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.