I opened my email this morning to a letter. Actually, not a letter, but a forward of a letter. It was passed along by a fellow LSU fan. By now I am sure many — if not most — avid LSU fans have seen the same letter, which, going forward, will be called The Great BCSNCG Conspiracy of 2012, or more simply, “LesGate.”
I am not going to dignify the content of “LesGate” by including it here, but suffice it to say, it had all the hallmarks of a great conspiracy theory: a semi-plausable premise that falls apart under closer scrutiny; unnamed friends, friends of friends, and “insiders” as sources; the cold copper penny taste of paranoia; rival factions whose actions can now clearly be understood in light of the now present “facts;” and of course, a villain, or in this case, villains, who are responsible for the downfall of our hero.
However, it is not my interest to discuss the theory itself; the theory is unimportant. What is important is understanding why, for so many LSU fans, this is the only reasonable explanation as to what occurred on January 9th.
And what did occur on January 9th? Probably the most bitter, one sided loss in the history of college football. It was an absolute ass kicking. It was Tyson-McNeely or ’85 Bears v Pats. It was a bullying. It was ugly and embarrassing, like watching spouses fight. And in the end it was humbling.
One thing it was not: a setup. To suggest that “LesGate” is true is not only demeaning to LSU’s players, coaches and fans, but to Alabama’s as well. One team came prepared to play, the other did not. End of story, or it should be.
But it is not, as “LesGate” seems to gain more traction among certain LSU “fans” every day. I imagine these folks are the same as those who see “the Grassy Knoll” or 9/11 and think “inside job.”
And I can understand, to some degree, why — because it hurts; and when things hurt, we want to find out why. We want to make sense of the pain. And when things seem chaotic and wrong, we want to find order and justice. This is natural human impulse, but for some it takes a dark turn. Whereas most fans will accept the fact that we were simply outplayed and out-coached, others need to reinvent it, so we were somehow cheated, rather than defeated.
This is the premise of “LesGate,” with its villians, Jefferson and Miles, it’s unavenged hero, Jarret Lee, and the shadowy insiders who tell of rivals factions in the locker room. It explains everything; gift-wraps it into a nice little package with a bow on it.
Because who wants to believe, at least on this night, that Slick Nick was a better coach than Les?
Who wants to believe that Alabama played with more heart and more fire than our boys in front of our hometown fans?
And who doesn’t want to believe that somehow, some way, if only he saw the light of day, that Jarrett Lee couldn’t have found a way to lead us home?
The problem is, just because you believe it doesn’t make it true.
Yet, that’s why theories like this gain credence, because some people would rather a convenient little story that explains everything rather than admitting that maybe we just weren’t good enough. A little story that says no matter what, we never really had a chance to begin with. The fix was in. We were done dirty. Then it becomes easy to find the authors of this villainy, and call for their heads. It becomes a game of “if only” and “what if.”
The problem with “what-ifs” is that they never were; and problem with neat little stories that explain everything is that they are called fairy tales, and are only meant for children.
Because for the rest of us, life is a sometimes messy, senseless event that can seem cruel and unfair.
Sometimes the bad guys win.
Sometimes the redemption you are looking for never comes.
Sometimes the hometown kid doesn’t make good: the prodigal son unreformed.
Sometimes the there is no closure.
And sometimes — in fact, almost always — the truth hurts: that you just aren’t good enough. For some, the implications of this are too much to bear. For those that validate their existence through the actions of 18-22 year olds on a football field, it is far too much to bear, and they lash out like children with their wild conjectures, avoiding the truth at all costs.
Yet the truth still perseveres, and in this case, the truth is, on January 9th, Alabama was a better team from start to finish, top to bottom. This is the only story that matters.