The Religious Crisis of a Florida State Fan over the Past Two Decades
I was born in the late eighties, into a family of rabid Florida State fans. Perfect timing. My family was also religious. Put the two together: the religion of Florida State football. Every Saturday during football season my family would hold church at the altar of college football. We would watch the game and I would pray. Literally pray. Before every game, during every timeout, whether silently in my head or publicly before our ritual game meal, Mexican by the way, that Florida State would win. “Please God help FSU to win.” Yeah I was a kid, but boy did I mean it. And guess what? God heard me, or so it seemed, and for the better part of a decade Florida State won. They were the team of the nineties: Four national championship game appearances with two titles; ACC championships the whole decade through; a Heisman trophy winner; one of the greatest coaches of all time and several upon several other prestigious accolades. God loved the Seminoles. God loved me. And I loved God and the Seminoles. I was a happy kid.
Then the nineties ended and the calender year struck double zeros, and things rolled right along. The Noles started the new century off by turning in a great season. They had a Heisman trophy quarterback and capped the year off with a national championship appearance. They lost, but things were set for another great decade. And then, well, apparently I pissed God off. I’m not sure what changed. I prayed the same way, although with a little less zeal as I did when I was seven, but suddenly my prayers weren’t being answered. Florida State began to lose. For the first few seasons I assumed it was a simple anomaly, I mean Florida State didn’t win it all every season, but then it became painfully obvious. FSU was bad. And they stayed bad, and each season they got worse. It was as if God was not only not helping FSU win, but rather He was helping them lose. They even began to struggle beating marginal ACC opponents whom they made a habit of embarrassing the entire decade previous.
The sudden failure of the Florida State football program could be attributed, yet to be fair not entirely, to the offensive side of the ball and, even more specifically, to one position: quarterback. The decade long steady stream of more than adequate quarterback play ended with a resounding “thud,” and to the attentive ear that thud sounded a lot like “rix.” Chris Rix, who was forced into action as a redshirt freshmen after Seminole great Chris Weinke departed, became the face of FSU’s failures. He was a super talented kid, with all the drive one could want from a quarterback, but his one spectacular play couldn’t make up for his ten bone-headed decisions. He was like Brett Favre, but perfectly his opposite. To the Florida State fan Rix became a curse word (I actually saw a FSU shirt that said, “Rix happens,” with the appropriate vulgarity crossed out). Most fans thought that once Rix left the dynasty would return; they were wrong.
Drew Weatherford was up next, and once again, the fans cheered for the back up. For the first three years of Drew’s career he struggled, and found himself battling to keep his starting position from Xavier Lee. Lee, however, would fare no better, and the quarterback carousel between Lee and Weatherford, even with the help of newly acquired offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, produced equally mediocre results.
Last season Weatherford officially lost his starting position, inaugurating another fresh face to the Florida State quarterback position: Christian Ponder. Ponder, showed potential during last season’s campaign, but statistically compiled an average year: 14 TDs and 13 INTs. While the quarterback play was nothing to brag about, there is no denying the offense was improved. The running game, which spent the majority of this decade at the bottom of the yearly NCAA averages suddenly found new life, and an offense that was once so painful to watch that the military used its game tape as an “enhanced interrogation technique” during the Bush administration looked like it might be on the upswing.
The Noles are entering into the final season of a forgettable football decade and for that I am glad. While the first nine years have been a struggle, a new season is about to begin and hope springs eternal. The team looks improved and it’s possible for the Seminoles to end the decade on a high note. They’ve built a solid team and ironically the offense may be the strong suit of this year’s team. By all accounts an ACC championship game appearance isn’t out of the realm of possibility (how the mighty have fallen right?) and who knows, maybe a BCS bowl game birth.
So the last decade was great, and this one has been disappointing, and the ultimate question still needs an answer. Does God love me? Fortunately my religious views have matured over the years and I don’t look for the outcome of FSU games as signals of how God feels about me, but I’ll tell you one thing: if the Noles can put a solid season together and the Florida State—Florida game ends with Tim Tebow in tears I’m pretty sure I’ll have my answer.