Lets face it Baylor fans, two weeks ago I thought this football season was as lost as Navy Flight 19. This year’s campaign was disappearing without a trace. Not forgotten but nevertheless gone. Only one brief flicker of radio contact on November 3rd gave us hope of emerging from the 5-game Bear-muda triangle that we were flying into.
Ashamedly, I was reduced to the point of petty justification. “We are the best 4-5 team in the country,” I told myself. “All of our losses came to ranked teams, some in the top 10.” “We were in every game and just had some heartbreakers that didn’t go our way,” I lamented.
The bottom line was that we had a losing record, three highly ranked teams left on the schedule (one squarely in the BCS Championship saddle) and lowly Baylor needed two wins to pull the season out of the fire. Frankly it just wasn’t going to happen. I had moved on from depression to acceptance. I finally felt at peace with the whole situation and began coming up with a plan to avoid all of my Texas Tech/Texas A&M/UT alumni friends for the holidays. “This will be fine,” I conjectured. I envisioned a conversation around St. Valentine’s Day that went something like, “Hey, great to see you again. I have been on a business trip to China for the last 3 months and seem to have missed the entire last third of football season. Congratulations to your Raiders/Aggies/Horns, but given my lack of knowledge I am afraid I cannot comment further on the season.” Done and dusted.
Then out of nowhere a bolt of lightning hit Floyd Casey stadium. Call it a BCS #1 letdown, SI curse, classic trap game, whatever, but I called it a victory for the struggling Bears. I am not sure what type of prayer vigil took place in the Tidwell Tower of Power, but it worked. We won in convincing fashion too. I started thinking back to my earlier excuses and began talking about how close we were to pulling it all together in those 5 losses. Now we had done it. We had a chance for an unprecedented Baylor bowl three-peat!
Looming in the wings though were two very tough challenges: Tech and OSU. A Tech team that had climbed to #14 in the polls earlier in the season and an Oklahoma State team that was peaking at the right time. The ask was tough, the odds long.
Last Saturday afternoon was a shocking, desperate, up and down nightmare. Sometimes it is hard to be a Baylor fan, but it is the cross we all bear (no pun intended… well maybe). When you are down to your last Shiner and the field goal for the win sails a fraction to the left, you start to shake your head and wonder why it is happening again. Thankfully though, we pulled it together, manufactured a defensive stand, and came out on top of a hard-fought battle. Thank you Coach Briles, under every one of your predecessors not named Grant Teaff, we lose that game. Somehow you inspired/willed the team to victory and that is not lost on your fanbase. St. Nick, Terrance, Eddie, Lache, thanks to you and your teammates as well, magnificent job on the field.
So here we are. The OSU game is still looming but does not have the same feel. We went from fans with facial expressions akin to the inhabitants of a 1941 London air raid shelter to ones with stunned relief and muted happiness, the feeling of a middling athlete winning a bronze medal in the Olympics. “Sure, could have been better, but we medaled right? This is the third Olympics in a row right? That has never been done by our team before right?” (slaps his friend on the back…)
Just like everyone reading this, I have scoured all media outlets for prognostications of where our Bears might play this post-season. I have seen everything from the Alamo Bowl because we traveled well, to the Beef ’O’ Brady Bowl because the Big 12 has more teams than it has slots, and everything in between.
I have a feeling that with two bowls in Texas near the bottom of the Big 12 pecking order, we will not be going too far this holiday. It just seems to make sense. For what it is worth, I am thinking that we will land in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, or the Non-Cotton Bowl as I like to call it.
Just think about it. New Year’s Day in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, cool crisp weather, the 9th best team in the B1G as the foe. (Yes, I know it is supposed to be the 7th best team, but two B1Gs are ineligible due to NCAA sanctions, so they are scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel to fill their tie-ins.) We would have great fan support, the tickets would not be too expensive, we would stand a good chance of winning, etc., etc. Sure it is a smallish payout, but with 9 Big 12 teams bowling, most likely two in the BCS ranks, the collective payout to each team will be quite tidy regardless.
Even though the Cotton Bowl Classic moved to the Death Star in search of greater profits and a more blingy venue, New Year’s Day in the Cotton Bowl Bowl (awkward I know) seems pretty fun to me. The last time I watched Baylor play there on New Year’s Day, there were guys named Bear Bryant, Singletary, Abercrombie, and Teaff on the field. Even in defeat, it was heady stuff.
So maybe it is called the “Heart of Dallas Bowl”, rather than the Cotton Bowl, but to me it is like a cotton blend t-shirt. Not quite cotton, but has a very similar feel and touch. We would all probably prefer the official cotton t-shirt, but the blend feels pretty good too. A lot better than wearing nothing at all, which was our situation 2 short weeks ago.
So maybe rather than the Non-Cotton Bowl I will start calling it the Poly-Cotton Bowl. With all deference to my home city of Dallas, Poly-Cotton just has a bit more sizzle.
Congratulations Bears, see you on January 1st.