Sunday, September 21, 2008

What did you expect?

Expectations are funny things. Rarely are they met or realized. However, without them, we have little or no motivation to strive for more, no hope of a better day. The real trick is to set them just high enough that your situation improves, but not so high that you are left disappointed.

We hold expectations for many different things. Family and friends are expected to come through for you in times of need. You have high expectations for your sports teams to win a championship. we hold high expectations for ourselves in our professional lives.

Expectations are not always high. Sometimes we expect the worst of others. Past transgressions make us feel as though we can expect very little from family members or acquaintances. Luckily, when these expectations are not met, we are pleasantly surprised.

It's hard to escape our own expectations.

Sometimes, we have to adjust our expectations in orde
r to react to changing contexts. An expectation that seemed plausible weeks ago may have to be adjusted to something more realistic.

I had certain expectations entering this college football season. (You thought I was going to write about something more important?) Ohio State exceeded expectations last year to make it to the BCS championship game, only to lose for a second-straight year to an SEC team. With so many returning stars, it seemed realistic for the Buckeyes to make it back to the championship once again. The third time would have been the charm.

Then, last week happened. USC proved to be a superior team in trouncing my Buckeyes and their national championship hopes. My expectations had to be adjusted.

This past weekend, I was talking football with a Mizzou fan. I was making a point that MU fans were jumping the gun and expecting a national title shot this season. Howeve
r, the fan corrected me and said that the real goal was to win the Big 12. A national title would be a dream come true, but not a realistic expectation.

I remember those days. I remember when I hoped for a Big Ten championship for Ohio State...and a win over Michigan. That used to be all that mattered. The last mythical national championship had been in the late sixties. Of course, OSU had se
veral chances to win national titles since then, but the conference crown was always the focus.

Then, 2002-03 happened. Ohio State had an improbable undefeated season and beat a team defending a national title of their own and sporting a 34-game win streak. Every year since has been seen as a possible national championship year. All perspective has been lost. A conference championship was no longer good enough.

Talking to my Mizzou friend, I realized that sometimes expectations should high, but tempered with realism at the same time. It is way more difficult to better than 118 teams than it is to better than 10. Not every team can go undefeated. In some seasons, no one goes undefeated. (Check last year.) Mizzou has never been in the hunt for a national champ
ionship and there are many capable teams in their way, but a second-straight Big 12 North title is a realistic expectation for such an experienced team. If the Tigers accomplish that feat, a Big 12 title is only one game away. Even a shot at the national championship would be icing on the cake.

So, I have to adjust my expectations. Ohio State is still the front-runner for a third consecuative, outright Big Ten title. They very possibly could make a fourth straight (eighth out of the last eleven) BCS bowl bid. In the last three years, the only teams
to beat the Buckeyes all earned BCS bowl slots, three of those four eventually won the national championship. USC might be their only loss this season. The Buckeyes have had a ton of success over the past several years. This season, even with last week's loss, should be successful as well.

There are other areas in my life where expectations can be altered. Just because Stephen Malkmus put out a sub-par album this year doesn't mean that his show in November will suck. The same goes for Broken Social Scene. I want Barack Obama to be this incredible candidate of real, fundamental change, but politics won't allow that. I expect that Como will suddenly become metropolitan, but, alas, it is not meant to be. I will have to make due.

More importantly, with Lucia here, I have to keep my expectations realistic, obtainable, but still hopeful. I want her to have a happy and healthy life. Anything else is extra.

So, here's to adjusting expectations. Set them high, but leave some room for pleasant surprises. Also, don't expect the worst. Things can't be that bad.


Collin said...

At some schools (cough cough Syracuse), expecting to be better than 10 teams would represent a positive step. Ugh.

scotty said...

I've always wanted to write a self-help book, and/or start a cult, based on the idea of "success through lowering or eliminating expectations".

Case in point: Mizzou just had a disappointing record-setting 42-21 victory to go 4-0.

Just marvel at that sentence! Long-time cellar-dwelling Mizzou can now be disappointed by a victory in which their Heisman-favorite QB completes 20 consecutive passes!

...oh well. At least we can be thankful we're not Ohio State, right?

comoprozac said...

...or Indiana.