Mediocrity, in the classical, etymological sense, is something to aspire to. Mediocritas in high classical Latin was something to achieve, never too far to this or that side, never too happy nor too angry, just here and fine. Existing. It’s fine, y’all.
Mediocrity is antithetical to something like college football, because college football is a howling, foaming, rabid animal that will tear you to shreds the instant you look away. These are 18-22 year old kids tasked with undertaking one of the most difficult team sports in the world and being told to SUCCEED and WIN and EARN PRIDE. That’s a lot of pressure for a young person, who only wants to make it through today and tomorrow. Chaos will break out, notwithstanding the arbitrary governing structure of this stupid sport’s bureaucrats.
Just here, just now. Let’s talk bluegrass, one of my favorite flavors of deep southern Americana outside of Outkast, J. Roddy Walston, Kendrick Lamar, Jason Isbell, Migos, and Justin Townes Earl. Let’s talk about the Ones to Blame, from Gainesville, Fla.
The Ones to Blame are a “chick band” in every sense of the phrase, and they’ll be the first to tell you that. But they’re also straight down the well American blue grass, yet slightly updated. They employ the electric bass, for instance, in lieu of the classical stand-up edition. In place of the banjo, Sue plays the mandolin.
But their subject matter stands strictly in lockstep with classical American bluegrass themes. Violence, men, women, alcohol, and country fairs all feature prominently. That song up there, “Hope,” sits deep inside my soul for its darkness and bleakness and rainbow of harmonizing.
Don’t offer me your hand
Don’t spend your time with me
And don’t give me no encouragement
Because hope just makes me wait
I’m a simple woman,
with most things I can cope
And I can stand to sink or swim
But I’m afraid to float
This second stanza really puts it on me. I hope it does to you, too. The last year or so has taught me that floating is sometimes the best and only option. The middle road can feel comfortable. I took over an Ole Miss sports blog then started teaching six hours a day and I was getting emails from league managers wondering where the damn content was. I’m sinking, and all I need to do is float, or swim.
I was dumped from a three-year relationship back in January. On the day the Falcons won the NFC championship, as luck would have it. I was dumped and we were living together and my psyche progressively deteriorated over the course of the next two months until I became a howling, screaming mess and couldn’t look myself in the mirror for fear of actually seeing and knowing what I’d become. I was sunk. I was on the bottom of the ocean and all I wanted was to float. I moved out in March.
We’re getting there, I promise.
Some women can’t take lying
And some can’t be alone
But that shiny hope’s an evil thing
That makes me cry and moan
The difficulty in this song, for me, is how back and forth I am on it. I love it always, but there are, were, moments in my life when I wholly endorsed what TOTB were saying to me. They’re all beautiful, special, talented women who’ve read more books and played more shows than I could ever fathom, and I love them unconditionally. I had an intense crush on Jackie for the better part of two years.
Anyway, here, today, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, I don’t know how much I can agree that hope’s an evil thing. It’s been a slow progression this year to come to this realization, but I think I’ve finally arrived at something like peace with the notion that hope ain’t an evil thing. Hope sits at the heart of Pascal’s wager, and that’s why hope is the lone thing to remain in Pandora’s box. Amidst the chaos of work, life, breakups, college football, and mass shootings, we can at least come back to hope. Hope that there’s something better on the other side, something better tomorrow.
Hope gets you out of bed in the morning.
Matt Luke has instilled this team with a sense of hope. With 2:14 left in the game against Kentucky, Jordan Ta’amu, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and company marched right down Kentucky’s throat to score a game-winning touchdown. They had and still have hope. Do you? I think I do.