Another game, another loss. At least Iowa is relatively good? Some silver linings in there?
No. No silver linings.
With the loss to Indiana, I tried to deny what I’d just seen.
“Penix was down!” I yelled into the ether. “We’re a good team, Ford just messed up by scoring late!”
With the loss to Ohio State, I got angry.
“This team is so close every year, why can’t they get over the hump?!” “If we’d had Fields, we’d have been in the playoffs last year, it’s not fair!”
With the loss to Maryland, I started bargaining.
“Well, you see, Maryland actually has talent, if you look at the 24/7 talent rating! They’re actually not bad! They’ve been due for one of those games for awhile! We always lose after playing OSU!”
With the loss to Nebraska, I got depressed.
“Why do I even bother being a fan? What’s the point of fandom, if only to hurt me? Deep down, I know I deserve this.”
With the loss to Iowa, I have gained acceptance.
“We’re really, truly, a bad team. There are no silver linings. We’re bad.”
With that, I’ve moved through all five stages of grief. I’ll be disappointed when they go 0-9 - who wouldn’t be? - but at this point, if you simply accept your fate, you can’t be hurt by it.
Now, I’m just wondering how they’ll lose. Who will turn the ball over this time? What weird and wacky way will the other team score? How deep of a hole will they dig before mounting a half-hearted comeback?
These are the things that I now look forward to each week. I (jokingly) said last week that if you don’t have any expectations, you can’t be disappointed.
But if you’re gonna go that route, you have to mean it.
And so, I’ve donned a paper bag for the first time in my Penn State fandom. I’ll watch from the shadows, confident in each week’s impending loss, interested only insofar as I don’t know the how of it.
Not unlike a train wreck, this season has become gruesomely fascinating. I don’t want to stare, but I can’t look away. And so I’ll stare as the fires rage, as the twisted metal burns, as the hulking carcass of the Penn State season screeches down the tracks, carried on only by momentum at this point, until it’s finally, blessedly over on December 19th.
If you do want to look for some sort of silver lining, it’s this - you are witnessing history! Horrific, ignoble, infamous history, but history nonetheless! Some day you can tell your grandchildren about the 2020 football season, and how it was literally one for the record books.