Week 12: Kansas State
A Finale and Not A Finale
This was the first game of 2022 that I watched by myself from my living room. This was a choice made not necessarily out of desire, moreso out of necessity, as I decided on Saturday morning to get an off-the-cuff flu shot, which rendered me in a state of pseudo-sorta-illness for much of the latter half of the day. I elected to stay home and watch from my couch rather than braving my way out to a bar for it. Initially, I didn’t want to watch any of these games by myself, primarily because I worried about the blog devolving into every game being seen from my couch, and I’ve found that I can very easily run out of interesting and new things to say (the former runs out far quicker than the latter) from my couch.
I cannot deny, though, that the experience of sitting on my couch by myself watching KU Football is a familiar one, and one that, while rarely ideal, I’ve been well acquainted with over the years – and particularly over the years since I moved away from Lawrence. The seats and the apartments have changed: 2018 and 19 I watched alone from my IKEA Sofa in San Diego, 2020 from my IKEA futon in Olathe, and 2021 from my standard-issue dorm room chair in Waterloo, Ontario. This season finale against K-State was watched from my Franken-Futon (frame from Wayfair, mattress from Big Lots).
This method of viewing tends to stoke introspective note-taking, which has historically been defined by bitterness and often so embarrassingly melodramatic that I don’t share it. Embarrassing as this phenomenon is, it’s just as much a part of my relationship with the Jayhawks of Football as anything else, and I decided that it might be, finally, time to bring my readers along with me through it. These are, to some extent, abridged, and I will add comments as I go:
I got the flu inoculation this afternoon and it's not left me feeling great (not really left me feeling all that badly either, but that's beside the point to some extent) and I'm ready to get a writin' about the Kansas Jayhawks of Football as they finish the season in Manhattan against the In-State Rival Kansas State Wildcats.
I graciously missed the first muffed punt and the first touchdown. I am not so upset about this, I find. I recognize that after the Oklahoma State win I haven't been quite so emotionally frustrated by the ensuing losses, just given the fact that the war (making a bowl game) has been won. That was such an impossible dream, or at least it seemed to be as much prior to this year, and I just can't be that upset with losses at this point. Even a loss in the bowl game will only have me upset, I suppose, about spending the money to travel out there. I'm not going to be upset about it if we lose. I'd like to win, I'd definitely like to win, I'd be happy to win, but the war has been won. Next war is like... Winning the conference, I guess, or maybe guaranteeing a winning season? I guess that's important, but I don't really care that much about that, either. At this point, I'm really just a fan of this team I go to see in-person and I'm glad to go follow them in the winter wherever they go.
I am so unfamiliar with the expectations of winning football that I can’t really fathom anything all that much better than what’s been achieved this season. In these notes, I bring up this war/battle structure and immediately drop it (that is a tendency of mine). I think it is interesting to expand: What wars are there?
Big XII Championship
Big XII Championship Game Appearance
Guaranteed Winning Season of 7+ Wins
Bowl Eligibility (This is where we ended)
In The Hunt For Bowl Eligibility Right To The End / 5 Wins
More Than Three Wins (This is where I expected us to be)
I’ve been so dead-set on the bowl game that I’ve been basically bulletproof ever since the Oklahoma State win. I just want to go to a bowl game. I haven’t been to a KU bowl game myself in seventeen years and I only cared about going to one.1 As long as I get to go, I’m happy, at least for right now. I’ve sort of immunized myself to the concept of prestige as it relates to Kansas Football right now. I don’t look at the chatter on social media like Twitter or Facebook, and I rarely look at the Reddit threads. They are going to play the games and I am going to watch them.
Next year, I imagine that I’ll have higher expectations. 6-6 might be disappointing next season.
9:03 First Quarter -- I am surprised by how competent this offense looks. The thing that gets to me are the third down conversions. It used to be that we'd only move the ball in accidental chunks whenever we looked alive offensively.
7:49 First Quarter -- Touchdown Torry Locklin! Big run on the outside, sheds two tackles, scores! We are looking okay! We are looking like a college football team, we deserve to be on the field against Kansas State today judging by the first drive. The turnover on the punt was a problem but offensively, we came out and scored immediately.
5:20 First Quarter -- Our defense will be what loses this game for us.
I do really want us to win this game. I think I want about as badly as anything for the Kansas Jayhawks to win in Manhattan. It hasn't happened in fifteen years. We will not, and I acknowledge that, but I'd like it to hurt a bit more when we don't. I wish, to some extent, that I was tearing my hair out and beating the floor with my fists after a dumb touchdown like that, but I'm like "okay, whatever."
Poor special teams play will doom us. Poor defensive play will also doom us. Much of what we do will doom us. This is a problem. We do not look like a disciplined team here in Manhattan this evening.
