My Turn: For fans of WVU football, a new season starts
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Attention West Virginia Mountaineer fans: You might not think so with a losing season now guaranteed, but you're going to be itching to watch WVU football in just a few short months.
The Super Bowl will be over. The suspense of National Signing Day will have come and gone. And the methadone of March Madness will have worn off.
You'll be counting the days until spring drills and the last scrimmage, and then the months before the opening kickoff of 2014.
And this season? This season will be but the memory of a nightmare of injuries, inexperience and incomprehensible second half collapses.
The pieces will be in place; ingredients, if you will, that go into the intoxicant second only to alcohol as a favorite of the Mountaineer faithful.
Yes, I am talking about hope. And its label reads, "Wait 'til next year."
Next year is full of the promise of healthy, agile and bright young athletes fully prepared to execute the orders of their wily and innovative commander.
Next year is brimming with the energy of a team with a chip on its shoulder and something to prove.
Next year will bring another class of talented acolytes ready to learn from an experienced corps of upperclassmen to build new depths of reserves.
That's the beauty of hope, isn't it? Everything is possible based on flashes of brilliance that you fantasize panning out into gold nuggets of football glory.
And you're never too young to be infected with the mania.
I managed to take my 3-year-old son to a couple of games this season. He seems to like the energy of the crowd and playing ball with the older kids in the green space at the north entrance to Milan Puskar Stadium at halftime. And then there's the popcorn.
Because of bad behavior, he stayed home and missed the highlight of the season, WVU's upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State. He didn't witness the heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas because kickoff was at bedtime.
I joked with friends afterward that he should have plenty of opportunities to have his heart fumbled or blocked or otherwise crushed by the Mountaineers in the future.
We're a long way since our last losing season back in 2001, which was the darkness before the dawn of some amazing football, including three BCS bowl titles. (That's as many as the entire Atlantic Coast Conference has won in the BCS era.)
I've had to rationalize to myself that the game is cyclical and that no program stays on top or even among the elite forever. It wasn't long ago that mighty Alabama was limping along - and now-struggling Florida was an unstoppable force.
Well, the wheel has turned and now we're facing an off-season of doubts about the direction of the program, the abilities of our coach and even the simple question of who will play quarterback.
While I tend toward fatalism as a vaccine against disappointment, I really do see potential in the experience our young linemen are getting and talent in our running backs and receivers.
And while more than one of my female friends thinks our quarterbacks have great hair, I will also admit I'd feel a lot better if the gray matter it covers finally synched up with the playbook of our genius head coach.
While football season is on the wane, the seeds for the season of hope are already being planted.
Contact writer Philip Maramba at email@example.com or 304-348-1703.