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Of heroes and hubris

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Pride cometh before the fall, and other K-State stories

NCAA Football: Kansas State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Football

Kansas State lost to Texas 19-14 yesterday in Manhattan. The loss ended a 16-year home winning streak against the Longhorns.

As Jon Morse noted in his recap, it was a case of too little and too late: Texas Longhorns 19, Kansas State Wildcats 14.

The game—though disappointing—was also revealing. If the decision to start Alex Delton over Skylar Thompson was surprising, Bill Snyder’s comments after the game were downright baffling and suggest that an awkward and uncomfortable transfer of power may be on the cards for Kansas State in the near future.

Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide...

These are the opening lines of Homer’s Odyssey, the Greek epic that details the hero’s journey home both literally and metaphorically, and offers some instructive parallels to the situation we find ourselves in now.

Much like Odysseus, Bill Snyder is the unquestioned hero of Kansas State football’s Homeric journey from sheer futility to unexpected excellence, and just as Odysseus was lauded for being “a man of many wiles,” so Snyder has been praised for his offensive genius, his innovation, and even his unparalleled ability to do more with less. In short, he is exactly as Barry Switzer described, the “coach of the century.”

Odysseus, of course, is not perfect. Indeed, as Aristotle notes in Poetics, a great story must have a great hero, and the great hero must have a great flaw. In The Odyssey, that flaw is a stubborn pride—hubris—that makes it impossible for Odysseus to leave well enough alone. He taunts his enemies, sacrifices the lives of his crew, and as Friedrich Nietzsche put it, he is “unable to endure fame without any further contest.”

So it is with Snyder. While he isn’t exactly Odysseus raging at The Cyclops, his stubborn refusal to change his ways even in the face of evidence that he might be wrong is perhaps his greatest strength, but also in true Greek tragedy form, his greatest flaw. It’s not just this one instance of personnel mismanagement either. We’ve seen evidence of Snyder’s intransigence before, and nothing about the 2018 season suggests a change from the my-way-or-the-highway attitude he has adopted overall, but especially in this second tenure.

The Odyssey ends with Odysseus and his son Telemachus wreaking havoc on those around them and nearly being destroyed by the revenge-minded citizens of Ithaca who blame him for all their tragic losses. The situation is rectified only by a deus ex machina that forgives all and restores peace to his lands.

Unfortunately for Kansas State, plot devices invoking gods are in short supply in football. Instead, we have only the hope that cooler heads will prevail, that logic will require Snyder to set aside his own wishes and his once-new-but-now-ossified ideas of what will work in Manhattan, Kansas, that those with power and influence will recognize that the football program is not Snyder’s personal fiefdom.

Indeed, as Snyder himself once said:

Kansas State isn’t great because of any one person. In fact, it’s great because everyone here makes it that way.

Let’s hope he still remembers.

Cross Country

At the Rim Rock Collegiate Classic in Lawrence, the Wildcat women earned two Top 10 finishes for the third time this season, with Cara Melgares and Emma Wren finishing fifth and sixth respectively. Thanks to their efforts, the women finished third in the competition.

On the men’s side, Cooper Schroeder finished in seventh place with teammate Joe Gorthy just outside the top group in 11th place. The men’s team ended the meet in fifth place.

Up next, the team will travel to Peoria, Illinois on October 12 for the Bradley Pink Classic, also the site of the 2018 NCAA Midwest Regional on November 9.

Volleyball

Kansas State’s Big 12 fortunes have declined sharply in the last few weeks. Taking on TCU at home last night, the VolleyCats were still looking for their first win in conference play. Unfortunately, it was not to be as the team lost the match in four sets (22-25, 25-18, 12-25, 22-25) fell to 0-4 in Big 12 play.

After dropping the opening set, Kansas State stormed back to take the second set, but could not keep the momentum going. The Frogs had a 58-47 advantage in kills and hit .464 in the third set while holding the VolleyCats to just 12 points.

Kansas State will hit the road as Big 12 play continues in Lubbock on Wednesday night. First serve is scheduled for 6 PM.