EDITOR’S NOTE: Instead of JUST a Yule Log this year, we’re going to republish a story of ours that appeared at the top of the Philadelphia Daily News Op-Ed page on Sept. 25, 2003. We wish all of our readers (even the haters) a very Merry Christmas and a lot of Temple wins in 2023 but, more importantly, good health.
By MIKE GIBSON
I’M A TEMPLE football fan – and I’m going straight to heaven when I die. All Temple football fans will.
I say that because we are doing our time in hell right now.
“Temple football fan?” St. Peter will ask. “Go right ahead. You’ve suffered enough.”
Suffered through a dozen straight losing seasons, where many of us had just been beaten down too much and just gave up.
Hope is all I have.
Hope . . . and suffering.
Suffering from being a fan of a school that’s the only one in history to be booted out of a major conference.
Suffering through the agony of not knowing until Aug. 13 where – or if – we would have a home field for a season that started on the road later that month.
Suffering, too, when newspaper estimates noted up to 10,000 fans turned away because of Temple’s poor ticket service at the first game at Lincoln Financial Field. (Lord knows, we need as many fans as we can get.)
But that suffering pales in comparison to what we go through watching what transpires on the field.
Take the last two games, for instance . . .
In the 106-year history of Temple football, there have been only two overtime games – the last two.
Two excruciatingly painful overtime losses, the first to a city neighbor, Villanova, that plays its ball in Division IAA, a full classification lower than Temple’s. Temple blew a chance to win in overtime when it had two consecutive false starts and then lost in double overtime.
If that weren’t bad enough, we Temple fans had to deal with that sour taste in our mouths waiting two full weeks for the next game.
That game, on Saturday at unbeaten 13-point favorite Cincinnati, finally came. So, Temple’s kicker missed field goals from 37 and 24 yards. Temple, with a 24-10 fourth quarter lead, threw a bomb on 2nd and 2. Incomplete, of course. The Owls also threw three passes when they had a first-and-goal on the Cincinnati 2.
INCOMPLETE, of course. Lost in three overtimes.
No one fully understands the searing, deep-in-the-stomach, pain that causes – other than a long-suffering Temple fan.
I should know. I’m the football fan a certain weekend sports talk-show host is referring to when he says, “My friend, Mike, the Temple football fan, says . . .”
My “friend” the talk-show host uses the word “the” for a reason. It’s his friendly dig at Temple fans, calling me the only one.
But I’m not.
More than 30,000 came out for the first Temple game at the Linc. And, judging from the cheering, more than three-quarters were pulling for the Owls.
Many of us remember the halcyon days in the ’70s of Wayne Hardin – the coach who went 80-52-3. And many of us have been waiting for a similar savior to come along to return us to the Promised Land. But while we remember, most others have forgotten.
Our suffering goes beyond the field to vague areas like perception, outdated stereotypes and beliefs.
With each loss and the thousands of ways we seem to find a way to lose, the suffering becomes more intense.
So excuse us when we bypass you in that long line at the Pearly Gates.
This story first appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Sept. 25, 2003.