Dec 10, 2012, 6:44 PM EDT
I haven’t had many opportunities to deal with disappointment lately. In a perfect season, that tends to be the case. Since the USC game (and the realization that we would be going to the National Championship Game), campus has been flying high on success. Not only did the football team lead us to a 12-0 season, but they also led us in rushing the court after the men’s basketball team beat Kentucky. In this small, exuberant bubble of existence, it sometimes seems like there will be no end to our happiness.
But then this week delivered two swift, back-to-back kicks of reality, as if to remind us that we can still encounter pain, and it still hurts.
The first came Thursday night. Unexpectedly, we all received emails.
“BCS Student Ticket Lottery Results.”
I heard screaming in the halls of my dorm. My phone buzzed with text messages of friends who had already managed to check this email. I frantically read the instructions and followed the link. And there, under my name and the heading “Won/Lost”—Lose.
I haven’t had to deal with an “L” in football since last December’s bowl game loss, and now, suddenly, here one is. It’s a big one. It means I won’t be sitting in the student section (my student section) watching Notre Dame (my team) during the National Championship.
Sorry, kid. You lost the lottery. You can’t reapply. There’s not a loophole to check or a second round of tickets coming. You won’t be in the student section. That’s all there is to it.
Against my better judgment, I checked Facebook and Twitter. My newsfeed was dominated by statuses in both directions. People ranted and raved about their own loss, but others were posting screenshots of their positive results. A junior won. A girl in one of my classes won. My little brother—a sophomore—won. Freshmen in my hallway were screaming that they had won.
And I couldn’t help it—my mind involuntarily started to come up with reasons why I deserved this more than they did. Heartbroken and sick with jealousy, all I could think of was how unfair this was. How cheated I was. I thought of every moment of worry and thought that I had devoted to this season—my SENIOR season.
Surely, I love Notre Dame more than this person. Surely, I’ve suffered for it more than that person. Sure, I’ve invested more. I’ve done more. I want it more.
It’s a dangerous game, trying to measure how much you deserve something that is ultimately delivered or denied by the hand of fate.
Two days later and hundreds of miles away, another Notre Dame senior waited to hear results that carried a lot of weight. Manti Te’o sat next to Johnny Manziel. He was completely wreathed in leis. Ticket drama forgotten for the moment, all of campus watched and held its collective breath. The woman at the podium went on and on with agonizing slowness that recalled our impatience at navigating the ticket result email.
And the Heisman goes to…Johnny Manziel.
Again, Twitter exploded. Again, people started ranting about injustice. And my mind went to the thoughts I had when I realized I wasn’t getting a ticket and how much greater a disappointment that Manti was enduring in front of the world.
He deserved this. He had suffered more, done more, worked more, been through more, accomplished more! And his unfairness did not come by the luck of the draw, but by the choice of others. Why was he not rewarded?
Manti deserved the Heisman more than I deserved a ticket. But in the moments after the announcement, he tweeted, “There is no place like home!! #ND.”
Oh, man. Humility. It’s what Manti has talked about all year. The leader of our football team once again proved to be a leader of our student body. He showed us perspective and grace in the face of disappointment. I forgot, in my self-righteous indignation, that I go to Notre Dame and we’re playing for the National Championship. I forgot how infinitely blessed I already am—how I’ve already been given so much more than I could have ever possibly deserved.
So I will be in Miami. I will be with all the people that being a part of Notre Dame has given me—all these people I love. And I will be able to celebrate this miracle of a season with them. And if that’s not in the stadium, my heart will still be there. My team will still be there. And that’s more than I could have ever dreamed, let alone deserved.
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