To assess a collegiate football game on the first weekend of November has become an effort in spirit writing. For, much like Yeats's bride, who took a fever and penciled an outline of the afterlife, one's interest can no longer be satisfied within the visible world alone, but must take to the empty talk of myth and magic. Such delicate notions to be cast out of a brutish game, like a blacksmith's rose hammered from a piece of iron.
This year, much of that smithy's work is done by LSU's Les Miles, who eschews convention easier than an Italian shoe designer. Football coaches, generally a conservative lot, philosophically if not, but perhaps also, politically, tend to walk back public displays of verbal intensity, saving them for special circumstances and limiting them to the audience of the team.
Understandable, really, when one considers how such language is needed to captivate the attention of those murderous butterflies flitting about the practice field in school colors. How often can a coach summon the powerful incantation of the locker room before every team is only so much "wolf," as it were? Coaches use language in the same way shotguns use lead.
Furthermore, when outside said locker room, there's the inherent problem of absurdity. From Towson's coach telling the home team that "even if Jesus and his disciples come in here on Saturday, we are going to fuck them up" to our own Coach Bryant's imploring a trailing team to never quit because "this is just a game--one day, you'll lose your job, your dog'll die, and your wife'll run off with a drummer," let's face it, coaches say some crazy shit.
Yet, locker room or dinner hall, Miles has never been one to speak quietly and carry a big stick. He's more the speak loudly while you juggle chainsaws type of guy. Sure, every once in a while that shtick ends up with a bloody arm or two on the floor, like his infamous "let 'er rip" prelude to an ass-whipping, but Miles doesn't live in the past. Hell, he may not even live in the present. Clock management is of little concern to the future man!
So when he brings a team that has averaged fewer than five points a game against Alabama in the last two meetings, a team whose offense looks even worse now than a year ago, and pins his hopes on the vaunted adversity of playing under electric lighting, it is almost expected by now. The more curious puzzle is, if it is expected, how can it be effective? The more you make a myth a fact, the less the myth matters.
I'm relying on the inverse of this thinking this coming Tuesday, by the by. Ultimately, I'm hoping the HNIC gets a second go 'round simply because he's truly not all the awful things his opponents say he is. Such is the danger of letting the crazy talk leave the locker room and get in the news cycle.
Plus, we need a country represented by someone supported by more than 1% of African Americans, 12% of Latinos, and 20% of women. I mean, if you're interest in still having a country in the twenty-first century and not just a franchise location for Chinese business interests... And if that sounds to you, friend, as tempting fate, then I remind you that the other side of mocking superstition is not accepting jinxes.
A coda on the Mrs. Yeats and her connection to the spirit world: If you, as you should, dismiss the stated mechanics of her spirit writing and still wonder how or why Kusta Ben Luka came calling, then the answer here, as in football, comes down to people.
Imagine the young bride of the already famous poet. Is she drawn to him? Without doubt. He struts, he banters, he preaches, but he does not pay much attention to anyone outside his ego for long.
Now imagine our poet rushing home each day and staying awake half the night, eagerly watching each scribble his wife's hands set out on paper. Hour after hour. Day after day. Imagine those hands dropping the paper and reaching out for his. Day after day. Year after year.
You don't have to believe in ghosts to have use for them.