I must admit, while sitting in the Miami section last Saturday, tears streamed down my face. Elation, relief and astonishment all combined to turn me into a blubbering mess.
Not my manliest moment, but I’m sure mine wasn’t the only story like that in Tallahassee on that night.
Fans clad in orange and green, exhausted from a seven-hour drive, collapsed on each other with high fives and hugs. It was like a tidal wave of green, coming at you from every side. And who cares if I got knocked off the bleacher I’d been standing on the whole game?
Miami won! Miami beat FSU!! KIRBY-BLEEPING-FREEMAN!!!
Now, as a balanced observer, I do note that Miami gained eight yards on the ground in the first half. I do acknowledge that three interceptions were thrown. I do concede that it was nowhere near the best-played football game I’ve ever seen. But Miami got out of there with a W, and they stuck it to FSU again.
Perhaps I should explain why this meant so much to me. As a junior, I’ve never seen Miami beat FSU. Thinking back to the six-in-a-row streak Miami put together from 2000 to 2005, I began to fear that the karmic balance would swing, and that I would never see a win as a student. That frightened me. As five-point underdogs, I began to buy into the line that FSU was the superior team. Miraculously, I was proven wrong, surrounded by almost 10,000 screaming fans, willing their team back from the darkest depths.
That’s why being there for the win was so important. I forgot what it was like to win a really important game. Sure, Texas A&M was amazing, but that was a mirage. The Aggies were vastly overrated, and Miami played out of their bodies. This game was true-not pretty, but true. It had all the hiccups and confusion of a team trying to find itself. And seeing Colin McCarthy return that fumble was the validation for the pain.
The pain that began almost two years ago with that crushing loss against Georgia Tech, spiraled through the nail-biter with FSU last year and bottomed out with the on-field embarrassment of “The Brawl” and the off-field tragedy of Bryan Pata’s murder. This season had its share of shock as well, but seeing that victory, shutting up that Doak Campbell Stadium crowd and lighting my victory cigar were magical.
What was the best thing about the whole experience? The 30 minutes after the fumble recovery. Miami fans, notorious for leaving whenever the game is thought to be sealed up one way or the other, stayed. They stayed for the alma mater, they stayed to taunt the remaining FSU fans and they stayed to chant the name of the man who had returned them to the Promised Land. “Ran-dy Shan-non! Ran-dy Shan-non!”
That cheer echoed, my friends. That cheer echoed throughout the stadium, across the panhandle, down to Gainesville, up through Blacksburg, Va., and all across the college football world. That echo served as a reminder: Miami may be down, but they are most certainly not out. Whenever you think they’re done, they’ll figure out a way to spring off the mat. Just ask Bobby Bowden. I’m sure he’s familiar with it by now.
Matthew Bunch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.