Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Recovering Central Florida Football Hater.
There used to be a time that some guys with a mascot that freaked me out, along with a grumpy old man for a coach, came to my hometown then preceded to steal my soul. Today, I am finally finding a way to forgive and forget.
I hated George O'Leary for the longest time. To me, he was like a Grinch, who stole my Christmas, he was Alex Rodriguez, or any other villain you can begin to think about.
Louisville wasn't going to the National Championship that year; unless, you know, absolute carnage happened at the end of the season - which could never happen in this predictable sport of College Football.
None of that mattered, however. They were going undefeated for the first time in school history if they beat Central Florida. I knew that no other team remaining on the schedule would be able to beat them.That was enough to know this game had the potential to do irreparable damage to my heart.
The (Golden?) Knights were a team with a running back named ‘Storm' (definitely badass) and a quarterback named Blake Bortles. I had my doubts. These we're going to be the guys to come into Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium and steal my soul?
No, not a chance, Louisville had freaking Theodore Bridgewater, da god himself. I wrote em' off.
And then they freaking did it.
They came to Louisville, swords in hand, and stabbed me in the heart in the one year of my personal Purgatory in the American Athletic Conference.
Louisville dominated most of the game. They held a 28-7 lead, they were blocking punts, Teddy Bridgewater was finding star wideout Devante Parker time after time, and the defense was making Bortles look hapless. Everything was going according to plan. Everything was beautiful until it wasn't.
At some point late in the third quarter, Louisville forgot to football. UCF scored three touchdowns in just over five minutes, and the two teams would go to the fourth quarter all square. The fourth quarter seemed like a whirlwind of things I wish I could forget; it ended with Blake Bortles hitting Jeff Godfrey for a two-yard pass that gave the Golden Knights the final lead of the game.
At the time I wrote: "Louisville went from the BCS Bowl to the Russell Athletic Bowl in 23 seconds because it lost its head for five minutes." I wrote about everything that Charlie Strong had been building for the final year of Teddy Bridgewater, about the perfect storm that had been created; it suddenly had become meaningless. That wasn't exactly accurate, I mean Louisville did win a BCS Bowl the year before, but that just helped magnify the pain. You knew the potential. You knew what could have been.
Now, I'm over for it. The grudge against Central Florida has finally left the soul of Chris Hatfield.
The irony in all of this was simple: What I resented most about Central Florida was the fact that their notoriety was coming about just like Louisville's had several years ago. They played whoever would play them, wherever they would play them, and they we're taking advantage of every opportunity that was given to them. That's what Louisville did. That's exactly how Louisville was able to leverage position that put them in the ACC. That's exactly how they went from playing in a stadium that people used to light fires in, to going to two BCS Bowl games in a six-year span.
Unlike Louisville, something went majorly wrong with Central Florida. Maybe that's what allowed me, the cynic, to finally get over my grudge. After beating Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, the Knights have slowly tailed off. They went 9-4 the season following, certainly an excellent campaign, but have been terrible this season. Still without a win in nine games.
Maybe it was the 15-14 heart-breaker against Florida International; maybe it was the 40-13 drumming to Connecticut at home, I'm not exactly sure. At some point, I deemed that Central Florida football fans had been through enough damage, I could finally begin the process of forgiving. But I needed something else. A spark of sorts.
Then it happened.
George O'Leary was gone.
I have respect for George O'Leary for a few things. I have lost some of that respect for a few other things. Apparently he decided to resign, at least that's what I'm told. I can only think he did it because he wanted to give me a second chance with Central Florida football, an opportunity to love again.
Here's to watching the Knights fight for their first win of the season in their final three games.
If they are unable to win any, here's to them being entertaining. I think we have a good chance of seeing one of their players tackle it's own like their Florida brethren (never forget). At the very least, we can hopefully see some football players forgetting to football at critical junctions of the game. That would be fun.
The knife has been removed, the wound sealed, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. Go Knights.