Season in Shambles
It is a well know meteorological fact that the three coldest geographic locations on the surface of the Earth are the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, the wilds of Kamchatka, and Rynearson Stadium on a November afternoon. Two years ago, on one such desolate November day, I put on my cold weather gear and headed to Rynearson Stadium to watch the Eastern Michigan football team battle Northern Illinois on the day after Thanksgiving. Dubbed “Bleak Friday” by yours truly, our Eagles endured the cold weather, a two win season, and a 71-3 drubbing by the Huskies of NIU.
The most depressing aspect of this particular game wasn’t the bone-chilling weather, it wasn’t the fact that we lost, or even the margin of defeat. It was the fact that I and the other brave and committed souls in that stadium saw something that was a truly bad omen for Eastern Michigan football: the team quit on Coach Ron English.
It was surprising to see this abandonment, even out of a two win team. If there is one aspect of Ron English that I think most of us can agree on, it is that he is a capable motivator. The thought that a team would quit on him was unexpected to say the least.
How is this relevant to today? Connect the dots, dear readers. We are approaching critical mass, the time when the team bails on Coach English. I can pinpoint the play when the downfall began…
In the second quarter of last night’s game against Ohio, Eastern had narrowed OU’s lead to 10-7. We needed a defensive stop, but unfortunately the defense was falling into what I call, “bend and break” mode. We had just missed a golden opportunity by allowing Ohio to get a first down on a third and thirteen play. The next play, however, was atrocious.
Ohio running back Ryan Boykin ran up the middle for a 57 yard run that featured numerous missed tackles. Three Eastern defenders tried to throw an arm at the dude and got swatted away. It was a sad and sorry effort. On the next play, Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton tossed a TD pass and the rout was on. After that touchdown OU would outscore Eastern 28-7.
Did the team quit on English? I don’t know. They sure as hell played like a 1-7 team. I have no reason to expect any different the rest of the way. I refuse to cling to the hope of winning the Michigan MAC trophy as a way to salvage the season. I wrote in my pre-season post that 4-8 would be a disappointment. At this point, if we go 4-8, I vow to shave David Axelrod’s mustache off on live TV.
Maybe the team hasn’t quit. Maybe we will drop a bomb on Central next Saturday and we will all pretend to feel good about it. I just don’t see it. And what if we do? Does anyone really thing we will turn around and rattle off a couple more wins against Western and NIU?
I want the readers of Eagle Totem to understand one thing. I hope I’m wrong. I hope we see the team we thought we would see this year, that they pull their shit together and dominate these last three games. Should that be the case, I invite the entire Eastern football nation to drop off a big plate of crow on my doorstop, and force me to eat it with nothing but my bare hands and a bottle of Cholula hot sauce.
I’m still not sure what all this means for next season. I don’t see how Ron English, as much as I personally like and admire the man, can survive with the career win-loss record he will have at season’s end. For now, I’ll sit back and examine the team’s performance these last three games. And yes, I’ll be there at Rynearson, the last week of the season versus Northern Illinois, with nothing but a parka and a flask of bourbon to keep me warm.
Inevitably, an article like this will lead to the unbearably whiny “Can’t you just support the team” garbage that tends to infect losing programs. You can call me negative, you can call me a pessimist, but I will not have my credentials as a supporter of Eastern football questioned.
We can’t be happy with mediocrity, if that is the case, why even have a football program at all?