There was a two week break between UCF’s victory at Penn State and their game against South Carolina. It was two weeks of anticipation combined with a level of fear that UCF might be embarrassed. This game was the prime opportunity that upstart programs trying to prove themselves in college football ache for. A highly ranked team. Nationwide coast to coast TV coverage. Home field advantage. And an under the radar talent roster with the right tools to pull off the upset.
But the upset was not to be.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the soul crushing feeling of defeat. Sure, it’s “just a game.” But in college football it’s never really “just a game.” It means something. Something that at some level doesn’t carry over into professional sports. Your college team is a part of you. It’s a piece of you out on that field. And each weekend that piece of you wants to show that it’s better than everyone else. It shouldn’t be this way, but the reality is that it is.
We’ve lost games before. We’ve won games before. But I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to win as bad as I did against South Carolina. For the first time it seemed the national college sports press was ready to accept UCF as somewhat of a serious team. “This could be an upset game” was a theme that ran through several articles. It seemed that there was a level of acceptance that UCF had the talent needed to run with a big team, at least they do this season. And while on paper it wasn’t a game that UCF should win, it was a game that if certain variables played out they could win.
The variables didn’t play out that way. And a team with deeper talent and more experience walked away with the victory. That is the way the world usually works. UCF lost to a team that it could have beaten. But it didn’t lose to an inferior team, it very much lost to a superior team. And superior teams are able to adjust to the realities of a game in real time and take advantage of mistakes. That is something that comes with better coaching and better depth. And it was those two areas that no matter how tough UCF’s players could be, they would not be able to overcome. And it was those two areas that made the difference in the game.
I know most of you don’t care about this stuff. And it doesn’t really have a place on this blog. But college football is a part of me. And in a way, rooting for my team to get better and earn respect in the world of cynical college football does have some relation to the world of screenwriting. Talented teams in lesser conferences will never get the same respect that low level teams in power conferences do. Just like talented screenwriters have a hard time getting respect or attention if they don’t have solid representation or any representation.
When you know your talent is superior to what’s being sold and written, yet no matter what you do you can’t get into that next level… it’s frustrating. It makes you angry. It makes you sad. It leaves you emotionally drained. And that’s the same type of feeling that you get when your team loses in college football.
[NOTE: I’m referring generally in the above paragraph, and not about my writing specifically. I have no delusions that my writing is at the ‘pro-level’ yet.]
The difference is… there’s nothing substantial you can do to change what has happened or will happen to UCF in college football. No matter how much more passionate I get about my school, it won’t do anything to make them better or more respected. But with screenwriting, you can do something, you can make a difference.
You have the ability to work harder and change the outcome. And while you may still suffer the pangs of defeat when phone calls aren’t returned, rewrites go bad, script contests fall short, or managers and agents don’t show interest… you are still in control. You are the one directing the contest. You are the one in the trenches. You are the one who will relish the victories first hand.
In college football you are represented by a proxy or avatar every week. An institution and group of players that represents some piece of you, but at the same time isn’t you. In screenwriting there are no proxies or avatars, there is only you and your body of work.
There is no solace in that. There is no happy ending. There is just reality. But it is a reality that you control and directly effect. And I’ll take a reality where I am in control over a reality where I’m not any day.
You pick yourself up, you dust yourself off, and most importantly you keep writing.