Updated Sun, Mar 25, 2012 5:11 pm
Editor's note: This is a five-part column designed to take Bobcat fans through the five stages of loss, as described by plenty of psychology textbooks.
Put down the Prozac. Lift up your chin. Friday’s loss to North Carolina is hardly grounds for your family physician to start dishing out Zoloft scripts. In retrospect, there is nothing to be depressed about after Ohio’s Sweet 16 appearance. Look no further than the fans that were in attendance.
Right from the get-go, Bobcat fans had every right to just mail it in. The contorted layout of the seating forced Ohio fans to travel an arduous route during the pregame to their designated section. It was like turning the Oregon Trail green. It was the kind of walk that keeps Ped Egg in business. But it was a promising pilgrimage, a real life round of “Temple Run” with the possibility of witnessing history on the other end.
However, this bunch of Bobcats became the embodiment of why pride trumps depression for the Green and White. They were largely constricted to one section of the stands in favor of a drove of UNC fans and a cult-like Kansas following. The two levels of green looked like the triangle and tambourine section of a symphony orchestra. They looked like the men at the mall two weeks before Christmas. For all intents and purposes they were in the back middle seat of a rusting Chevy Astro without a seatbelt. They sure didn’t sound like it though.
With Ohio down 22-8 early and looking well on their way to getting blown out, something unreasonable occurred. It was a moment that was terrifying to everyone in attendance that had no ties to Athens. Nick Kellogg hit a three-pointer to end a period of offensive struggle, and the Ohio crowd genuinely went ballistic.
These people were loony. They were off their rocker, and it was fantastic. Ohio had closed the lead to a still insurmountable 11 points, and Palmerfest ensued in that section. Halloween and “number fest” looked pretty cute compared to the party that was starting in St. Louis. Something tells me the Princeton Review had a pen and pad out watching this game. Even President Roderick McDavis couldn’t condemn this kind of celebration.
McDavis was a part of the party. And oh, how the pandemonium pressed on. Walter Offutt could have wiped a sweat spot off the floor during a timeout, and it would have ignited a near riot of joy in the stands. Their volatility toward sheer exuberance down the stretch was so stark that John Groce could have adjusted his tie, and fans would be jumping. During a timeout late in the game Ohio fans almost had local geologists scrambling for their respective Richter scales.
Instead of sparking the crowd by doing the bare minimum, though, the Bobcats hit shot-after-shot while behind in the second half. They made play-after-play. Kansas fans were on their feet. NC State’s fans were literally learning “Stand Up and Cheer” during the timeouts. There was nothing more gloriously uncoordinated then dozens of Wolfpack fans decked out in red trying to pump their fists along with the O-H-I-O chant. It was splendid. Elation in Bobcat green. Shock in Carolina blue.
Friday night, the momentary thrill was measurable, and the decisive disappointment was evident. But the pride was palpable. And there’s nothing depressing about that.
The rest of the series: