In sports, there are games that mean more than just a game. Where the whole fan base has an edge to it. A blood lust. Hurricanes Nation has that anger this week. The players understand. The coaches understand. The fans understand. This is more than a game. It’s payback time. Payback for wrongs that Ohio State had nothing to do with (they had nothing to do with Terry Porter inventing a penalty) and payback for wrongs that Ohio State fans have committed (unless you think the fact that you were gifted a national title by a bullshit call entitles you to make fun of one of your players intentionally destroying an opposing players’ knee).
As with many blown calls, there is often revisionist history afterward. An attempt to change what happened. An attempt to rationalize the result. We love sports for that reason. There is so much bullshit in life, but sports is, for the most part, “fair”. That’s why there is so much outrage when officials blow calls. They are paid large sums of money to look for a single specific type of foul. What makes the call on January 3rd, 2003 so egregious is that one official, the official closest to the play, could be in a textbook on how to properly officiate a play. He watched the action closely, was not distracted by the ball, peered through the tangle, and correctly deduced that no illegal contact occurred prior to the ball’s arrival. Then, from the back of the end zone, nowhere near the play, another official decided to not only make a call that was not his to make, but to make an incorrect call. That’s where the outrage flows from. It was not just a bad call. Human’s fuck up, it happens. The call was made by a referee who was not in a position to see the play. Terry Porter went out of his way to interject himself into a play he had nothing to do with and alter the course of the national championship game. Of course, as soon as the initial outrage wears off, it is replaced by the apologists who don’t want to believe that the wrong team has the trophy. 1 of 2 lines of attack are usually used:
1) Micromanaging the play to try and find some sort of violation anywhere that could be shown to justify the call (“it was holding”, it happened “before the ball was thrown”, etc.) That has been done done to death and is fully debunked in the video below.
2) Changing the subject. Rather they focus on the play, talk about other things (“You still had a chance to win”, “You shouldn’t have turned it over 5 times”, etc.) Again, this has also been done to death. These arguments are COMPLETELY irrelevant. Bottom line: Miami did enough to win the game if the game was officiated correctly. You don’t have to be perfect to win, just better than the other team…and Miami was 7 points better in overtime.
If you have doubts about the call, this video summarily dismisses the feeble attempts to re-write history and explain the call. It was a horrible call at a horrible time by an official who was in no position to make the call http://www.tubechop.com/watch/89436.
So much has changed in the 7 seasons since.
Summer of 2003: Miami announces it is leaving the Big East for the ACC.
2003: the teams finished ranked 4th and 5th. But what is not often remembered is the near rematch in a bowl game. Many of the players were the same then (as will not be the case now). With Oklahoma and LSU ranked 1 and 2 in the BCS and headed to the Sugar Bowl, and USC and Michigan headed to the Rose Bowl, the remaining BCS teams were likely to be Kansas State (Big 12 Champion), Florida State (ACC Champion), Miami (Big East Champion), and Ohio State (at-large). Kansas State was assigned to the Fiesta Bowl as Big 12 Champion, and the Orange Bowl had to choose either the Big East or ACC Champion, and chose Miami. The next selection went to the Fiesta Bowl. Now, they were free to select either team, with certain restrictions in place. The BCS strongly discouraged 2 things:
- Sending a team to the same bowl game 2 years in a row (Ohio State had just played in the infamous Fiesta Bowl the year before).
- Creating a regular season rematch (Miami and FSU, obviously, play annually).
So, the obvious choice would be Miami-OSU in the Orange Bowl, Kansas State-Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. Everyone wins. The Fiesta Bowl gets a new set of teams, the Orange Bowl gets a great matchup and a made for TV event. As we all know, the Fiesta Bowl went ahead and selected Ohio State anyway. To this day, I believe there were some underhanded dealings between the Fiesta Bowl and Ohio State (who wanted no part of coming to Miami for that rematch). It made no sense and continues to make no sense. The 2004 Orange Bowl is the last BCS game that Miami played in. (College Football addicts like myself might also remember the dubious officiating in that year’s Fiesta Bowl, as a desperate Kansas State’s 2 minute drill was thwarted by an official winding the clock, twice, before the chains were set, on long Kansas State passes.)
2004: Miami’s first year in the ACC. Back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Clemson, followed by an end of season loss to Virginia Tech had Miami playing in a non-New Year’s day bowl for the first time since the 1998-1999 season. They did manage to beat Florida in the Peach Bowl, finishing 9-3 and ranked 11th. Despite the revisionist history that the programs took off in opposite directions post-Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State was actually worse this year than Miami, losing 4 times and finishing ranked 20th.
2005: This is where the real separation between the 2 programs occurred. Miami lost the opener to FSU, before reeling off 8 straight wins to ascend to the #3 ranking in the country, on deck to play for a national title. November 19, 2005 was the Day the Music Died for the Hurricanes program. A shocking home loss to a mediocre Georgia Tech team ended the national title run, a shot at the ACC title, and the Hurricanes’ dynasty. They finished the season ranked 17th after getting blasted by LSU in the Peach Bowl. Ohio State finished ranked 4th after beating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
2006-2007: The ‘Canes went a combined 12-13, missed a bowl game, fired a majority of their coaching staff twice, and were train wreck. Ohio State (karma’s a bitch, ain’t it) was crapped on in 2 championship games.
2008-2009: Miami’s resurgence coupled with Ohio State running in place. Miami improved to 7-6 and 9-4, seemingly poised to take that next step. Ohio State lost a Fiesta Bowl and won a Rose Bowl, and remained a perennial Top 10 team.
And as much as it has changed, it remains the same. 2 teams, forever defined by 1 call. The institutions are so interlocked that 2 years ago many Miami fans suddenly discovered that Miami had a basketball team, and then promptly forgot after the ‘Canes lost (Jack McClinton throwing a punch didn’t help the cause).
I had all but forgotten that January night in Tempe. Pushed it to the recesses of my brain. Denial as a way of coping with tragedy. It was just a game, but so much more. This week, those memories have resurfaced.
- The weird tickets that I bought from UM that somehow placed me right in the middle of an Ohio State section and because of that, I was one of a handful of Miami fans that happened to be in the corner of the end zone where Terry Porter would steal the championship (Before and since then I have purchased dozens of tickets from the school, and never once have I not been in the “UM section”).
- The ball deflecting away from Chris Gamble. Hesitating, seeing no flag.
- Jumping up and down and celebrating with my 5 friends at the game, while the Ohio State fans around stood in silence.
- Looking at the scoreboard as a giant 3-D “U” rotated behind the word “CHAMPIONS”, with fireworks erupting over the scoreboard.
- Actually shaking hands with the Ohio State fans sitting next to me and accepting their congratulations. (True story: There were actually nice Ohio State fans sitting next to me. I am not making that up.)
- The horror as a low cheer erupted from the fans around us.
- Watching our team back-pedal to the sideline and seeing the pass interference being signaled.
- Watching Dorsey helplessly fling an errant pass towards the end zone.
- My brother telling me, “Man, that’s not right. Dorsey didn’t deserve to go out like that.”
And so, September 11th looms on the horizon, a horrific day in American history, but a chance for revenge for ‘Canes Nation. A chance for justice. This game matters so much to us that my brother is coming from New York to DC just to watch this game with me, to relive the Fiesta Bowl, to avenge it. This is merely part 1 of 2 (with a rematch September 17th, 2011 in Miami). But this is more special. Ohio State is thinking National Championship, and justice dictates that we crush their soul, like Terry Porter crushed ours. Bad losses (and we have had plenty of those), you get over. Unfair losses require retribution. Beating Ohio State won’t erase the robbery from 2003. But it is a start. It will make the * next to their title mean 2 things:
- They “won” the game that should have been over 30 minutes before with the opposite result.
- 7 and half years later, we went into their house and paid them back.
On Saturday, payback’s a bitch, just like the movie cover says:
“BACK WITH A VENGEANCE”
“CARNIVAL OF VIOLENCE AND REVENGE”
You didn’t have to be there in Tempe. Hell, you could have been 10 years old, like some of our players were. The concept of “unfairness” is universal, ingrained in our psyche, and from the youngest ‘Canes fan to the oldest, Saturday will be special.