"It is never too late to be what you might have been."
This game that we love and follow will hurt us eventually each and every season; that much is a given. Why we hurt is another story altogether: many times it boils down to having become emotionally invested in the fortunes of a certain team or player. For those who follow this site our investment runs much deeper than school colors or highlight reels on sportz networks. Hearts are broken, tears are shed and curses are uttered at the end of the season, but eventually we get over the pain and we come back every fall with arms wide open. As fans we get as many opportunities as our mind and bodies will allow us to experience the agony and ecstasy involved in following Our Game.
For those who coach or play on those teams that we follow, however, the chances afforded to them are limited. Coaches are only given opportunities so long as they can bring success to whoever their current employer may be; players usually get four seasons at most to leave their marks on history at their respective schools. I have to imagine that the pain they feel when their seasons come to an end is something that the average fan cannot comprehend. Every chance at success that slips through their fingers brings them closer to an end that is not easy to confront, endings which will always bring about more questions than answers.
What might have happened last March had Long Beach State's and San Diego State's seasons had gone further? What if the 49ers had won the Big West Tournament? Would they have made a deep run in the NCAA Tournament? Even though the Aztecs had their most successful season in school history what would have happened had they won this game? Where would their road have ended? Maybe this doesn't happen and we would be living in a world where it doesn't always have to end in a loss. The only things we know for sure are that the Aztecs finished a strong 34-3 season in the Sweet 16 and that the 49ers were once again relegated to the ghost brackets of the NIT after a 22-12 campaign. For those involved in last season's heartbreak on both benches today's game was another opportunity to put the past behind them and continue building towards hopefully something bigger and better.
The only questions that will be asked after this game will be from the Long Beach State end of things, namely what they could have done better down the stretch to escape Viejas Arena with a Red Line Upset in overtime. Luckily for them and for the Aztecs there will be more games coming soon, more chances to improve and more opportunities to show the world that the best is yet to come.