I passed the majority of that epic LSU-Ark. game last Friday squirming at a cruising altitude of roughly 35,000 feet. Needless to say, all was not going as planned. As a matter of fact, a plan of any kind might have made for a good start. I let my understandably clueless girlfriend do all the planning, and so paid a steep price.
Thursday evening, sometime amid my postprandial stupor, I managed to grunt with enough interrogative coherency that she supplied me with our departure time. I hate to admit that I shamble through my life by the minute, but I tend to shamble through my life by the minute. And I'm perpetually over-scheduled. I thought we were leaving Friday night. 4:30 p.m wouldn't even have given me enough time were I in the Central time zone. I was in New York. The game started at 2:30 p.m.
Meanwhile and luckily, my good buddy Murphy was housesitting back home, petting my lonesome cat and drinking my expensive beer. DVRs are wonderful creations, pretty much the polio vaccine for boneheads. I called Murphy and had him schedule the recorder (a sketchy operation in and of itself, rife with beautifully un-technical descriptions of remote buttons and guide boxes and “little circles with twos in them”). If he weren't alpha-fan enough to get this done, I would've had him snapping photos of the television screen to double-check.
All was right in the world. I only had to get back to Arkansas without hearing anything about the greatest game in a year of great games. Sports are all about immediacy. I didn't want the final score in mind.
LaGuardia was no problem. I even allowed myself to catch most of the first half at an airport sports bar. (Side note: Have you ever read the analyst commentary in closed-captioning? Somehow even dumber.) When I boarded the plane, we were ahead 7-6. Flynn was floundering, Dorsey having little impact, Les Miles living up to his reputation as the SEC's most peculiarly perplexing play-caller.
My connecting flight into NYC had been filled with somber Michigan fans, Big Ten geeks unlikely to know their Houston Nutts from their Tommy Tubervilles, but my return flight stopped in Memphis and was bound to carry one or two Hog fans. I had to strategize: 1) Avoid crowds. 2) Avoid television screens. 3) Don't make eye contact. 4) Resist every impulse to just get it the hell over with.
We disembarked around 5:30 p.m. Central time, and I was immediately beset by the scale of my task. A short lady in front of us spotted a red shirt and yelled, “Woo Pig!” I shrugged it off as perfectly normal behavior for Razorback fans, random and generous, not at all contingent on a big, unlikely win.
At our gate, a smiling man asked if anyone had heard the score, and I experienced something resembling a stroke. Dropping all my bags, alternately covering my ears and throwing my hands in the air, I announced to all the passengers that I didn't want to hear the score. I couldn't hear the score. They laughed and shook their heads. I struggled not to make eye contact, for many reasons. My girlfriend tended to me like I was an outpatient.
By the time we made it to XNA, the baggage claim was too much for me. I excused myself to retrieve the car and left the radio off. We drove home in anticipatory silence.
After mixing a couple decompressants and plopping down to finish the game, I remembered that we'd only recorded the regularly scheduled slot. If the game ran long, I'd be shit out of luck.
Midway through the fourth quarter, I started getting antsy. I had 30 minutes left heading into the first overtime. Both teams scored easily. Joy. Exhilaration. Dread.
Then Casey Dick made the throw of his career to take us into the third overtime. I was on my feet. My screen went blue.
This is a victory so big that T-shirts are already being marketed on hogwired.com for the very low price $22.95. This is an ensemble performance so overwhelming that it won me a record number of voice-mails from jubilant friends. This is a win so persuasive that we're a lock for the Cotton Bowl. This is a drama so captivating that my Aunt Irma Nell called on Sunday night to talk it over. This is a game so redemptive that it almost saved Houston Nutt's job.
I was rolling on the floor.