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The life lesson of Colorado football

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Nonstop failure has a way of dampening the spirits of those invested, but success may finally prevail as the Buffs look to turn the corner.

A dropped ball in the end zone of a one-possession loss. Perfect.
A dropped ball in the end zone of a one-possession loss. Perfect.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since I was a wee little boy, I have loved the Colorado Buffaloes. My parents would dress my siblings and me -- all five of us -- in black and gold even though, apart from living in Boulder, none of us had much reason to bask us in Colorado fandom. But devoted we were.

The first game I ever attended was with my mom and brother on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the annual day the divine heroes in black would attempt to vanquish the Devil incarnate. The red-clad foes won that battle, by a score of 30-3. I learned two things that day: never boo your home team, and don't be surprised when the Buffs lose in a landslide.

In the decade since, I have attended countless football games, but only twice have I seen them win. The first victory was their 2007 stomping of Miami (OH). The second was their beatdown on the hapless Nicholls Colonels this past season. As for the losses, I didn't go to see them lose 45-2 to Oregon every time. I went to non-conference games that were supposedly guaranteed wins, only to see them lose to Sacramento State and the like. I went to conference games that were the Buffs' best chance to finally get that Pac-12 win, only to see them collapse at the hands (and feet) of Marquess Wilson and Washington State. The games I did not attend, I watched on television, which were almost all losses. As I matured, the losses became more expected and less agonizing.

Up until the last few years, I loved football. I loved everything about it, including and especially the violence (I have since been enlightened). I caught every game I could find, and found, reason to cheer for anyone I so desired. I could shamelessly root for Dennis Dixon to juke death itself because, well, my mom is from Oregon so I can root for Oregon teams. I could shamelessly don a Tony Romo jersey because my dad used to live in the Dallas area and had season tickets during the Tony Dorsett era of futility, so I claimed transitive rooting rights. I needed alternate fandom because I knew the Buffaloes (and the Broncos, to a lesser extent) were doomed to disappoint. I needed to root for football teams that I was sure were at least capable of winning.

When you're a kid, winning is everything. You're taught that you will succeed if you do things the right way. You're taught that you will win if you work harder than anyone else. These soon materialize when you earn an A+ in your math class because you did all of your division homework and studied for the big test. You learn the sweet taste of victory when you score the game-winning basket after you spent the weekend practicing your jump shot in your driveway. Success does not elude those who strive for greatness. So I thought.

* * *

Over the years, the Colorado Buffs taught me that failure disguises itself as hope so as to lure you into a false sense of relief and security before attacking you when you've finally dropped your defense (pun not intended, but noticed and left in). It doesn't matter how promising your team's freshman quarterback is, because when he's finally poised to break out as an upperclassman, he will break his foot with career-threatening severity. Then the transfer quarterback who looks like he'll lead your team to bowl relevance shows his flighty underbelly and leaves your team for a conference rival.

It doesn't matter if you were accepted into the school of your dreams, because just as you're falling in love with the student-friendly academics and getting recognized as a Hornbeck scholar straight-A student, your mom will lose her job and you'll be unable to pay your tuition. Then you have to leave school and get a minimum wage job until you can find a cheaper school to attend.

(These are hypothetical, of course.)

When you're a kid, no one teaches that success is the latent ability to avoid failing. Worse than that, no one teaches you that failure is inevitable, that if you have succeeded all your life, it's only a matter of time before you fuck up. But that does not mean everything is lost.

At the end of the day, you have to remember that failure is inescapable. After your hopes and dreams are dashed, you have to pick up the pieces and say, "Well that sucked," and you laugh it off because of course you were going to fail, of course things weren't going to be that easy. You have to look up, acknowledge your failure and hope that just as failure is inevitable, fortune will find you just the same.

As difficult as it is to love a failing team, the Buffaloes deserve every bit of it because they are resilient to failure despite having no reason to believe they will ever succeed. They are the idealized version of us all, snake bitten yet hopeful that life isn't just a cruel game after all.

Hey, maybe everything will go right for the Buffs and they escape perpetual ineptitude to enjoy an era of prosperity. Maybe they will teach us that failure prepares us for success in a roundabout way, inspiring us all to keep working for our own elusive victory formation.