“I love winning – it’s like, you know, better than losing,” says pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh in the baseball film, Bull Durham.
Truer words have never been spoken; winning is definitely better than losing. But the blessing of winning is also a curse. You see, wins are like crisp $100 bills – the more you have, the more you want. Coach Chris Thomsen has been a winner ever since he became head football coach in 2005. Including this season, he has an impressive overall record of 41-15 – and six of those losses came in his first season. Thomsen led his team to the playoffs in only his second year as coach and has not missed the playoffs since. Consider the bar raised.
Which brings us to this year. Because of previous success, there is now an expectation of winning. To ACU sports fans, playoffs seem like a birthright for the Wildcat football team. ACU is fourth in the region, good enough for a playoff spot, but losing three out of four games to finish the regular season would also finish the ‘Cats playoff hopes. So the Wildcats find themselves in a must-win road game tomorrow against a good Midwestern State team.
To most teams, going 8-3 and barely missing the playoffs would be considered a successful season. Look no further than teams like East Central or Southwest Oklahoma, both of which would love to be in the Wildcats’ position. Look at West Texas A&M, a team that struggled earlier in the year without star running back Keithon Flemming, and you begin to understand how difficult winning really is in the competitive Lone Star Conference. Lose tomorrow, though, and none of that matters. Disappointment would be evident on the faces of Thomsen, the Wildcat players and the fans. For fans, being good is simply not good enough. This is the curse of winning.
But have faith, Wildcat fans. This ACU team is a good one. They are coming off an impressive win against Texas A&M-Kingsville and boast a defense not intimidated by anyone. The offense – though young – has proven it has the ability to be explosive, as long as it avoids shooting itself in the foot. And even though Midwestern will be playing for a playoff berth also, you have to think Thomsen will have his guys ready to play Saturday.
I’ll be working the game on Saturday, and professionalism dictates I shouldn’t cheer one way or the other – you know, the whole objective reporter thing. But I’ll admit my bias, and I’ll admit winning is a drug, and I expect my fix tomorrow. And I hope like-minded ACU fans will make the trip to Wichita Falls and cheer on seniors like Tony Harp and Tony Washington, who will be playing to extend their ACU football careers at least one more game. I hope a sea of purple will descend upon Memorial Stadium and wave after wave of cheers will crash down on the Mustangs. And I hope the Wildcats win, because, it’s like, you know, better than losing.