I tried to run faster this morning, but it was to no avail. With stiff joints and poor balance, I seem to have only one speed – slow. I do get the job done but it’s never pretty. There was something about the word “average” when it came to my running pace that struck a chord. It’s always been difficult for me to digest. I want to look younger and perform better than just average. I was always a “B” student and on the “B” team, so I’ve never been considered exceptional. There have been some “A” moments in life and rarely a “C,” so my achievement expectations continue in my race towards seventy.
The average life span of a white male in 75.3 years, so I certainly hope to be above average in this category. This means I have at least five good years left or or 1,825 running days. This would put me over 6,000 consecutive days. There was also a point where I was 6 feet tall, but I am quickly shrinking to average height. My weight is slightly over average but that’s not necessarily a good thing. I often wonder how my spindly legs have held up all these years when most of my bulk is in my torso. Yesterday’s Thanksgiving meal certainly didn’t help.
Today, college basketball and football will keep me busy. We’re up to date on Yellowstone with Season 4 not expected until mid-2021. Shameless has a final season airing in a few weeks, so the Suits series is now our primary evening entertainment. There’s also one last episode of Fargo to watch. Only 8 days until we land in Kauai, if all goes well next week with Covid testing. At one point, this Hawaii trip was planned with intentions of following Indiana basketball in the Maui Classic. That event was of course delayed a week to start on Monday and moved to Asheville, North Carolina. I.U. football meets Maryland tomorrow, as the Hoosiers try to hold on to their #12 ranking. They fell short in their comeback effort against #3 Ohio State last weekend. I’m glad to see that I.U. football is no longer considered average.
I woke up this morning with all the classic signs of Covid 19: chills, headache, fever, scratchy throat, and congestion. This has happened at least once a week since March when the possibility of catching it was initially discovered. One of the by-products of being a pessimist is also being a hypochondriac – if it’s out there, I’m certainly going to get it! The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m going to end up in the hospital and my 4,347 day running streak will come to an abrupt end. On the other extreme, I’m thinking that I won’t be able to pass the Covid test to get to Hawaii with my family in a couple of weeks.
Nonetheless, I got out of bed and made the 3.1 mile run, at first thinking I would just do the minimum mile in my frail state of health. As I got going, all the symptoms seemed to disappear, as often is the case when I’m either not feeling well or hung over. It would have been easy to get up this morning if I.U. would have pulled off the upset yesterday against Ohio State. All that adrenaline would have still been flowing through my veins. Instead, I was a bit depressed when the Hoosiers fell short. Of course, no true pessimist would have expected them to win anyway, so I got what I imagined! It looks like the loss has literally made me sick, or at least pretend sick.
I hope we can get to the island in early December. The boredom of sitting in an apartment all day is getting to me. I don’t have the yard chores or outdoor home projects that keep my friends busy. All I have is my running, writing, dog outings, and T.V. watching. The snacks in between are also a problem, like the chocolate chip cookies my wife baked for me yesterday. Live sports at least adds some excitement to the day, even if its not always the desired outcome. My half-sister sent me photos of her at the Alabama vs. Kentucky game yesterday to rub it in. I haven’t been to a game of any game since January, as is the case with most of American fans.
Yes, I’m paranoid that something will prevent us from traveling to Hawaii, as has been the case with Bali and Egypt this year. Retirement is supposed to be all about exploring the world, but just not going to work is certainly adequate reward, just as long as we stay healthy. Unfortunately, I can’t keep my mind from dwelling on the things that could go wrong. It’s a defense mechanism that I adopted early in life and protects me from disappointment. I believe that if you think of all the things that could possibly go wrong, it rarely does. However, paranoia like this does have it’s price!
I must be dreaming – I.U. football ranked #13 in the country? It’s the highest honor since 1987 – the last time they beat Michigan – 24 consecutive bitter losses ago. Given the history of the Hoosier football, it’s the sure recipe for another disappointment this weekend when the Wolverines came to town. I.U. sports and I have always gotten along because I’m a pessimist and rarely expect them to win in a football game. Something bizarre always happens! For example, the recent TD lunge for the goal line against Penn State that I thought for sure would be reversed, or last week’s 8-lateral TD that Rutgers pulled off. It’s taken me years of frustration to get to this level of pessimism.
