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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

It’s just a game

The euphoria from the ASU sideline was drowned in a deafening silence. Lost somewhere on the field, head football coach Mike Stoops momentarily bowed his head, a defeated man, his team having lost the last four games of the regular season. In similar fashion, countless fans stood rooted, staring off into the abyss with intense concentration, as if hoping that if they stared long enough and hard enough, they could see the football sail through the uprights, Arizona victorious.

All the rage and frustration of an infuriating game was released as 50,000 fans collectively gasped for air, some readying for screams of joy, many more simply left stunned, mouths gaping wide. As for me, all of the synapses in my brain screamed for my body to react in a manner indecent for public consumption, yet my muscles did not respond. I was frozen with thousands of others.

A strange feeling of calm enveloped me, my vocal chords spent, my head throbbing. I was left with nothing more than contentment. That moment transcended time, circumstance and indeed sports, providing a rare view into the essence of heartbreak and defeat. In a game that could not have been more excruciating if scripted, against a foe that could not be more hated, Arizona managed to lose again, and I’m OK with that.

As ASU players sprinted onto the field and kicker Alex Zendejas slammed his helmet down in disgust, a strange sight drew my attention: a few Arizona players and ASU players embracing around midfield in congratulations of a good game. A select few players from both sides had taken time from the extreme emotion of the situation to play the role of good sportsmen. Amazing.

After standing grounded in my own world for several minutes, as the student section emptied around me, I felt strangely compelled to spread goodwill. A small smile crept across my face as the realization hit; it’s just a game, and what a great one, at that. College football is able to ignite so much passion within all of us. It is important to appreciate that the UA, after many desperate years, even has a good football team, and yes, I do consider our team to be good despite the recent woes.

Brought back to reality, I wandered over to the ASU section to see a friend from Tempe. Along the way, I had several friendly chats with ASU fans musing humorously about the ineptitude of our kicking game and the crazy ending to the game. Every friendly interaction with the people that minutes before represented the enemy, was interestingly fulfilling. Every moment bringing my mind more at peace with what just transpired.

Arriving at home, I logged onto Facebook and was instantly swamped with a news feed full of Zendejas hatred. It’s easy to see why the kicker is the loneliest position in sports; success is expected and when the game is on the line, failure is cause for complete responsibility; ask Kyle Brotzman from Boise State.

If you want to hate on Zendejas, hate first on a defense that continues to make boneheaded penalties after critical stops to keep the opponents’ offense moving toward the end zone. Hate on an offense that seems not to realize that football is a game of four quarters. Hate on a coaching staff that calls four straight runs and turns the ball over when the run game had been going nowhere all night. Hate the entire special teams squads of Arizona, which seem to consistently regress as the year progresses, and hate on me for telling you not to hate on Zendejas.

The kid doesn’t deserve it. I invite everyone who would condemn Zendejas to go to team try-outs next year and kick your heart out. Maybe next year we will blame you. Me? I’m content. Content that my football team is better than average, and headed to another bowl game. Content that we are a couple of weeks removed from the most magical time of the year, and content that we all can enjoy those moments that transcend the game and fill the heart with satisfaction.

Win or lose, we are the UA. We are defined by much more than a game, and indeed a kicker. As we approach finals and the end of the semester, remember what we have and what we are afforded. In this higher institution of learning, which we attend to advance the quality of our lives, much is taken for granted.

The moment Arizona lost, everything stood still. Out of defeat came an idea, an idea that the game was not the end of the world but in fact a moment to reflect. There is always next year.

I wish good luck to all on finals and a merry winter break to everyone. Bear down Arizona!

— Brett Haupt is a journalism junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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