I had an Epiphany, I think: Our beloved Pirates simply, “ams who’s we ams”

Our Pirates, it seems, have been and always will be the underdog that dreams of claiming college football's biggest treasure.

Our Pirates, it seems, have been and always will be the underdog that dreams of claiming college football’s biggest treasure.

Popeye used to always say, “I ams who I am” mostly to his beloved Olive Oil in an attempt to get his loved one to understand that he does his best but he has his limitations. He is happy with who he is even when others around him – important people like his beloved gal – wish he could be even more.

I had a little bit of an epiphany following the FIU win – key word there being win. Epiphanies are much more beneficial when they come in the wake of a good thing rather than a bad. Still, epiphanies seem to be tantamount with acceptance and this sometimes makes them not so enjoyable.

For those of you that stop by regularly, you know I was expecting our team to roll a very weak FIU team out of the stadium and it looked like that early on, but we all know what happened. The offense inexplicably stalled and the defense, while they played well throughout had to contend with nearly 40 minutes on the field against a rookie QB – which we know never bodes well for ECU…EVER going way back. Still, our kids as a team – all phases of the game – once again played down to its competition, save maybe the last 10 minutes of the game where the defense stepped it up and started hammering that young QB. Our field goal kicking was horrid, which contributed to the offenses inability to extend the lead and perhaps put FIU away even earlier, but the glaring issue, IMO, comes back to the offense stalling out for no real good reason. Routine plays started to drop off and the intensity level looked to be lacking overall (understanding the difficulties of being jacked up on the road against a huge underdog in a stadium with maybe 2,000 fans in the stands).

So, to the epiphany.

It is this: ECU football is what it is, always has been, and faces long odds of ever being anything otherwise. Is that a gloom and doom POV? Perhaps. I choose to see it more as part of what makes ECU easy to cheer for… we are the classic underdog.

I think Coby Heath summed it up nicely in a comment he made on my previous post (Offense’s Feasting Eyes…) when he wrote:

Over the years, ECU football has taught me at least one lesson… never, ever trust them to trounce an opponent they are favored to win. For every Southern Miss game like last Saturday’s, I can show you 25 like this year’s Tulane game where a -10.5 point spread turned into a triple overtime loss. So, I predict that on Sunday morning whether we win or lose, the Old Yellow message board will be a raging red.

Over the last 35 years or so, I’ve often delved into the psychology of “Why”? Why can we beat the Miami, VT, Pittsburgh, Missouri, and the South Carolina, but get whacked from behind every year by a UAB, a UTEP, or a really bad Rice team? The most logical answer I can think of is that the type recruits we sign have been passed over and shunned by the BCS schools and other likewise experiences their entire lives. They are over-achievers that have the chip. This works well for an underdog role, but is bad for developing the self-confidence it takes to whip a lessor foe. That may not be a sound analysis, but it’s the best I can come up with.

So forgive me if I don’t join in the office pool and bet on how many points we are going clobber our opponent by. With any underdog we play, I just hold my breath.

Some sage analysis there, really, and part of what got me thinking about this notion that we “am what we am.” I think that our position in college football as the ultimate chip bearer is one that sure is better than a lot of other roles. For a program that really has won very little on the big stage, we have a disproportionate national profile — much more known than many who have won more games over the years.

If you look around the country, what is it we aspire to be, really? From everything I gather, all we really collectively want is to be recognized, respected, and included in the big money so that we can continue to raise the academic and athletic offerings that ECU has to offer the country and world.

Do we really want to be Alabama? Sure sounds nice from a distance, but what it takes to be there…do we really want that? I am not sure our fan base could handle it and frankly, I am not sure it would be a good thing.

Look…if we want it, now is the time to take it. The NCAA had completely turned a blind eye to every form of cheating that its convoluted rule book says it is out to enforce. The slaps on the wrists given to UNC and now Miami for what should have landed the Tar Heels the death penalty and the Hurricanes something close are evidence more than anything that if ECU wants big-time, as the late great Horace said “carpe-diem baby.” Ok…I added the “baby” there, but you get my drift, yes? Right now, there is no oversight, so if we want it, we should grab it. How long do you think it would take Ruff, Riley and crew to land a dozen 4-5 star players if they could write blind checks and promise anything necessary to get the kids on the field here? They are too principled to do so, but let’s imagine that scenario for a moment? Ruff would need all of 2 minutes in a home to get the kid to visit and then one visit – with a few tweaks of course, including lots of graft and maybe a few well-placed twerks from the right student bodies – and whammo!…A top 5 recruiting class lands at ECU. Of course, I am sure that would provoke the NCAA to act. But, let’s pretend that current-day cheating is at least on a level playing field. Two years of that type of recruiting and we are being begged to join the SEC.

