The Crimson White

Welcoming the end of seventy-two

Matthew Gillham

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It looks like seventy-two straight games of being the favorite, the champ, the top dog are no more. And I’m more than okay with that.

It’s about time the joy of winning eclipsed the devastation of a loss when it comes to Bama football for me. As we all watched the seconds tick off the board two weeks ago, a peculiar feeling echoed throughout the stadium. It was, as if, for the first time, every student was watching a team that yes, should’ve won, but at the same time may have been beaten by a better team.

I remember the painful losses of the past few years, how I scurried out of Oxford, or New Orleans twice, or punched a wall with rage over Thanksgiving weekend or sulked back to my dorm after A&M in 2012. Last year, the clock had barely struck zero before I was zipping out of town, riding shotgun with another devastated Bammer, “Time After Time” playing on repeat. I wasn’t about to let myself overlook those games to find any joy in anything else then—I couldn’t.

I can’t wait for tomorrow. I think we can win. I think we should win. But for the first time in awhile, I don’t absolutely expect to win. Georgia’s inevitable 10 and 2, good-but-not-great year could thrust them to an early season victory (before their inevitable mid-season collapse). It’s entirely possible, and Vegas says it’s probable.

And maybe that’s it. As Saban’s mentioned several times before, expectations have been so high that success outside of a championship has been hard to find for the Bama proud. Winning hasn’t been enough. A number three finish last year? What a dismal season. And to try to really make football sound unappealing, I’ll say the concept of diminishing marginal returns couldn’t ring truer here.

But by disaster and not choice, it doesn’t quite feel that way anymore. You’ll hear me losing my voice at games for the rest of the season, but my expectations of inexcusable victories have been chipped away. I think I’ll (finally) find more happiness in chalking up a W against UGA this year than the absolute depression an L leaves.

The real loser here? Sorry, SEC teams, looks like the game we play this year won’t give you the opportunity to find solace in your “we underachieved all year” argument in an otherwise mediocre season. Maybe SEC highlight reels from this year might not just be Bama highlights and then games Bama loses. It’s as if every team that’s beaten Bama over the past five years had never won a game before—at least that’s what it’s felt like, goal posts carried off and all.

No, this isn’t me throwing a nail into the coffin of a dynasty. It’s me eagerly awaiting a continued chapter, one that I’ll be able to celebrate in victory and, maybe, overlook in loss. It’s me celebrating a love for football, the way 127 other schools have been doing over the past few years.

It’s the Bama blessing and the Bama curse. What Saban’s powerhouse had grasped, however painful, Ole Miss has given back.

But, it’s a good thing this gets published before this weekend too because it could very well be the only game before we’re back to high expectations with less to gain and more to lose. And I’m more than okay with that too.

Matthew Gillham is a a senior majoring in economics. His column runs biweekly on Fridays.

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Welcoming the end of seventy-two