that sound nicer? I’m warm and fuzzy just thinking about that.

Also, losing tomorrow is only the worst thing ever if we think we’ll never have the chance to be here again – that this is truly a one-and-done, lightning in a bottle opportunity. As long as Fleck (and Coyle) is here, it’s hard for me to think games like tomorrow aren’t the new normal. Our offense pretty much returns everyone next year and, while we lose a lot on defense, I think there’s a ton to work with there. Plus, who needs a defense when we’re popping at 50 points per game? If we’re in the same spot next year, then losing tomorrow will be disappointing, but not the end of the world. Unlike Everest, you don’t need to find another $80k to enjoy the 2020 season of Gopher football.

Like I said, reframing the situation hasn’t fully re-wired my monkey brain to where I sit at peace waiting for tomorrow. I’m still anxious and excited and terrified; but it helps to set some context around what tomorrow means in the grand scheme of things. We have a chance to do something great tomorrow. And we’ll have plenty of chances to do great things in the years to come. If we lose tomorrow, the kids will be alright. We’ll be alright.

But it won’t matter because we’re totally winning. Fuck the Badgers.

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