For me, I think honestly, the notion of working our way to SEC status is more romantic than actually becoming that by any means necessary. Like our players, apparently, I am not sure I can handle more than being the underdog.

So, while I think that our team has the talent – when their minds are in the right place – to roll the balance of our schedule, I will cease and desist on making anymore bold predictions on what our team should do to an opponent and accept the fact that we ams who we ams and be pleased, very pleased with a win by hook, crook, luck or that ilk on any given Saturday whether we play a national contender or a the Little Sisters of the Poor. Because I am realizing that what I love most about our team and our program is the very emotional roller coaster they put me on every week, every year.

I’ll talk Tulsa (another struggling team at 2-6) a little later in the week and will try to convey what I think will happen, but not what should happen.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “I had an Epiphany, I think: Our beloved Pirates simply, “ams who’s we ams”

  1. factoid

    Said another way, ECU teams play much better as the hunter than the hunted. We really don’t have a defined persona IMO, We come into every season with a few teams on our schedule that we shouldn’t be able to beat in terms of resources, talent and coaching and lots of others much closer to us than we are to the big boys. Some seasons, we get a big win, even two, but most of the time it goes true to form except that we lose to a team that our fans see as way beneath us but who in reality isn’t that much of a lesser program. As coach Logan said, the other guys are trying too and one of those other guys get us when the ball bounces their way that Saturday and we don’t play well as the hunted. Happens to most other teams too, hence being unbeaten is rare.

    Turnovers and travel determine lots of ECU games that are not blowouts. That is because our margin for error is very thin. So it is with most other college programs. It’s a bell curve with a few elites in the right tail and some real dogs in any given season in the left one. The rest are a hodge podge year to year and we are barely to the right of the center line in that curve most years. It’s just the way it is and is likely to be for the reasons you cite. If the AAC is a step up in competition, which remains to be seen, we will most likely move more to the center of the bell curve. If it truly is tougher, we not only will only upset a burgeoning UCF program just once in a while, but will lose as many as we win versus all but the dogs and even lose a game a season to one of them. We will match our history of winning about 60 to 65% of our games if we also play a couple of out of conference toughies as well.

    We ams who we ams.most likely in the future as well. The only thing that could change that IMO would be ultimate inclusion in the money race that gives us a chance to use our intangibles combined with resources closer to the programs above us to knock off a few more elite opponents now and then and reduce the number of toe stubbers. We simply have to be included in a power conference to realistically have a chance to improve our lot.

    • Hi Factoid…thanks for checking in…love the well thought out post containing a ton of food for thought.

      I just wonder what it will take. I think we need to have a hardcore marketing plan for expansion of our brand into all of the markets we are about to play in. I live in the Northeast and Temple, Rutgers, and UConn really struggle with their branding and they are here. Yet, this area sends a ton of students down to ECU for college. I run into many of them here in Pennsylvania. I think we could become the darlings of the AAC from a media standpoint if we get a jump on it right now. And then, perhaps we make noise right away and up our level of expectations with meaningful resources in place to actually deliver a program that is above that 60-65% you point out.

      Alas, I do think you are right…until we get fair access to the financial pie, the dream is unattainable without major cheating (of course we would have a big gap in that arena too!).

      Thanks for checking in Factoid.

  2. Chesapeake Pirate

    The sky is not falling and we are having a very good season. While I understand your point, even with the exaggeration of the 25-1 ratio from Coby on blowouts compared to losses vs. teams we are favored to beat, I think several things bear mentioning with regard to the lack of satisfaction we all feel from the FIU game. First, it is only human for our team to be less “up for the game” when the crowd is smaller than they were used to in high school. Football is an emotional game requiring focus and concentration. The contrast in environment from Dowdy-Ficklen and Kenan to the Superdome and FIU is stark. Plus, no team is at a peak emotionally 12 times a season. Second, we are legitimately banged up and hurting for some depth at several positions. Even with two byes, this season is taking a toll. Lastly, with this being our last season in C-USA, we are certainly out there with a target on our backs when playing any “left behind” member or any new member. So, we are seven points from an undefeated season after a 6-2 start. We could win or lose each of the last four. 10-2 would be super. 9-3 would be great. 8-4 would be acceptable but disappointing. Excited to see these next four games!

    • As always, CP, I love hearing your thoughts…please keep ’em coming my way!

      You make some very good points – not all missed on me. Particularly the point about us being the targeted team in the league – not only because we are moving on, but because we are a league division favorite and that bears notice.

      We are, indeed, getting every team’s best shot and it is tough for any team – elite or good – to shake off everything and play at highest level.

