Playing in The Shadows: Indiana University Plays Football, WKU Only Spectators

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Playing in The Shadows: Indiana University Plays Football, WKU Only Spectators

"Does what God say ever change his mind...when the president talks to God?"

Bright Eyes

 

The long drive to Bloomington, IN from Lexington, KY lends itself effortlessly to long thought.  Everyday, I somehow find time to ponder a new scenario in which McCain unbelievably wins this election; this particular drive allows time for an election scenario, a scandal, and the subsequent failed impeachment.  All told, it makes me want to eat two handfuls of loose dirt. 

I have tried to distance myself from this election for months, mainly to avoid the disappointment. It never works out, I am not wired that way.  I have to care.

Regardless of your political bent, it is easy to feel small when following big time politics.  Democracy, while designed to empower, harbors complacency.  It is easy for some to trust that humans, as a collective, will do the right thing when faced with a watershed decision.  This thought leads to apathy, and apathy will kill us all.

Unfortunately, the "right" thing rarely happens.  The political outcomes, possibly because of how they are covered, seem scripted and fake.  This leads to further apathy and a country where 50% of its citizens vote.  I suppose that bourbon was made for times like these...

While IU football doesn't have the same "weight" as our political landscape there is a parallel. 

Upon arriving to Memorial Stadium in Bloomington one things was clear: the athletic department is going all out to make this place on par with the rest of the conference. 

There are new graphics of Indiana greats (there is such a thing, promise) plastered on the outside of the stadium.  Visual proof that success can be had within the confines of the Rock. 

The renovation is not finished but still impressive in its infancy, much like this football team, a true work in progress.  

The Hoosiers showed signs of real improvement, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  They return the nation's leader in sacks from a year ago, DE Greg Middleton, and there is real speed and size from top to bottom.  They look like an authentic Big Ten defense, which hasn't happened since Bill Mallory was roaming the sidelines.    

Kellen Lewis was once again the best player on the field.  It is feasible that Indiana might not have won four (much less seven) games last year if it wasn't for their star quarterback. 

He constantly bails out his offensive line and running backs by making things happen with his legs and arm.  His performance against WKU, while awe-inspiring, also caused this response from my friend Derrick:

"Indiana once again proved that they are not there yet.  As long as they rely on Kellen Lewis to win games by himself, they will just be mediocre.  Good teams will make adjustments and not let him beat them."

Very, very true.  It was only a matter of moments, however, until we had unearthed the true source of our post-victory malaise: there was an announced crowd of 30,000 (let me qualify that by saying that if they were to average the number of people throughout the duration of the contest it would be more like 19,000).

This was the home opener coming off a surprise bowl appearance, after a season dedicated to their fallen coach, which happened to be their first postseason appearance since 1993.  The stadium should have at least been at 90% capacity.  Anything less is, and was, an embarrassment.  

Terry Hoeppner understood that part of what makes a program successful is their fan base.  Imagine The Big House at 50% capacity.  Not quite as imposing.  Hoeppner used his sharp marketing skills to create a particular environment.  He energized a dormant fan base even when he knew the product was not where it needed to be. 

Last season saw the Hoosiers become a good (but not great) football team.  They were finally getting over the hump.  More importantly, the Hoosier fan base was finally rewarded for making the trip with wins. 

They are so close to shedding the mediocre tag they have held for so long.  If you are a fan, now is not the time to pass the buck.  As a culture, we have become accustom to sit idly by while thinking that someone else will eventually do something when we don't feel like it. 

Believe me, I know there are much more pressing things affecting our lives than college football.  However, the story of this program's overhaul is a perfect example of the usefulness of sport.  It is a team overcoming all odds, against overwhelming circumstances, working towards a common goal.  It is why we connect to sports so easily with such passion. 

Sports is one of many microcosms of our everyday life, except on a much grander scale (a macrocosm, then?).  They teach us about triumph and adversity from a safe distance, but with no less meaning. They inspire. 

Regardless, as a citizen or a fan, we should take responsibility of the outcomes of things that we can affect instead of griping when it doesn't go our way after the fact.  As a wise (and old) man once said, "In a democracy, the people often get what they deserve."

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