Thoughts hurt. But he sat on, thinking. Thinking of what he had just done. And of what he now must do.
What he now must do is track down and root up at least four more victories. Four more victories, or the big blonde bear's Wildcats will not become bowl-eligible. He has seven games in which to achieve this. This won't be easy, he must have thought, sitting there.
South Carolina this Thursday, then, becomes a must-win. Not only because three of those final, precious seven games will be perilously difficult-coming against teams ranked 7th, 8th, and 11th nationally. But also because UK, since it began playing South Carolina annually in 1992, has not gone to any of its three bowls (1993, '98, '99), without beating the Gamecocks in those same seasons. Two of those victories ('93, '99) were road wins.
Ironically, the same can be said about USC. Since 1992, it has gone bowling three times ('94, '00, '01), each time after beating UK earlier that season. Two of those victories ('94, '00) were road wins.
So this game then serves as somewhat of a fulcrum for Carolina and Kentucky - serves to show which program will be on the up side of the 2003 seesaw.
The big blonde bear probably didn't ponder all of these historical coincidences as he sat.
However, he might have considered this: He is a lifetime 0-3 against South Carolina.
Further, the big blonde bear's teams, over the past three seasons, have somehow scored fewer points (35) against the Gamecocks than against any other opponent UK has faced in each of those seasons. (And that total's 20 fewer than against the second-stingiest squads - LSU and Tennessee - over that same period.)
But this Thursday, when the big blonde bear squares off against the Gamecocks, expect something different. Expect him to roar and claw and gnash Gamecock flesh between his teeth. Expect continued all-around improvement from him, and from his team. Expect victory. Victory as vindication, for the past three seasons. Victory as vindication for the previous game.
Oh, that gameif only I could get that one back, the big blonde bear must have sat there and thought.
And his thoughts must have crucified him. After all, he had wanted the Gators game at all costs. In fact, he had said, prior to that contest, that if he could just beat Florida, he would not care if he lost the rest of his games.
And that is why he sat there. Sat there. And sat. Because he had meant what he said.
And because winning - and losing - is that important to him. That's why he's so important to his team.
That's why he's so important to you. And that's why you, too, just sat there. Sat across the field from the big blonde bear for you-don't-know-how-long and watched him sitting there, still, alone, until long after the game was over. Until the shadows grew long across the grass.
You feel his pain.
But you know that you don't dare get too close to bears, especially beleaguered ones.
Yet you still wanted to walk over to the big blonde bear and give him a hug. But a hug was not in the least what he wanted. What he wanted was a big win. And he knows you couldn't give that to him.
And he knows he could've given that to you.