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The Time for Optimism is Now

Leading the sprint to optimism

Each and every fall the optimism that surrounds a football program is considerable. It doesn’t matter how the last season went, doesn’t matter who went to the NFL, graduated or transferred. Doesn’t matter the amount of recruiting stars that got stacked up last February in National Signing Day. This time of year, optimism runs high everywhere, from sea to sea, north to south, and everywhere in between. It’s one of those rare times when everyone is equal. Big boys, small markets, traditional powers, and upstart high risers. Everyone is equal, at least for now.

For the Cardinals, today marks the first day in full pads in these fall drills, and optimism is high amongst the fans and higher still amongst the players and staff. A cursory check of the Facebooks, Twitters, and communications and it feels like a surge of positivity is brewing through this program. Players excited for camp. Players excited about the season opener. Players excited for the MAC. Coaches excited about the same, and excited about the players to boot. Is it false hope? It is failure to remember the reality of last season? Is it a turning of the page as a youth infused football team decides that success is the only course to chart?

The long and the short of it is that it is probably a little of all of the above. Every team feels motivated and hopeful when they’re 0-0, but this is more than the empty sort of fleeting optimism that wanes as the practices get longer and the season dawns. This is a collective group of football players and coaches that in two short seasons have experienced the full spectrum of emotion, success, failure and turmoil. From 12-2 to 2-10 is the sheer numbers of it, but what the casual observer misses is the intricate patchwork of storylines and details that ultimately can either steel a group’s resolve or decimate it beyond repair.

Take a moment and just think about what some on this staff and the upperclassmen have been through. A 12-0 start to 2008, a career-ending injury to one of their stars, and NFL hopes and aspirations for more than a few. They’ve been ranked in the BCS, competed in the MAC Championship game, had an undefeated regular season, and defeated their first BCS conference opponent… on the road. They also watched that success get squandered in fumble after fumble in that conference title game, their coach bolt for San Diego, and a public whipping of administrators, staff members and the community in the national press. They shouldered through an unbelievably tough 2009, with losses to an FCS power, more injuries than are survivable, constant questioning and grumbling from the fanbase at large, and fluke bad luck that would make anyone’s stomach turn.

While the fans cast 2009 aside as some sort of anomaly or a reason to simply forget, perhaps 2009 will be worth its weight in gold when the time comes to strap them on for 2010. Ask any successful business person. Question any successful athlete. More often than not, success, the long-term kind that is real and lasting, is set up and established more because of what happened badly than what happened positively. While true that the leadership of this team has been to the mountain top and would like to return there, wanting is very different than experiencing what the alternative is. This is a core group of leaders, players, young and old, that have hopefully not forgotten 2009, but have used it as fuel to feed a fire that burns tremendously bright as this new season dawns. If that’s the case, and if 2009 is the basis for hard work and effort this offseason, then the losses and chaos were worth it, however challenging they were while they were happening.

It is truly a remarkable achievement and one that shows just how different this program is than even just a decade ago. After years of futility, losing streaks, and chaos, hope was a distant thing. Optimism didn’t overflow from players and fans alike. Now, even after the tremendous swing in results from 08 to 09, optimism runs at a fever pitch. And that’s something unheard of, sought after, and needed for years.

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One Response

  1. Well spoken, my friend, well done!

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