NOTE: Ring check on that GEICO ad with the biscuits
I found myself in sort of an odd position emotionally with this. I did find the tinges of a greater frustration rumbling within me at points. Nothing came of it past some idle frustration, some of which did eventually end up in the notes and will eventually end up in this post.
“Ring check” is something I should be beaten with a stick for noticing, but I started noticing it when I was bartending a few years ago and have found myself unable to stop since. I explain it in this post: Television commercials, particularly insurance commercials, particularly GEICO insurance commercials, a company from which I admit for the sake of full disclosure that I purchase car insurance, will only sometimes give the couples in their ads a visual indicator of their relationship status in the form of wedding rings. I do not know why they do this on either side. You will notice, once you start noticing this, that there are ads in which the left hands are conspicuously out of frame or obscured by something for the entire ad. There has to be some reason for this. These companies put so much money into their stupid commercials that every detail, especially something characterizing like an indicator of the commitment status of the characters, has to have been considered, and I’ve seen ads in which the couples do have the rings on, which means that they have thought enough about it to get prop rings for the actors, which means it must be considered when they’re not shown. There is a new GEICO commercial in which the Little Lizard Man brings a plate of biscuits to his new neighbors and the boorish man in the ad eats all the biscuits because he made little Lizard-sized biscuits.2 I’ll need to ring check it at some point.
My antenna has been pissing its pants all day. I was so proud of it earlier, it was picking up something like 50+ channels earlier today, like FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, all the Spanish ones, all of it.
The FOX stream kept cutting out, but I figured out what my mistakes were and remedied them: For one, my antenna’s one of those flat floppy ones, and it had tipped over a little bit. How fragile our technological world still is.
We simply must beat them one of these years. I used to, like, lull myself to sleep thinking about it. .What it would be like when we finally got K-State. I don't do that anymore. I had such youthful bravado about it, like I wanted to finally knock the Cats down a peg. I'm reminded of that guy -- and it's interesting that I've left this story out of the text so far this project -- who was in our section in a K-State hat during the TCU game, like very loudly supporting TCU.
As there's a holding penalty in the endzone giving K-State a safety
And at some point somebody was like "Why are you doing this?" (And I was like two rows and eight seats away so I only saw it from afar) but he said something like "I went to Free State High School okay? You don't know what I've been through! Alright, so stay mad! You can stay mad!" In that moment I realized he was fighting demons not present in the stadium that day. This meant something on a different plane of meaning to this kid, this was something like a "fuck you dad" sort of thing. Like this was about him and his relationship with his community, we, the people around him in the stands who had no relationship to him, knew nothing of him other than the hat he wore and the plays he clapped for and the testimony he gave, saw us as a mass of villains in his story -- and it is his story -- and not the collection of actual people we were on that day. He was exorcizing something, it was therapeutic to him.
I held this anecdote out of the TCU essay because it was relatively minor and he left sometime in the second quarter, but I have thought about this kid from time to time ever since. I would never have done that, gone to a K-State game and cheered for their downfall, but I recognized something of a younger version of myself there, putting these games into impossible good-and-evil contexts, finding villains, real villains, not just in the opposing team playing against ours but also in the stands supporting them. I can remember when I envisioned what it’d look like, I thought of how upset the fans in purple would get about it, like it’d bring me happiness to see those villains lose.
Anyway, those daydreams were not dissimilar. I think it is something very adolescent, something that gets complicated once you get out of college and into the workplace and interacting with the normal, nice, or boring, maybe, but frustratingly just very human people on the other side of the rivalry. Like I think my friend Chris is there, I know my friend Elissa is there because she's there with Ben, they're really quite fully-featured real people who are interestingly enough as fully-featured as everyone else I know from every other walk of life. This was where they went to school, where they had important life experiences about which they feel nostalgia. They have their equivalents to everything I had, to walking out of Watson Library late at night and seeing the campus in the black of night surrounded by the chill of winter, or tapping the mouthpiece on the lamppost by the steps next to Lippincott as we walked down from the Union to the Campanile, their own Wescoe Beaches and Murphy Hall Couches and everything, and it means just as much and it's built their characters just as much.
I want us to beat K-State because they're a good program and beating them will mean that we have a good program, and I want to beat them for the normal reasons that I want to win a game against an in-state rival like them. I love the Sunflower Showdown, for the record. It's one of the only all-Kansas affairs in sports. It's the one time per year that it's just Kansans in the stands. we're different, Kansas and Kansas State, to some extent, but we're in this state that's got such a weird presence nationally and culturally that I like having our own thing.
