The Stage of Indiana University Football Grief

With apologies to Dr. Kubler-Ross…

This past Saturday I sat down with three buddies to watch the opening game of the Indiana University football season. I left with my own version of the stages of grief. Let’s call it the IU Football Fan’s Stages of Grief.

Stage One is leading up to kickoff. It’s aspirational, hopeful, the world is a wonderful place. Talk of top rankings and new bowl-game appearances. Hello, Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. We can extend this stage to when the football is still flying through the air after the kick.

Stage Two is the opponent’s (in this case, the University of Iowa) first scoring drive. Well, technically, the first. That’s because before I’m back from the refrigerator with a beer, a second scoring possession is being celebrated by the opponent and opposing crowd. Now, it’s true, I had to go to the fridge in a garage attached to the house but still, it wasn’t that long—two f—ing scores already? All right, settle down. This is known as the “there’s-still-a-long-way-to-go-till-halftime” stage. Optimism reigns, positive vibes under way, a knowledgeable football fan knows anything can still happen. A quick glance of realism darts in: can we see what other games are on?

Stage Three is halftime and the belief that coaches will make adjustments. It would be easier to wrap ourselves in this flag if the coaching staff hadn’t spent three timeouts in the final half-minute of the first half for the genius purpose of “icing” a field goal kicker—IU, of course, trails by a million points but those three potential lost points by the mentally frazzled “iced” kicker will make all the difference in the halftime pep talk. Forget that, though, the kicker sails the ball through the uprights. The “iced” has melted. I was half-hoping the opposing coach would call for a fake field goal just to smack our staff a little.

Stage Four and the decline is serious. More beer from the distant fridge. I linger in the garage to kick a few tires, admire a work bench, and hope that when I return a miraculous comeback is underway. Limping from my misaimed tire kick, I see the score through my tears and feel the vibe through the pain. Reality is setting in. A sub-stage here is this: our stadium has the highest flag poles in the conference and the brightest halogen lighting. And there’s just no better place to tailgate…Always a favorite time of an IU football game when we trumpet the meaningless externalities.

Stage Five and the question is who are we playing next week? Is it the University of Cincinnati? They’ll kill us. No, it’s the University of Idaho. It’s a toss-up but likely they’ll kill us.

Stage Six and the talk has descended into a new direality—we won’t win a game all year.

Stage Seven and my buddy who’s hosting—he of the distant fridge and the tank-like tires—remembers that he found a copy of an old local newspaper from December 1967. It’s the Rose Bowl preview edition when IU was last in Pasadena. You guys wanna see it? Sure, we shout, sounds like fun. Bring it out. Wow, look at that, will ya? A brand-new color tv for $250 bucks. And Pasadena? Oh well, there’s always next year.

Stage Eight. Back to work on Monday. I’ll come back down to my buddy’s house soon but not for a game; we’ll go fishing. Lord knows how I’ll get the fridge in the boat.

Another glorious season of IU Football is dead ahead.