As my friends and I approached the palace of Vlad the Impaler in Bucharest, Romania, we were uncertain about what to expect. The palace of one of history’s most notorious leaders promised the allure of danger and intrigue.
We were greeted there by the most stereotypically Romanian security guard you could imagine. His short and stocky build coupled with his graying beard and Russian hat made him look like the star of a documentary on Soviet Russia.
As we arrived, he waved his finger at us and told us to stop.
“No, no, no, no,” he said. “We are closed.”
We asked him if we could come back the next day.
“No, no, no, no,” he said again in broken English. “A wall may fall down at any time.”
Realizing we would never get to see the palace, we told him it was OK and turned to leave.
“No, no, no, no,” he said a third time. “It is not OK, but it is the way it is.”
On Nov. 24, Louisiana State University (LSU) and Texas A&M University (TAMU) competed in the longest and highest-scoring game in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history. Seven overtimes and more than five hours after the opening kickoff, TAMU completed a pass to convert a game-winning two-point-conversion.
My heart sank. As grueling as the game was for the players, my heart had also been through the ringer. With under a minute to play in regulation and LSU leading by seven points, the Tigers intercepted a TAMU pass. The pick sealed the game and LSU players poured Gatorade onto Head Coach Ed Orgeron. But the game was not over. The fat lady had not sung.
After review, officials determined TAMU’s quarterback was down prior to throwing the pass.
Moments later, with three seconds still on the clock, the Aggies attempted to spike the ball and get one more play off. After the spike, the clock read all zeroes. The Tigers had escaped Kyle Field with the victory.
But, for the second time that night, victory was snatched from the Tigers’ grasp by an overturned call and one second was added to the clock.
That one second lasted another hour and a half.
TAMU scored a touchdown on the last play of regulation to send it to overtime. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as anger flooded my heart. Twice, LSU had won the game. Twice, it was taken away.
All was rectified in overtime, though, when LSU forced a fumble to secure a third victory. But, the third time was not the charm. Officials ruled the pass incomplete, and an Aggie field goal sent the game into a second overtime.
My blood boiled. As the game trudged on and each team matched the other blow-for-blow, the tension within me drove me to exhaustion.
Finally, in the seventh overtime, TAMU converted a two-point-conversion to win the game 74-72.
As I sat on my couch, a humble ball of emotionally drained flesh, the words of my Romanian friend echoed in my mind.
“It is not OK, but it is the way it is.”
For Harding football, so many things outside of the team’s control played a role in their playoff defeat, including four major injuries. The breaks simply did not fall their way.
Does that make it less hard? No. Is there still pain? Almost certainly. Sports are not meant to be painless or objectively fair. That unpredictability week in and week out contributes to what makes them great.
It is not always OK, but it is the way it is.