FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The 8 ball is a funny sphere.
Sort of like love and your tax return, the 8 ball can both enrapture and crush. The 8 ball is the avenue to both victory and defeat.
The Oklahoma Sooners take their third shot at the 8 ball this week. They play Florida in the Big Bowl at Dolphin Stadium, their third chance in the last six seasons for the storied program’s eighth national championship.
It’s a glorious week in the sun not just of Miami Beach but of the national spotlight, which Sooners believe to be their annual destiny.
"The national championship is something I’ve dreamed of winning for a long time, and something this team has talked about for a long time,” said OU quarterback Sam Bradford, who will be the all-time Sooner hero with a victory, able to bookend that crystal trophy with the Heisman hardware he won in December.
But this game is also a tightrope. A high-stakes showdown. All in. Boom or bust. A delicate little shot with that volatile 8 ball.
Beat Florida, and the Sooners not only again rule Mount Gridiron, not only grab that elusive eighth national championship, but they stake claim as this tradition-rich sport’s program of the decade.
But lose, knock this 8 ball into the side pocket, and OU football’s status takes another tumble as the team that can’t win the big one and didn’t deserve the chance in the first place, after multiple BCS controversies. Step aside, Atlanta Braves, there will be another organization that won a championship but failed to repeat despite years of elite contenders.
That’s a precipitous difference in one little football game that could come down to a kick or a block or a yard of Florida sod.
"The Sooner Nation, I understand they’re hungry, looking for the eighth championship,” said OU safety Nic Harris. "I’m going to do everything in my power, whatever we have to do to get it.”
Harris is prime example of the bounty championships provide. Many years ago in Louisiana, Harris was a Florida State fan. Then he watched the Sooner-Seminole Orange Bowl eight years ago, a defensive epic won 13-2 by Oklahoma, and Harris was a convert.
"I was a Peter Warrick fan,” Harris said. "Chris Weinke. OU came out and had their way with ’em. Shows what true valor of an underdog can do.”
Tradition is mighty, but it’s also ever-changing.