Expectations are unborn resentments.
Sometimes the balance of life tosses you asunder. I’ve spent the better part of the last two years trying to determine my personal equation for happiness. Despite constant tinkering, it seems the variables remain ever changing, never to be solved. I pull things out, put them back in; increase the amount, decrease the amount. I am resolved to only one truth: what you expect will either bless or curse you.
This Saturday, LSU travels to Jordan-Hare stadium to play their Tiger rivals for the 53rd time in history. Auburn dots more than a few of the Greatest Games in LSU history, and will forever be the king of the “yeah crazy shit happens” opponents. In every sense, Auburn’s become the early season measuring stick for either program’s direction in that given moment. Win and it might just propel you to the SEC Championship game. Lose, and well, your season could spiral out of control. Or hell, sometimes you lose and make the SEC Championship anyway.
Despite media narratives, which continually foist Auburn amongst the pack of National Title contenders, here are the average records of each program over the last half decade:
Auburn: 9 wins & 4.4 losses
LSU: 8.8 wins & 3.8 losses
Pretty much equals. And yes, Auburn won the West twice in that timeframe and made an appearance in the National Title game. But LSU is the only SEC West team who managed to beat Auburn in each of those SEC West Championship seasons. That’s some finishing each other’s sentences shit. And yet, to hear it told, these are two programs on different trajectories: one bound for the gutter and the other for perennial contention.
Thus, expectations are born.
Hopes are different than expectations.
A hope comes with no promise of fulfillment. The phrase, “expect the worst, hope for the best” exists for a reason. Though, the two are often confused. I hope many things and try to expect few. I hope Joe Burrow is the top-tier QB we imagined him to be when he signed this summer. I expect Joe Burrow to struggle to adapt to being a starting college QB.
Hopes are open ended. A hope may offer many forms of fulfillment, while an expectation is tied to a single outcome. If you say out loud, “I hope my day will be good,” notice how different that is than “I expect my day to be good.” If you hope for your day to be good and the outcome is anything else, you’ve invested exactly zero mental capital in the notion that you deserved something out of your day. If, on the other hand, you expect your day to be good and the outcome is anything else, you’ve now suddenly not gotten what you believe you deserved. It’s a losing investment.
Burning barns. Chop blocks. Leaping penalties. Uncalled pass interference. Cigars. Last second end zone shots. Bringing back the magic. And shaking the valley. Cam Newton running away from Patrick Peterson. And Leonard Fournette running smooth over Blake Countess and helicoptering Tray Matthews on two separate trips to the end zone. Jamie Howard tossing five interceptions. And John Vaughn missing five field goals.
You’re bound to get a little bit of everything in a typical LSU/Auburn game. If something doesn’t catch on fire, fall apart or get completely mangled in the 60 minutes the two teams are on the field, then you’ll probably get a coach fired, some recruiting sanctions, or at least a good honest “we sent in a formal complaint to the league about the officiating” move.
I’m not saying the Earth tilts on its axis each time these two teams matchup, but if you pull out your level midway through the first quarter, your floors may suddenly be on an incline. Strap in. Saturday will be akin to freebasing Monster Energy while skydiving in a no fly zone out of a military jet you hijacked from a foreign air force. Ok, it will be more exciting than that, but I ran out of adjectives.
I hope LSU will win on Saturday. I don’t expect them to. And that, I think, is where the joy of football rests.