(Warning: MAJOR TV spoiler alerts ahead.)
At the end of the first season of The Good Place, Eleanor Shellstrop has a revelation. She and her three new afterlife friends aren’t in the Good Place at all. In fact, they’re already in the Bad Place. Michael, the architect of their neighborhood, confirms her suspicion. But before Eleanor is given a chance to retort, Michael snaps his fingers, and suddenly, everything is gone. Our four main characters are back at square one, ready to start all over again.
As The Good Place begins season 2, the scenario repeats itself all over. Michael places Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason in an environment that at first seems like their paradise, but eventually becomes their dystopia. And every time, the four characters eventually realize that they’re in the Bad Place. And of course, Michael snaps his fingers and sends them back to square one, with a different path along the way but always resulting in the same outcome.
It’s October 21, 2017. IU is playing a 3:30pm nationally televised game, a TV time slot that the IU football team has gotten frequently in recent years, mostly because of their opponents in the Big Ten East. Indiana is beating Michigan State, 9-3. I tell my girlfriend this is exciting and we have to watch the end. But I already know what’s going to happen.
Indiana, miraculously, has a six-point lead and the ball on Michigan State at this point. But after a quick three-and-out, Sparty roars back for a touchdown. Then comes another three-and-out for the Hoosiers, followed by another MSU touchdown that basically seals the game in East Lansing with the score 17-9. In total, it’s another wasted strong effort by the Hoosier defense that held the Spartans to under 300 total yards. A week before this game, the Hoosiers had lost in overtime to Michigan. A week later, they will lose to Maryland 42-39 after giving up only 17 points the week before. Different paths, but always the same outcomes.
By now you’ve probably noticed a trend. The parallels to the Good Place aren’t hard to decipher with Indiana football. No matter how far along Eleanor and the others get in their relationships in the afterlife, they eventually figure out the secret that’s surrounding them all along. And in terms of IU football, the Hoosiers, despite all the chaos on the field, make you want to believe each game that this is the breakthrough game. And then, just like that – poof, that 4th quarter lead over a top-10 team is gone. Later. Rinse. Repeat.
(It only makes sense that Jason Mendoza, the stupid but well-meaning Good Place ensemble character, is a huge Jacksonville Jaguars fan, but hey – even the Jags broke their streak of futility last year and were this close to getting to the Super Bowl.)
When you account for the long-time suffering of Indiana football, you may often think to yourself one important question: Why? Why do I put myself through this when I know the end result? Why couldn’t I be doing something else for 3.5 hours every Saturday afternoon for three months? And why Indiana University, of all places?
Well, the answer to this may come from the TV show as well.
After two seasons of The Good Place, our heroes still have never actually seen what the real Good Place looks like. They’ve thought they knew what the Good Place was, and so have IU fans, such as when Indiana beat Missouri in 2014 or when the Hoosiers won the Spittoon in 2016.
We’re still waiting. But that’s part of the show. Can the characters ever get to this mythical Valhalla? Can IU football ever make a Rose Bowl or beyond? We think we know the answer to this question, yet we watch nonetheless. In the meantime, it’s the storylines that keep us compelled. But like the characters on the show who must work together as a team to solve moral and ethical dilemmas, we as Indiana fans are all together in all rooting for our football team, no matter what happens to them next.
We may never find out IU football gets out of their own Bad Place. But we watch, in the hope that they will. And right now, hope is all we can ask for as IU football fans too.