Monday, January 09, 2006


Wieland's personal football season comes to an end

Sure, Our Man in LA will watch the gridiron all the way through the Super Bowl (but not through the Pro Bowl, because it's usually boring), but my personal season officially came to an end yesterday, when my beloved Cincinnati Bengals went down to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers.

Can't really feel bad about the Bengal loss. Maybe in part I'm still basking in the glow of Texas pulling it out against USC. Maybe it's because I go to sleep every night imagining that big orange #1 on the U of Texas tower. Maybe it's because I know that next year, LA still won't have a pro team to call its own, and so I'll still get to watch the best games around.

Sure, I'm disappointed by the Bengals losing. Sure, I'm worried about Pro Bowl QB Carson Palmer (savior of the franchise) going down with not one but two ligaments torn in his knee.

Can't really think about that right now.

No, what I'm still thinking about is that the Bengals made it to the playoffs. We won the AFC North - a division with two playoff teams - and we went to the playoffs. After 15 years of hopelessness, there was something to cheer for. And if Palmer's back next year (which I have to believe he will be), we'll be back here. And we'll stuff those stupid yellow terrible towels right down Ben Roethlisberger's throat.

Here's the thing you realize after being a football fan for a long while. Only a couple of teams really end the season feeling perfect. In college ball, maybe you win that bowl game. If you're really lucky, you win the national championship (like a certain team from Texas . . .). If you're a pro, you want the Super Bowl.

Everything else is all about you and your team either getting closer to one of those goals or moving away.

After 15 years, the Bengals are closer. Much closer. If Palmer stays in the game, I think maybe the orange and black win one for the first time since the Super Bowl year. That would be something. Maybe next year. I have hope.

And here's the other thing. You have to keep that hope. I don't know about you, but Our Man in LA can't just stop rooting for his teams because they hit a snag in the road. Just like he can't stop rooting for his teams because they reach the pinnacle.

That's why we like sports. This is the part that serves as life metaphor for those of us not talented enough to play on Saturday and Sunday afternoon before hundreds of thousands of people. We can't all win the big ones, not every time. But we keep going, keep working, keep believing. In the end, it's worth the struggle.

James Thurber, official favorite author of Our Man in LA, once wrote about a moth who instead of setting his sights on the lamp in the living room, like all the other moths, set his goal as huddling around a star in the sky. He lived longer, worked harder, and was happier in the end - even though his moth brethren derided him throughout. So it's worth it.

This season's over for me now, but I got enough out of it to keep at everything, just like that moth. Cool, huh?

Go Bengals. Go Longhorns. Go Buckeyes.

It's been a pretty good year.

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