Some of you might get the reference in the title, as it echoes out of my childhood.
Bill Clinton, from Hope, Arkansas, famously ended his acceptance speech for the 1992 Presidential Campaign by saying, “I still believe in a place called Hope.”
Former President Clinton played an outsized role in how I grew to love this country, and always continue to believe in it. I even read his 1000+ page autobiography. He not only believed in a place called Hope, he made me believe in a place called Hope.
And as I found myself stunned, watching Middle Tennessee score touchdown after touchdown, watching the preseason positivity disintegrate, I shook a little. How could this be happening again? This 20 year nightmare we appear to be watching on repeat, this endless cycle of never getting it right, of never seeming to have things go Miami’s way.
Even the most optimistic of fans must have had their faith tested.
Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be
This weekend, as Alabama flipped a switch to pull away from Arkansas, my sister-in-law commented on how it must be strange to go to a school that just expects to win every game.
That was Miami at one time.
And while no one expects to get back to that, it’s hard to believe that this was once THE program. The default Top 5 ranking, the expectation that they’d win every game, the shockwaves at any loss, the opponents storming the field if said loss happened on the road.
What we experienced against Middle Tennessee was radically different. Yes, it made national waves. The Canes, after all, were still ranked. And a ranked team getting dominated by Middle Tennessee at home is always going to make headlines.
Of course, the community has to own that loss. We took it on the chin. Everyone made fun of us, the coach had to stand in front of everyone and try to explain what happened. Explain the inexplicable.
Nope, none of that was any different from what it would have been 15-20 years ago. The difference, however, was in the word “again.”
FIU, Louisiana Tech….now Middle Tennessee. It happened…again.
I don’t think anyone expected to be the program that Miami was in the 80s and early 2000s, to essentially be Alabama. And we knew it would take time to build the program into perennial contenders for the playoffs and for ACC titles.
But this wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. All told, you could easily argue the 4 worst losses in program history were in the last 4 seasons (2019 to FIU, Louisiana Tech, and Georgia Tech and 2022 to Middle Tennessee).
Not only do the Canes appear to not be on the always promised but never delivered upward trajectory, but they appear to be sinking as time and distance separates them from past success.
The only thing left is to once again pull up youtube, find some old clips (in Standard Definition, of course), and reflect.
Reflect on the way life used to be. Reflect on the love they took from us. All alone with only memories.
Back in My Arms Again
The thing is this…as depressing as that gloomy day against Middle Tennessee was, this program is still bigger than any one game. And yes, bigger than any 2 decade drought.
I fully understand that we might be waiting forever to scale the mountain once more. That it might never happen, that we might be perpetually oscillating between unrequited dreams of success and the nightmares of reality.
I wish I had enjoyed the highs of yesteryear more. That is my one regret.
But give up? Why would we do that?
This dream can’t be allowed to die, however delusional it might appear in the context of the last 20 years.
Some things are too important, and extend beyond the playing field. South Florida without the Miami Hurricanes as an example for what the community can accomplish transforms a vibrant community into a rudderless ship.
While the program has appeared to drive aimlessly for 20 years, it still serves a purpose.
Monitoring social media during the 2nd half of that Middle Tennessee debacle was like watching an obituary being written in real time. Long suffering fans giving up on the program, going numb.
There is an element of that in us all. The thought of getting national champions back in our arms again but a distant dream, waiting to be satisfied.
That cliche is that it is always darkest before the dawn. But what if dawn never arrives?
In real life, the sun always rises. But in sports there is no guarantee.
Why is it that we can watch Nebraska fumble around and definitively, confidently state they will never be back and then look at ourselves and say eventually, we’ll ascend the mountaintop once more?
I’ll tell you why.
BECAUSE WE’RE MIAMI.
Miami still means something to me, to everyone. Whether it is obsessive “financial reporters” on twitter using any random news story to whine about Miami and NIL or national media waiting to pounce on the slightest transgression, Miami matters.
And it matters much more to South Florida.
So, as we reach the fork in the road. Do we accept what we’ve seen for the last 20 years as a permanency? Is this just Miami football now and forever?
Or, do we dare to dream? Dare to believe in the future? That a brighter Miami is always on the horizon. It’s a decision we all have to make. Do we risk pain for the potential payoff of joy, knowing that payoff may not arrive?
Miami has been too good to me and meant too much to me. I can’t extricate myself from this program and wouldn’t want to. I choose to believe.
I believe in the majesty of South Florida.
I believe that the tide can turn.
I believe that great things can be accomplished here.
I believe they can take it to North Carolina on Saturday, and many opponents out into the future.
I believe that eventually Miami will win big again.
I believe in Mario Cristobal
I believe in this U.
In the end, I know what I most believe.
I still believe in a place called Hope.