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GARY SMITH: Staying calm, carrying on

Passion for sports tempered by maturity, or at least age

As has been previously established, I attended and even graduated from a university slightly to the south and west of our current location.

Both of us have every right to be somewhat surprised by that graduation thing, and I'm certainly a lot prouder of it than I'm sure the school is, but ... there it is. I've got a sure-enough degree and if any mistakes were made that may have led to that, well, it appears all parties involved have lost interest in investigating.

Recently my alma mater participated in the College Football Playoffs, and, results were not as spectacular as we would have hoped. There weren't as bad as they could have been and certainly far better than we had any right to expect way back when we were five games into the season. But in a world where only one team gets the apple, we were decidedly apple-less.

I mention that because a good friend asked me if I was still sick about the loss. And that's when I came to a realization about my current state in life. Because, well, I wasn't.

Don't get me wrong. At the time, I was as passionately engaged as only a die-hard fan can be. And upon the conclusion of both the game and significant dreams, it was potentially the case that I might have questioned the Almighty as to why, why, WHY I had to suffer so. A fair concern, at the time.

And then I went to bed. Because, well, it was late. And while it might not have seemed like it, the sun was, in fact, going to rise in the morning.

That's in the way of qualification, because in my increasingly distant past, that might not necessarily have been the case. Just a few short years ago, there might have been no trash can un-kicked, no expletive un-hurled and no conspiracy theory concerning officiating unexpressed. Supposedly "lucky" shirts would have met a fiery fate and a deep, dark depression would have settled in, not to lift until next August, at best.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to full-bore fanaticism. I got older.

I'd like to say I matured, but I think we all know the truth of that. However, perhaps the advancing of years has given me some sort of perspective on college athletics, and athletics in general. Namely, that all of this is about creating memories of shared experiences, that you win some, you lose more and that the totality of a program's successes is important to keep in mind.

I'm going to hope it's perspective, but I have a nagging fear in the back of my mind. I'm afraid it might be complacency.

There are worse things, right? I mean, not getting all bothered by the ups and downs of college athletics is probably both wise and safe. As the old saying goes, a fan is someone who yells at a 19-year-old for not being able to hit another 19-year-old with a football 40 yards downfield, and then can't find his car in the parking lot. Who wants to be THAT guy?

Still, the opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy. And I'm distressed that I may have fallen out of love with college athletics. Because the concern here isn't that I just don't care about the game as much as I used to. It's that I've lost the capacity for unbridled, pointless, "doesn't really matter that you don't, but isn't it fun that you do?" rapture.

Sure, I still care about the big stuff: wife, kids, country, family. But if you can't make a fool of yourself about a college football game, well, frankly, what's next? Biscuits and gravy might as well be porridge. Springsteen is a guy with a guitar. Augusta is OK if you like flowers and all.

If it doesn't hurt when it's over, how do you know you were ever in love?

Maybe there's hope for me yet. I mean, while I'm not catatonic, well, dang it, winning sure would have been nice. And maybe my mood is tempered by the fact that, hey, that backup quarterback sure looked good. And the defense will just about have to be better ...

So perhaps, in a calmer way, I'm back. But if I ever need guardrails, there's a certain video circulating around of a Georgia fan immediately after the end of the championship game. When Alabama's winning touchdown is scored, he kicks, punches and basically obliterates his own door.

Now someone is going to have to fix that. And fervent fandom aside, it will never, never be me.

Commentary on 01/12/2018

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