Chris was not there, for the record. The perspective there, having matured in that way, I guess, is one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to gin up the angst of 2017 again. I don’t harbor ill-will for the opposition in any way anymore. I don’t relish the thought of their fans going home sad, I don’t want their players to get hurt, I’m at the point where I don’t really care for them to lose anymore. I want us to beat them, but I’d really like for both programs to be good and for mine to be better. I think of the intensity we had with Mizzou in football in 2007 and basketball in 2012, or with K-State in basketball in 2010 and 2013. I don’t want our positions flipped, I want it to be two ranked teams playing good football against one another in a meaningful game.
9:09 2nd Quarter -- I have to wonder if Frank Tracz will BRING DOWN THE HAMMER and stop playing the Wabash to quit the Fuck KU chant. I put it in the post-script last week, but I admire the K-State students for their creativity and resilience. You could give them like an atonal avant-garde John Cage composition and they'd find a way to chant "Fuck KU" to it.
I briefly touched on this last week, but I admire the K-State students’ creative resilience with this chant. What it lacks in verbosity they make up for with fitting it into everything. I noted this because I heard some “Fuck KU” during the Wabash Cannonball, and I remembered seeing their band director mention that they’d stop playing it if the students continued chanting it during the song. They did not stop playing the song during this game, for the record.
13:35 in the Third Quarter
So I suppose it's time to be retrospective about this season. It's been twelve weeks, and it feels like much more, which I described in the last entry. I sat here in my living room by myself in early September and watched that first game of the year, WVU and Pitt, and I started to believe in College Football again. There was a period of time this year in which I was fully focused on College Football once again. It was about a month, basically September and September alone, but I was focused on it above anything else. This is after my whining about the sport back in the prologue post in August. I really thought I'd give up on the sport entirely save for KU, and I didn't. I was listening to the Solid Verbal and Split Zone Duo and reading all the columns on the Athletic each week.
I fell off of that at some point, though. I actually want to say it was after the TCU game. Having ESPN College Gameday there in front of me felt like the pinnacle of the college football fan experience that I could imagine (I'm never going to see a playoff game for my team) and I was happy, for the most part. After about midway through the year, when all the fun and interesting playoff stories fall apart and the sport's titans retake their places atop the sport, I find that the entire exercise gets much less interesting. I've only really cared about KU since about the mid-season.
I have been in a halfway point between my most dedicated, most heart-connected (2015 and 16) and my most detached (which I guess would be 2012) having done this. This is the most I've cared about a KU football season since I was in college. Through this blog, I've pushed myself to put effort into supporting and following the season, and while I can't replicate the effort and the camaraderie of being in the marching band, I can say that this exercise has pushed me to care more about this season than I have in a while. I had a friend tell me that reading my work got them to care enough to subscribe to ESPN+ to watch KU against Texas Tech. In a way, that makes me feel proud of this work, like as I'm pushing myself to realize what it is I care about with Kansas Football, I might be helping other people do the same.
The last two years have been more of a clinging to than anything else. With the ineptitude of the past two years, the dedication I've had has been more pathetic than anything else, in a lot of senses built out of a desperation for normalcy and a connection to home. In 2020, I can remember watching the game against Coastal Carolina on my phone while on a campout with my mom that I primarily attended because I wanted to do something of value for somebody, anybody. It was such a bad time for me, and it was for everyone else as well but also for me, and Kansas Football, even really bad Kansas football, was at least familiar. Then, the next year, I was so far away and in such a bad situation that, again, following Kansas Football over a full season was a link back to a home that I missed badly.
This hasn't felt like it carried so much weight in that sense. It wasn't a clinging, it was something I carried willingly and happily, even in difficulty. I was excited to get tickets, even if I was unsure about where the season would go. I feel like a much healthier person right now than I have in a long while, probably since like 2018. This is one of the reasons why it has been that way. This has been an effortful endeavour, but I think a very beneficial one for me as a writer, and it's pushed me to pay more diligent and detailed attention to each game. I've enjoyed each of them more than I enjoyed any of the games last year.
I have watched sports much differently than I used to after that pause period from March to June 2020. I have not taken them for granted in the way that I used to, and I've come to recognize that they're very important to me. If a game matters to me, I try to watch it the way that I did every Sporting KC match of the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament, like it might be the last time I’d get to see them for the foreseeable future. I've done that with KU this year. If we shut down again this week, I'd have no regrets about anything with sports.
This game was unfortunate, but it was enjoyable for the full game. K-State did not play particularly poorly, but we were still competitive in this game in a way we haven't been since 2018. They're just better, we're on the way up but this is a very good K-State team. They were considered a sleeper contender for the Big XII Championship and they'll play in that game next weekend.
