The Ecstasy of Defeat

September 17, 2011

I’ve been watching the Boise State / Toledo college football game off and on throughout the evening. Why? I would say it’s about 5% interest in Boise’s pro-prospect QB Kellen Moore (so far, impressive, though the doughy, bullfrog-like facial features don’t exactly inspire confidence — but on the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger has gotten away with that look for years) and 95% the fact that I’m still, after all these years, mesmerized by sports in HD.

(“Look at that definition — it’s so…so…high,” I am often heard remarking to no one in particular. By the way, this is the part where I’m supposed to make a joke about HD being so awesome that I’ll watch any sport as long as it’s in HD — including curling. But that’s just not true — curling sucks, especially in HD. No, I pretty much just stick to the four majors: football, baseball, basketball, and jai-alai.)

During the game, I noticed something that I’ve seen during a number of other sports broadcasts — something that invariably leaves me feeling a mixture of annoyance, mild amusement, and general discomfort (or as I like to call it — the Vikings Fan Experience! Hey-oh!).

This particular instance happened during the third quarter of tonight’s game. Toledo, trailing big for much of the contest, just intercepted the ball and returned it inside Boise State’s 20. The home crowd was going nuts, sensing that this was the last opportunity to get back into the game. But on their second play, Toledo fumbled the ball, Boise State recovered, and it was, essentially, game over.

If you are a Toledo fan (and, really, who isn’t at this point?), it was a devastating moment, punctuated by those crowd reaction shots we’ve all come to expect — the guy with the painted chest clutching his hair, the wide-eyed young lady holding both hands over her mouth. It was during one of those reaction shots — a group of undergrads staring forlornly at the field — when one of them, a blond-haired girl, looked up and noticed that she and her small group were on the jumbo-tron. And then the craziest thing happened — she was no longer forlorn.

Her face lit up, and she started jumping and waving like a crazy person, and a split-second later, the rest of the group joined in her in a jumbo-tron induced frenzy. I guess the fumble and the nationally televised beat-down of your favorite team wasn’t so bad after all, eh blondy?

In those moments, I always feel for the broadcast production team. There they are, doing their darnedest to capture the agony of defeat, when those obnoxious fans have to go and spoil the whole thing. It’s almost, in an odd way, as though those fans are breaking the fourth wall. The “story” says they’re supposed to looked shell-shocked and depressed, but once they see thesmselves on screen, they “break” character and start behaving like buffoons — ruining the carefully unfolding narrative in the process.

My only solace is how most broadcast teams refuse to reward those morons. The director will linger on an unaware, depressed fan for a good five or six seconds, but as soon as the fan notices he’s on the screen and starts jumping up and down like a three-year-old high on Pixie Sticks, the director can’t cut away fast enough. It’s like, Hey Tubbs — if you wanna stay on the TV, keep with the saddy sad.

In the case of tonight’s game, though, I’m willing to cut the fans a little slack. They were, after all, cheering for Toledo. Maybe being on TV for a split-second was more important to them than allegiance to their nationally-irrelevant football team. Which is why such buffoonary is even more perplexing at major events like the World Cup.

(Side note: These “sad fans noticing themselves on the jumbo-tron and instantly turn into smiling, waving lunatics” shots are only possible at certain types of games/stadiums. You’ll never see this sort of shot at an NFL game — not because the fans aren’t buffoons, far from it, but because NFL stadiums have their own, internal production teams for the material that’s shown on the jumbo-tron — material that is different, of course, from the broadcast you’re watching at home. The “buffoon” shots, then, are only possible in venues that aren’t set-up for internal television production, and thus, those venues show the national broadcast on the jumbo-tron. Such venues typically include lower-tier college stadiums, World Cup sites, etc.)

Anyway, buffoon shots are especially annoying during World Cup broadcasts because soccer fans are supposed to be the craziest, most die-hard sports fans in the world — the sort of fans so passionate that their version of doing The Wave is to flip over a row of cars and light them on fire. They’re so dedicated that their version of chanting “Let’s go team!” is to murder an opposing fan.

But hey, who cares that you traveled halfway around the world only to watch your favorite team go down 3-0 in the final, knowing that they won’t have another chance at this for another four years, if they’re lucky enough to even make it this far — who cares about any of that because look! You’re on the big Tee-Vee!

Just once, I want to see a depressed-looking fan notice himself on the jumbo-tron, blink once or twice, and then return looking dejectedly at the field. For me, that would be the most exciting moment in television history.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a big jai-alai match on next. Rekalde’s been coming on strong as of late, but it will be difficult for him to counter Arregui’s wicked backhand.

— Reinman



  1. Jim Plunkett, Oakland Raiders c.1984.
    Ugliest. QB. Ever.

    Also, I am certain thatthose are real Jai-Alai players. Your integrity demands nothing less.

    • I wasn’t so much implying that Kellen Moore is ugly per se — just that he has some double-chin action going.

      I’ve heard some commentary in recent years about why quarterbacks are typically better looking than average. One theory is that, in grade school, it’s the popular, good-looking kid who always claims the position, and no one will challenge him.

      In other words, does a guy become popular because he’s the quarterback, or is he only quarterback because he’s popular.

      And, yeah, someone beat Plunkett with an ugly stick.

  2. “thatthose” is a funny word.

  3. Of course soccer is a socialist plot of world domination and the fan behavior is a representation of a total breakdown in the acceptable mores of a public that refuses to accept authority. Sorry, all I know is politics.

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