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COPE-A-RAMA: DEALING WITH FOOTBALL-INDUCED TRAUMA

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How we're dealing with the Gators' troubled season thus far, listed by coping methodologies and techniques:

1. SELF-AGGRANDIZING MARTYRDOM/HATERADE: COCKTAILS OF MESSAGE BOARD COPING.

Everyone needs a strategy eventually. EDSBS is there.

a. The St. Fandrew Routine. When the going gets tough, most people turn into Moms or Dads: that is to say, they either opt to become martyrs of the first degree, or flake out, blame anything breathing besides themselves, and take to smelling of gin at an increasingly earlier hour of the day.

The St. Fandrew type will take to message boards proclaiming their own blind faith in their coach as evidence of their superior virtue and character, indirectly accusing everyone who disagrees with them of the things they boast of being. For example:

"REPLY TO POST 115: UM3 IZZ A GAYTARD.

As a Gator fan who remembers the days of Galen Hall, I only wish I could say this is the worst I've seen things. I believe in what Coach Meyer is doing, and have patience and faith in what he is doing. Some people just have no patience for the hard work it takes to achieve excellence. Some people have no discipline. As a marathon runner, Navy SEAL, and doctoral candidate in Physics, I recognize the foundations being laid here, especially after faithfully rooting the Gators through the Ron Zook era. Some people also have teeny-weeny penises that don't block out the sun when unleashed from their expensive tailored pants. Go Gators! Support Coach Meyer!"

The holier-than-thou act can wear thin, but does provide a good forum for making unverifiable proclamations about yourself on the internet ( "As someone who's slept with Beyonce Knowles, I know what excellence truly is.")

b. The Master Shake Act. The center of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force World is Master Shake, whose name here will describe a certain kind of fan reaction in times of crisis. The Wikipedia entry says it all:

Master Shake (voiced by Dana Snyder) is a rude, mean-spirited, and self-centered white cup with a pink straw sticking out of his lid..."Master" Shake (usually refered to simply as, Shake) routinely makes irresponsible decisions, the results of which are frequently disastrous. Incredibly selfish and callous, he is completely unconcerned with anyone's well-being except his own; he seems oblivious to any suffering his behavior causes others, yet he will become violently petulant the moment he feels he has been wronged in the slightest. He appears to be utterly incapable of learning anything from even the most catastrophic consequences of his actions.

The Sports Sociopath scheme gone online, the Master Shake act is the flip side of the St. Fandrew Act. Message board monsters, they clog space with entries like "WHY NOT HOEPPNER 4 US," "SHAME," "WE R THE SUXORS," and more succinctly, "FAILURE." The question for the Master Shake fan is not WHO is to blame, but how to fire the coach, the staff, the groundskeeper, revoke scholarships from all enrolled players, slaughter the existing mascot, burn the stadium to the foundations, sow salt on the ground, and build an entirely new program from foundations on up. Frighteningly, they will suffer physical symptoms of the loss, including sleep deprivation, lowered productivity at work, and the mainstay of the Master Shake fan, heavy drinking.

The Master Shake fan: A Platonic Ideal of irresponsible fandom.

The Master Shake fan is, like their namesake, both destructive and funny simultaneously. A single loss sends them running for the gallows; a string of victories and the gloating is sometimes audible from space. The coping mechanism during a tough season allows for great creativity while amusing message board readers; the downside comes when things improve, where the Master Shake fan either disappears for long stretches of time or simply reverts to gloat mode. Evidence, as a rule, glides from the thick, oily membranes of their skull like water off a duck's back. Avoid introducing it into arguments.

NOTE: Curiously, the two types both ignore and feed off each other. The St. Fandrew guy will feed off of Master Shake's negativity, while the Master Shake fans of this world will become incensed at the martyr types' snide pleas for patience. This cycle continues unabated since neither actually wants to observe the game, but rather argue endlessly over it.

2. PATIENT, CAREFUL, ANALYTICAL FANDOM

A theoretical concept with no observed practical examples. Forget we typed that and skip down to...

3. VIOLENCE

Who said violence never cured anything? Certainly not the proud people of Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, or any other of the world's top vacation spots. Real warriors know that sometimes hitting things makes you feel better, and sometimes it lands you in the county pen next to a check forger who won't shut up about his wife's Tahitian Noni Juice business. To avoid this, we have our own strategies borrowed from some of history's best copers.

Techniques:

a. The Andy Van Slyke Manuever. Borrowed from a quote the garrulous Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder made following the Pirates umpteenth playoff collapse about how he deals with defeat. Go to your local lake or river. Fish until something bites. Pull the fish off the hook, punch it in the head a few times, and then turn it loose. According to Van Slyke, you'll feel much better after the whole affair.

b. The Road House Bar Fight, Home Edition. We're suggesting this one should be employed carefully, since a bar during an actual bar fight turns into a poltergeist of hard, sharp and blunt objects, none of which do anyone any good in the looks department should they make contact with your tender face. Plus you never know whether "Johnny Concealed Weapons Permit" is in the crowd just waiting to exercise his Second Amendment rights on your leg or worse.

Pain do hurt, Dalton.

Staging one with your friends in your apartment is a better idea. Clear a room, find some Target or Wal-Mart furniture at discount, being sure to pre-weaken legs and midlines of the tables and chairs. (Contrary to what you might think, tables or chairs that make contact with people usually don't break before human bones do.) Strap on boxing gloves, too, since there's a reason bare-knuckle boxing left the popular consciousness with syphilis and guys singing through megaphones: death by blunt force. Toss sawdust on the floor and play some Merle Haggard or Keith Whitley for verisimilitude's sake, and let the brawling begin. Not recommended for apartment cube-dwellers living in spaces bordered by paper-thin drywall.

Bonus points awarded for doing it with Swayzeriffic mullet and uttering "Pain don't hurt" in mid-fight.

c. Couch Burning. The lab in Morgantown, West Virginia's been working on this one for years. Seems to work for Mountaineer fans, provided it's combined with liberal applications of Jack Daniels and tossing of urine bags at opposing fans.