      I have grown used to our team’s emotional gullies and my overall thought was what is our team’s capacity to manage these gullies. It appears that we are reliable – if not predictable – that these emotional crashes are going to hit us when the conditions are right – e.g., road game, heavy favorite, empty stadium, etc.- and I just wish we could find a way to overcome these…to swagger through or grit them out. I did not mention that in all of the dullness of the FIU win, it was a win and utlimately a convincing win given the score and the way we dominated play in the fourth quarter. I am proud of this team for that. Tulane was the “oh crap here we go again loss this year.”

      I appreciate the uplifting tone in your post…very good balance. I am not as much down on our program, but more curious about how do we – with limited means – overcome our situation. We have seen our boys – this year particularly – show that they can play with anyone and they are pace to have a great season when it is all said and done.

      I, too, am jacked to see how these last four games turn out. It has been an exciting season and Ruff and company have delivered that for sure. I am particularly encouraged by the fact that we are producing in the face of such attrition on the roster.

      Thanks CP…your thoughts are always welcome here!

      Go Pirates, Go!

    • cobyheath

      CP, Good to hear from an old friend again. We go a long ways back. You should know as well as anyone about how I write. You had to be one of the first subscribers to my old Skull & Crossbones newsletter. I am an emotional writer when it comes to East Carolina. Sometimes I might be facetious trying to make a point or I’m just being sarcastic. I just threw the number 25 out there as a wild guess not thinking it was fact check worthy… just trying to make a point. After reading your post, I did a some research out of curiosity. According to ecupirates.com, the last time we beat a team by 41 points or more was November 11, 2000. We defeated Houston by a score of 62-20. The Gold Sheet, a website that claims to be the No. 1 handicapper for 5 decades, says we lost 32 games when we were favored to win during that period of time. That’s a 32 to 1 ratio. Eight of those times we lost when were favored by more than 10 points. Get this…. the team we lost to most of those 32 times was Tulane. We lost to Tulane 5 times when favored to win.

      I’m like you about last week’s game against FIU. I was perfectly content with the outcome… primarily because it went as I expected. Before posting here on RC’s blog, I posted the following reasons on a popular message board of why I thought we would win but would not would not wallop FIU:
      – blatantly overconfident fans (the “noise” that Ruff spoke of)
      – injuries and suspensions galore – check
      – away game – check
      – no fans in the stands – check
      – second team QB starting for opponent (our jinx)- check
      – a QB with feet that can run – check
      – after a bye week – check
      – lowliest team on our schedule (a win would have made up for a lot of hurt)- check
      – win would make us eligible for a bowl game – check
      – Halloween week (hard to focus when fellow students are partying) – check
      – a run-the-table game for the conference championship – check
      – huge Vegas spread of 21.5 points – check

      All the pressure was on us; not on FIU. For my efforts I was called a “damned fool” by a message board poster, but I was promised an apology if I was right (No go as of yet). LOL.

      I agree with you; we are still on the verge of having a great season. I’ll gladly take a win by 1 point for the next 4 games. I sure would like to go to Memphis one more time. There’s a lot of good football left ahead of us.

  3. Blackbeard's Ghost

    Hey RC! Lots of great points offered up here.
    It’s easier to just be another sheep and follow the the pithetic herd sometimes. I too have had these same thoughts that you have written here. But it takes someone or something special to say no and to keep fighting that temptation. What I think makes ECU so great to me is easily summed up in one word. Hope.
    A hope that we can and will one day do it right without the cheating,(which I believe the Karma is coming around for that powder puff blue school right now). If it were easy to build a dynasty or a consistently winning program, everybody would be doing it. Because it’s so difficult, so many will try to cheat and bend rules to obtain the glory we all seek. A victory playing by the rules is a timeless accomplishment and proves everything. A victory by cheating proves nothing.
    This program and this years team continues to put its own stamp in our programs history as being, like you stated, who they are. They will have their own identity. If they COULD win out the rest of the year and finish 12-2, ECU will have again showed us that something special can happen and it can happen doing it the right way.
    I would rather garner the respect of my peers through hard work, perseverance and doing it the right way than by slight of hand. Because in the end, we can still look back at a ’91 ECU team that is untarnished and will forever be a shining example of how a program can do it right.

    • Cheers to that BBG…got no response other than…a must read for the diehards!

      May be seeing some of this quoted in a future post.

      Let’s get behind this team and help them get these two home games in the bag so that we can head over to Raleigh on a roll!

      Go Pirates…Go! ala Vince McMahan.

