Sitting on the fence doesn’t always give you the best view

Published 10:29 am Wednesday, January 13, 2016

“Evil is evil…. Lesser, greater, middling, it’s all the same.  Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred…  But if I’m to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

–Geralt of Rivia

This has been my life’s motto for a while, whether I’m deciding on where to eat dinner with friends or following college football.

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And no, I’m not calling the University of Alabama, or any college football organization, evil.

Though if the NCAA had a villain, it’s probably the Crimson Tide.

Message boards everywhere were rife with despair last night after the game ended precisely how everyone predicted—with the Tide taking their 16th national championship (but apparently, depending on who’s asking, the total varies).

With four national championships, four SEC titles and two Heisman winners in seven years, it’s easy to see how people could grow tired of Alabama’s continued success.  They’re the team you either love to love, or you love to hate.

No one feels indifferently about the Alabama Crimson Tide… except me.

I’ve wandered through the wastelands of NCAA football for the past dozen years or so as a sword with no master; a lone knight with no banner; an aimless vessel at sea… you see where I’m going with this.

As a resident of a house that was perpetually divided, it was better that way.

Picking a side meant being ostracized by half of your family.  But as it often turned out, not picking a side at all meant being excommunicated by all of them.  At least then, they could agree on something.

But last night, somewhere near the close of the third quarter, my long-held stance on neutrality began to fall apart.

I began to care.

In true Bel-Air fashion, my whole life was turned upside down—or at least four hours of it.

My younger, more cynical self used to think taking to Facebook and proclaim victory or defeat was a little silly.  “We all just watched the same game you did,” I would think.  “We know what happened.”

But Monday night’s game was probably the most fun I’ve had watching a college championship game since Vince Young and the Longhorns stole that game from USC in 2006.

Seriously, there was everything.

Both quarterbacks—but especially Deshaun Watson, who very nearly willed his team to victory—delivered stellar performances, and Jake Coker played with more athleticism and grit than I thought he was capable of.

We also learned—at Clemson’s expense—the importance of special teams play between two evenly matched teams.

That fourth-quarter onside kick might be the gutsiest and best-executed I’ve ever seen in a college game.

And it was a game not won by individual performances, but great team play and contributions from some long-dormant but deadly weapons.

These were all things that I was able to appreciate as a bystander without a horse in the race, but I imagine those feelings would’ve been amplified if I’d had any stake in the game beforehand.

As fun as this year’s championship game was, the biggest takeaway was that it doesn’t really matter which side of the fence you’re on.

Sometimes, what matters most is having the courage to get off in the first place.