It's been so pyrrhic these past seven games. We're 1-6! We really finished terribly, all things considered, but I don't care! They exceeded my expectations in only five games, and they did the only thing I cared about them doing in the ninth. These last three games truly have not mattered all that much to me emotionally. I realized that this was more about just having the experience of going to a bowl game than it really was about winning or losing football games, or even the team's presence on the national level, or our reputation, or any of the other number of things that used to gnaw at me as a student and fan. I could not care, even slightly, about the opinions of the national media or whatever. This is why I did not whine about not getting a top 25 ranking or anything like that when we were at that point.
I first adopted that "they will play the games" mindset out of a sort of defeatism, but it hasn't gone away now that the team's found competence, just adapted in a way that I really like. I am unquestionably dedicated at this point. In a way very unpoetic, I ensure that I watch the Jayhawks when they play, regardless of the outcome or the way the season's been going.
In that sense, I've made the transition that I want to make. I kind of had a sense that I'd get disillusioned with college football over the course of this year, and I really have. I am disinterested in much of what happens this year outside of our own bowl game. This disinterest was not an effortful decision, it happened naturally, and I'm happy to have moved on to this situation where I'm really only paying attention to my team(s) (though the other one is coached by Brady Hoke) and I'll be a casual participant in CFB going forward.
That is a bizarre realization to make at the end there, and I suppose the one I’ll finish on here, but I noticed that this sport, which was for a very long time my favorite, has only really guaranteed me bitterness each season. I really am a sucker for Cinderella stories, or at least I’m a sucker for interesting stories, and every year, sometime around early November, there’s inevitably this weekend where all of the national-level hopes of the interesting stories fall to shit and I stare down four very talented but not altogether very interesting teams making the playoffs3. This hasn’t been quite so bad this year, but there was that period of like 2017-2020 when the playoff was some combination of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson, LSU, and Notre Dame every year. That realization always hit once in early November (that the playoff games would suck) and then a second time around New Year’s day (that the playoff games sucked). I craved that child-like joy that this sport once brought me, but that has been stripped away.4
Yet, every year, around August, I’d dive right the hell back in and start to honestly believe that the year to follow would be the interesting year, only to be hurt again as the upper crust calcified over the course of October and November. I don’t want to care about it like that anymore, I’m sick of being bitter like that, and I find myself slipping away from doing that to myself again fairly pragmatically and without that much fanfare outside of this paragraph. That is unfortunately cynical, I guess, giving up on the whole thing like that, but I don’t enjoy it anymore, at least not in that context, and I suspect what it’s turning into will interest me less. Next year, it’s just about the damn Jayhawks.5
Kansas and Kansas State still gets to me.6 I’m not fantasizing about sending the cat fans back West in tears anymore, but I want Kansas to win this game more than any other on the schedule, and the fact that they don’t leaves me so frustrated. K-State is what Kansas wants to see in the mirror, to quote Memo Ochoa, and I yearn for the day in which they actually get there. That might be the next war, actually. Getting to ten wins is an arbitrarily important achievement, and getting to the conference championship game seems like a total infeasibility, as one of two members of the conference never to qualify for the Big XII Championship Game in either of its iterations (the other being West Virginia), and winning it is even less feasible, but all they have to do to get over the K-State hump is to be better than K-State for a single game. Do that and win six games and I’ll be over the moon.
I figured that this would be the end of this project. I thought I’d get a few prologue posts in, twelve gameday posts, and be finished with it by the end of November. That is no longer the case. I don’t even know where we’re going for our bowl game, nor what team the Jayhawks will face, and I’m not sure when we’re supposed to find out, but I know that I have about another month left in Football Hell for 2022.
I have a few things prepared for the time between this week and the bowl game.
I attended the 2018 Holiday Bowl between Northwestern and Utah at the old Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.
This actually builds on the lore established in the earlier linked JoeBush.net post. The Lizard eats Lizard-sized food, which makes sense. Therefore, in that sense, the couple from the burrito commercial were in the wrong for giving him human-sized food. However, the Lizard also shows that he’s willing to offer Lizard-sized food to human people as a sign of hospitality, which is the inverse of what the human people do for him, ergo I suppose he must find it polite for them to offer him human people-sized food despite the infeasibility of him eating it to completion.
And this is unfair to TCU, whose story is very interesting, I’m just bitter that my team lost to them, also I’m guessing that they lose to K-State in the Big XII Championship Game this Saturday.
Whether it was ever actually there or whether I just grew up is probably the real discussion to have here.
And I will stress that I still care about the damn Aztecs, and it hasn’t been quite so much of a rut watching their offense as of recent, but they went from unambitious but successful on offense under Rocky Long to unambitious and unsuccessful under Brady Hoke, which has dampened my desires to stay up to 1:30 AM for their games this year.
Kansas and Missouri will also get to me whenever it’s renewed, be it in 2025 or like three weeks from now.
Bam. Ring Checked. I will determine the value of noticing this at some point later