1987 was an exceptional year for I.U. athletics. Soccer was just a year away from one of its eight current collegiate crowns. Basketball won the NCAA National Championship and football went a remarkable 8-4, despite a last minute loss to Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. Oddly enough, this year’s team also squandered a lead to Tennessee in last year’s season-ending bowl match-up. These are the kind of endings that I am used to when it comes to the gridiron! I’m also sadly starting to get used to losing in basketball. This week’s disappointment was the recruiting failure of securing Trey Kaufman, who decided on Purdue of all places. Salt in the state rivalry wound!
I can only hope that I am wrong when an angry Michigan team comes to Bloomington on Saturday. The are ranked below Indiana for the first time since 1988 when they started their 24-game winning streak in head-to-head match-ups. The Wolverines have to be living in “Harbaugh Hell” this week after losing to rival Michigan State. Two straight losses might mean the end of his Michigan coaching career, with follow-up challenges against Penn State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. You thought you were having a bad 2020! He’s probably commiserating today with his brother, whose Baltimore Ravens lost a heartbreaker against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday.
The oddsmakers agree with my pessimism, favoring Michigan by as much as four. Historically, Michigan has dominated the Hoosiers with an overall record of 59-9. I.U. won in 1928, 1936, 1944, and 1945, but only four times in my lifetime, and only once since I graduated from there in 1973. This provides solid ground for my pessimism. As a result, I will either be right or victorious on Saturday. If they somehow beat Michigan and start 3-0, they get the dubious honor of playing Ohio State next for a potential Rose Bowl bid. Talk about being pessimistic – stay tuned!
BIG 10 football is back – basketball will soon follow. The Hoosiers are projected to go 4-4 in the shortened conference-only regular season. This is an unexpected show of respect for a school where football was always a second thought. It was a sport that Indiana fans only tolerated because they knew that basketball would get revenge over all the schools that kicked our gridiron butts. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case any more. The Cream & Crimson stripes are also projected to be in the middle of the conference pack. This is sad news for me, spoiled by years of being on top. It’s hard to believe that we have an equal slim chance of winning a conference championship in each sport this year.
We’ll see if I.U. can compete against Penn State in today’s match-up. They almost beat them last year in Happy Valley. However, the Nittany Lions football program is seeing a resurgence from their fall from grace, while I.U basketball has sadly failed to recover in the post-Knight years. I.U. football has always been mediocre, so I’m excited to see some hope. More importantly, I’m glad the conference finally gets to compete, when the season was pronounced dead just a few months ago. Basketball will be delayed a month, with the Hoosier hoopsters traveling to Asheville for a less than glamorous Maui Classic setting. Baseball, soccer, and swimming will have to wait until Spring.
Today’s game will be played in front of a small home crowd, limited by social distancing rather than lack of interest. During my tenure as a football season ticket holder, a full house in Bloomington only happened when Ohio State fans bought up all the tickets. Otherwise, there was social distancing in the stands long before it was medically necessary! There are no warm-up patsies this year to bolster our record. Instead, we jump right into the fire with the #7 ranked team in the country. There’s no chance to knock the rust off! The only thing normal about the 2020 schedule is the Purdue game, but held in mid-December rather than the traditional Thanksgiving slot. It will likely be freezing cold with a chance for snow.
The last I.U. sporting event was seven months ago when the basketball Hoosiers beat Nebraska in the only game of the BIG Tournament before cancellation. At least, we haven’t been living with a loss all this time, even though we lost our chance to finally return to the Big Dance. I haven’t yelled at a television screen in all this time, even though Da’ Bears have caused some moments of despair. Today, I’ll frighten my wife and scare the dog! Nothing in life makes me angrier than a bad I.U. performance, and I’m missing the relief of venting this pent-up internal irritability. I especially need it after too much time of being cooped-up at home. Healthy anger will certainly be the case today when Penn State comes to town!
P.S. IU wins in overtime, breaking a 33-year losing streak against top teams. It was a controversial ending with a stretched body holding the football that barely crossed the chalk line. PSU also gave the Hoosiers a chance to tie the game in regulation with a touchdown and two-point conversion by scoring too early. It was a game of close calls and poor decisions, but somehow I.U. prevailed. It was the most exciting game I’ve ever watched, and may very well be the turning point for Hoosier football culture. They found a way to win rather than lose!