Thursday, November 10, 2011

Post #100 - The Game We Have Been Waiting For

Reser stadium capped off our journey to all the Pac-10 stadiums. That was our main goal when we started our endeavor to travel to away football games and we’ve been fortunate enough to witness a tremendous resurgence in Stanford football. Would we have continued going to game after game if the team was more reminiscent of those when we were back in college? I’d like to say yes but winning definitely has made these road trips easier. With 28 consecutive Stanford games under our belt, it feels like we’ve come full circle as the Oregon game approaches. Game #2 of our streak was the last time we beat Oregon and that stretch of games – beating a highly ranked Oregon at home, demolishing USC on the road, losing to Cal (boy that one hurt), beating Notre Dame at home and losing narrowly to Oklahoma without Luck in our first Bowl game in 8 years – thrust Toby to the front of the Heisman race and proved that Stanford could compete with the big boys in the conference and nation. The team has built on that success and while the SC game last year was the one I had circled in my calendar as College Game Day’s introduction to the Farm, better late than never.

Hyperbole permeates the world we live in. Phrases like “Game of the Century” and “Greatest of All Time” get bandied around with reckless abandon and before the season started, I might have sounded hyperbolic myself as I told anyone who would listen that this was a once in a generation team and in our lifetimes, we might not see a Stanford team with this potential ever again. How often has Stanford had a consensus #1 pick QB and several first round picks on offense? How often has Stanford had a tremendous defense in just their first year of a new defensive scheme? Add that to a dream schedule which slowly ramps up in difficulty and has 7 home games (including Oregon), I felt that this was the year that the stars could be aligned.

But even with all that we had going for us, it was never a sure thing that we would be 9-0 even though everyone predicted a Stanford-Oregon showdown of this magnitude when the schedules were first released. Looking at the 9 games we’ve won, the point spreads translate to a 36% chance of going unbeaten which is coincidentally roughly equal to the chances of us winning our next 4 games. You could argue that we’ve covered the spread every single time and that number is an underestimate but my point is that it wasn’t the most likely scenario coming into a season where Vegas set the over-under on Stanford’s regular season win total at 9 games. Where we are today is all I could have ever asked for – winning the games we’re supposed to win so that we have a chance to play in a game of this magnitude.

With Pac-12 championship, National Championship and Heisman trophy implications, this could very well be the biggest game in Stanford’s history especially if you combine magnitude with difficulty (obviously if we win on Saturday then Big Game is as important if not more important). And with everything on the line, it’s easy to succumb to the idea that the success of this season or even Andrew Luck’s legacy hinges on this single game. After watching the World Series of Poker final table where a virtual coin flip determined who won $8.7 million and the fates of both players were completely out of their control, I would argue that a close football game against two evenly matched teams shares some similarities. As much as there is an illusion of complete control in the final outcome of the game, the bounce of the ball before a fumble is recovered, the deflection of a Hail Mary pass into a receiver’s hands or the referee’s ruling on an interception versus catch on the 1 yard line is in essence a coin flip. And that recovery or interception could be the difference between a win and a loss. Obviously I want us to play our best football and beat Oregon but if the two teams are as evenly matched as many think they are, it could come down to a coin flip like situation. The runner up in the main event took home $5.3 million. There’s no shame in losing a coin flip if you play your best and give it your all.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Life is a journey, not a destination”. Stanford is 9-0, #2 in the Coaches Poll, #3 in the AP/Harris Poll, #4 in the BCS standings and has the leading Heisman candidate. While I dream that this will be a staple of Stanford football, a lot has come together to make this happen and I may never see this again in my lifetime. And so we are renting an RV, driving out on Friday, lining up for Game Day in the morning with our signs and Duck Hunting Caps, and tailgating all day till kick off. No matter what happens on Saturday, it’s been one hell of a journey and nowhere close to ending.

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