' ' Cinema Romantico: A Digression: God Bless Eric Hagg

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Digression: God Bless Eric Hagg

Football players, particularly quarterbacks, will speak of a moment that arrives when the game seems to slow down, when it seems to be unfolding in slow motion, and they just get it. Most football fans who never actually played the game and do not comprehend its most intricate X's and O's but are over-zealous and uber-passionate about it, anyway, do not reach this form of enlightenment. But there are moments when the game slows down for us, too. They are rare but they do happen, and they are never forgotten.

The first time: my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers (my fandom has officially stretched for a quarter century this year!) were dueling Oklahoma the day after Thanksgiving 1991 in an endless storm of sleet. A Big 8 Title (yes, kids, the Big 8 really did exist!) was on the line. A trip to the Orange Bowl was on the line. It was deep in the 4th quarter. Oklahoma was up 14-13. Nebraska was on the very cusp of field goal range and facing a 4th down and 1. Their field goal kicker wasn't that good, believe me, and, besides, as mentioned, it was sleeting. They went for it. Quarterback Keithen McCant took the snap from center, turned and gave the ball to freshman running back Calvin Jones. Now this all actually happened in, like, what? Four seconds? But as I watched it unfold, I swear to God - I swear to God - the game slowed down in a way it never did before and it never has since. It felt like hours. Hours and hours and hours. Life is so rarely black and white. Life is so often gray areas, bitter and oh so murky. But not then. At that moment it was gloriously clear. Either Calvin Jones got a yard or he didn't. Either Nebraska would win the Big 8 Title or they wouldn't. Either Nebraska was going to the Orange Bowl or they weren't. Plain. Simple. Finite. And I saw it in slow motion. Believe or don't, but I did. And Calvin Jones got 4 yards. Then he scored the next play. Nebraska - 19 Oklahoma - 14. To this day it remains one of my All Time Top 5 Favorite Nebraska Games. And even though earlier in the year Calvin Jones had gone off for 294 yards (the single game record one Roy Helu Jr. just broke last week) and 6 touchdowns that 4 yard fourth down carry is what I remember most and what made him immortal.

This past Saturday at the Bird's Nest bar on Southport in Chicago, a Nebraska game went into slow motion again. All afternoon they had battled the spunky, impassioned Iowa State Cyclones in Ames (Not Quite The Key To Good Living), Iowa. It had gone to overtime. Nebraska had scored on their first possession, staking themselves a 31-24 lead. But Iowa State, nobly, answered, bringing it to within 31-30 and meaning an extra point would send it to a second overtime. But as Iowa State lined up for the extra point something else happened - that is, the Iowa State "holder" took the ball, leapt to his feet, spun, rolled out, and looked to the end zone. Christ In Heaven, he was gonna throw. And the game went into slow motion. I swear to God. I swear to God. Once again that fogginess of real life faded away and everything went black and white. Either he completes the pass and they win or he doesn't complete the pass and we win. That's it. Plain. Simple. Finite. I don't even think I was freaking out as it happened because I felt it unfolding it so, so, so slowly and as it unfolded so, so, so slowly I saw the Iowa State receiver drift to the end zone and I saw Eric Hagg, The Peoria (AZ) Pterodactyl, make his move, cut in front of the Iowa State receiver and make an interception so divine it momentarily felt as if the roof to the Bird's Nest was removed and a light, sparkling rain was cleansing all of us in red screaming our freaking heads off. Nebraska - 31 Iowa State - 30. I am so thankful my friend Dave showed up for the second half because otherwise I would have hugged a complete stranger in that moment because someone, god damn it, was getting hugged.

Eric Hagg is a standout football player. Truly. Plus, he often sports some mighty exquisite hair. He made the interception earlier this season against Washington at the start that ignited the Slaughter In Seattle. In the glorious Gator Bowl triumph of January 1, 2009 he made two plays on the end-game stand against Clemson, back to back, a batted ball preventing a touchdown toss and a colossal sack, that essentially swung it. He is so good the Nebraska coaches literally invented a position just for him (The Peso) to ensure he was on the field as often as possible. But........should what every Nebraska player, coach and fan is dreaming possible this wondrous morning (knock on wood) actually come true then the interception Eric Hagg made in the end zone in Ames, Iowa at approximately 6 PM Saturday November 6, 2010 will earn him something else.



My Other Brother Daryl said...

Ah, yes. That old sports story chiche of the much higher-rated team from a long-time football powerhouse who manage, in overtime, to defeat the plucky team of misfits who have no business being in a competitive game with them. At the home stadium of the plucky gang of misfits. And as the home crowd weeps and the plucky gang of misfits realize that, no, they cannot accomplish whatever they set their minds to, order is restored in the world. This movie is going to kill at the Supervillain International Film Festival.

Nick Prigge said...

Hey, man, Iowa State beat Texas. We couldn't beat Texas. It wasn't exactly David & Goliath.

Also, I was trying to be classy in the post, but to every single Iowa State fan: That interception was for every one of those 8 turnovers last year. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

Behounek said...

Never saw that pic of him before... your right,that is some pretty sweet hair.