  4. Appropriate that Popeye also loved boats and the sea.

  5. Greg Jones

    Ron – You make great points as usual.
    When you really think about it, what is it that we ECU fans are rooting for? It’s like Jerry Seinfeld said about rooting for pro teams. When it comes down to it, you’re essentially rooting for a jersey….a combination of colors. It’s even truer in college athletics. The football team completely changes every four years. Beyond the purple and gold, we’re really rooting for the character of the school. I’m personally rooting for the institution that defined my early adult years. I ‘m rooting for memories and experiences I had back then. ECU was a big part of my life. ECU football was always the underdog. It’s why I fell in love with them. I’m sure if I went to school at Florida State, I would have a different perspective. But I didn’t. So, I don’t want ECU engaging in the shady games required to land the blue chips. Ruff benches star players who choose to smoke pot and skip practice. That decision speaks to the character of our school. That decision may well have cost us a game. But, it was the right thing to do.
    There will always be games we should have won and I’m sure there will be more disappointments to come. But at the end of the day, I’ll always love this team and will be proud of what they stand for. Go Pirates!!!!

    • Man…this may be the day that I say this blog has been worth the effort! The posts that I have received today have, IMO, really nailed what we ams…thanks Greg.

      You and I have such kindered Pirate spirits (along with your bro – still call him Jones – and R to the O to the double B)…thanks for articulated a lot of what I feel in my core Greg.

      I hope is going well up there!

  6. Jerrod Greene

    How can yall b happy with a 6-2 season so far w/ no win dat can really spark up a resume. The Carolina win was good but Carolina is sorry this year so its no pride n it. With the talent ECU has dey should have scheduled a Miami, a Minnesota or somebody dat would make the world say o ECU can hang with the big boys. I’m glad they winning but I hate who they winning to.

    • Welcome Jerrod…

      I think everyone thought we would be 7-1 right now, maybe 8-0 in retrospect, so I get where you are coming from.

      As for the schedule…not really much that can be done as schedules have to be arranged ahead of time and in conjunction with your league schedule. At the beginning of the season, the schedule didn’t look bad at all. Virginia Tech was expected to be good, UNC was expected to be decent, Tulsa was picked by many to win the West Division and Marshall was picked by some to when our Division.

      Next season, the schedule will ratchet up in the AAC and we will have our work cut out for us.

      Appreciate your point though. Stop by any time, you are welcome here.

      Go Pirates, Go!

  7. DC Pirate 28

    Ron Great to read what you and the other guys had to say. I think what we see is more of a product of how the game has changed over the years. Today you hear coaches making comments like ” I like the way he managed the game” to me this is code for if the guy does what we tell him, limit the mistakes, and things go according to script, we should come out on top. You see this philosophy in the NHL come playoff time. Teams are to play the system and end the end unless something unusual happens the coaches think they will win. This results in games that are played close to the vest where teams rarely blow anyone out and games are decided by a score or two. This style of play keeps you in most games. It allows you to beat the teams you should beat, but loose a game or two when something goes against the script. It allows you to win a game against a team you shouldn’t beat but thats about it. IMHO its a style of play that will get you to a bowl but never to that 10 win level because you are playing not to loose. In that type of system coaches play the steady guy not the ones with the big upside. When it comes to this season the schedule sure fell our way but the injuries and suspensions did not. On paper this was going to be the best team in the Ruff Era but between the injuries and suspensions we have lost far more than what I think people want to acknowledge. If someone told you Isiah Jones was going to be your 2nd best option at WR 8 games into the season you would have bet a small fortune that he would have never seen the field this year let alone be a huge part of the passing game. A tribute to him but he gives up nearly a foot and 4 years experience to another kid named Jones who should be our 2nd option. Besides the missing players our inability to pound the football and throw the ball down the middle of the field at the mid and deep level is hurting this team most.

    Being the next Alabama was never an option but if you go back to the late 80’s we could have been the current Virginia Tech with a break or two. The programs were like sister schools when it came to what we had and where both were trying to go. We were 4-4 against them then they got paid and have been 1-10 since. As you get older the years seem to blend together but if you look at what Tech has accomplished its really amazing and I think it could have been us.

    Lastly our brand has expanded and will do so more once we make the move to the new league. What I would like to see is we start recruiting the DC area for several reasons. First there are fewer schools here competing for talent but the main reason is MONEY. This area has cash so kids have better coaches, better facilities, and as a result are better prepared for college. If we are relagated to 2 and 3 star kids that we have to develop lets get some that understand what is expected of them off the field and on.

    • I think you bring up some great points DCP28, particularly about just how much the attrition on the roster has impacted the team. Your point about Isaiah really underscores the reality.

      I agree that the DC market is one we really need to be active in and prepping for NOW…laying the groundwork. General proximity to Greenville is such that we should really be a top consideration for the players you describe both academically and athletically (for hoops too.)

      I have long shared your view of the ECU – Virginia Tech parallel path (where we sort of got knock a step to the left while they got pulled to the right and over time…well you see how things are now for each of us.

      Hope burns eternal for the Pirates.

      Cheers and let’s protect our house on Saturday!

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