What It Feels Like to Watch an A Cappella Group From Your College Almost Win The Sing Off

Even though I was raised in the hybrid ACC/SEC world of Georgia, my allegiance to these schools only goes so far. When asked by Yankees who my teams are, I usually say “ACC basketball, SEC football” to support my superior corner of the country. But deep down inside, I know that I’m a complete poser. While one’s first 18 years definitely dictate who one roots for, it’s years 19 through 23 (or 24 or 25) that really determine who your team is for the rest of eternity. I’ve been fronting like a University of Georgia loss hurts my feelings for a long time now, but in actuality I could really care less. Having said that, I’m here to come clean. Enough is enough. My conference is the Ivy League and my school is the 99 percent of the 1 percent, Dartmouth College.

I bring all of this up because last night was our national championship game.

I’ve watched every BCS national championship game and NCAA finals game since I entered college in 2005, always had a team to root for, and was usually crushed or made ecstatic by the outcome. These feelings of immense joy or sadness are always short-lived, however, because my allegiances to the schools have always been flimsy. Many a time, I’ve had friends who knew athletes playing in these games and had so much school pride that the results of the game could affect their emotional state for weeks.

I could never begin to relate to any of these feelings until last night.

Last night was the finale of NBC’s The Sing Off. Yes, I just went from discussions of SEC football and ACC basketball to an a cappella contest. Deal with it. After 10 episodes, this awesomely hilarious show (hilarious in the sense that the four “celebrities” in charge of the proceedings are host Nick Lachey and judges Ben Folds, Sara Bareilles, and Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman) left us with three groups battling for the title. One of those groups — 16 guys based in Hanover, N.H. — were the Dartmouth Aires.

Months ago, when I learned some kids I knew personally were going to be on a reality show, I had the natural series of reactions (laughter, embarrassment, shame, curiosity, joy, pride). I didn’t watch any of the first six episodes, but once the social networks started buzzing about the Dartmouth Aires and The Sing Off, I became quite excited about our school actually winning something that wasn’t US News & World Report-related. Coupled with the fact that a member of The Aires went to my high school, and I may or may not have convinced him to join me at Dartmouth, I was officially a fanboy.

Leading up to the finale, my small college on the hill was as excited as I’d ever seen it. The president was e-mailing about it, the different school-based Twitter accounts were asking people to vote, and I was running into former classmates of mine — from the former All-American soccer goalie to former members of rival a cappella groups — bragging about how many times they voted for the Aires. Groups of people that went out of their way not to interact in college were now going out of their way to help bring home the “W” for our college. That’s beautiful stuff right there.

Last night, after a 90-minute buildup, the decisions were to be announced. I couldn’t believe how nervous I was. I imagine this is kind of what it feels like to watch your team go 12-0 and make it to the fourth quarter of the SEC championship. Once Nick Lachey was done dramatizing an already overly dramatized situation, he announced the third-place winner: the group Urban Method. I let out a little scream and tweeted “adkfja;sdlfjaslasdf;ja.” We were in the final two. As soon as it became clear that we could win this, a series of post-win scenarios started running through my head:

    Are they going to cry? Am I going to cry? What are they going to do with the $200,000? I hope they throw a party. I’m definitely going back to New Hampshire if they do. What if the party’s tonight? How will I get there? Is my boy Clark going to get a modeling contract? You think he’ll buy me something? Wow, people are going to get drunk in Hanover tonight. I can’t breathe.

I guess this is what it feels like to watch your team go 13-0, win the SEC championship game, and tie the score in the fourth quarter of the BCS National Championship Game.

The only obstacle standing in our way: a group from Texas called Pentatonix. After looking at my boys alongside Pentatonix, I knew how Oklahoma felt going into the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Boise State. We outmatched them in every way. There was no way we could lose to these five guys. No way. Before the winner was announced, I had already started writing an e-mail about the victory. Having never been in this position before, I didn’t realize how bad of an idea this was.

Nick Lachey: “The 2011 winner of The Sing Off … Pentatonix.”

Floored. I couldn’t believe it. Pentatonix had just run the Statue of Liberty play and won at the buzzer. Unreal. I was — and still am — furious. This feeling of irrational hatred toward a group that hasn’t done anything to me is probably nothing new for those used to watching their teams make it to big games. But it’s new to me, and it feels liberating. Deep down, I want to yell at each member of Pentatonix because I know the members of The Aires can’t. Publicly.

For years, I’ve heard Wolverines and Buckeyes, Bulldogs and Gators, Tar Heels and Blue Devils say horrible things about the quality of people who attend their rival schools, and I never really understood it. Now I do.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you get down with the Pentatonix, you aren’t the type of person I want to be around. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

Anyway, congratulations and thank you, Dartmouth Aires, for doing it big for our school on a national stage. And thank you for finally giving me a team to cheer for. You didn’t win, but we all know who the best group is. I’m looping “One Shining Moment: 2003” by Luther Vandross in your honor for the rest of the afternoon. Go Big Green.

Previously: Rembert Explains the ’80s: ALF
Rembert Explains the ’80s: Lionel Richie’s “Hello” Video
Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s: Too Close for Comfort’s Very Special Episode

Filed Under: NBC, TV

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert

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