Thursday, May 21, 2009

College football: Just here for the jokes

Coming of age in a Canadian border town, and being a fan for all seasons, nurtured a deep and abiding reverence for U.S. college football's old Eastern powerhouses.

These days, it takes the form of:
  • Being a Michigan and Syracuse sympathizer, which should not be confused for "supporter."
  • Never passing up a chance to make sport of that team with gold helmets in South Bend, Indiana.
  • Wondering how long Penn State will have to wait to join the 21st century. Joe Paterno just might coach until he's 130 years old.
In the spirit of that, the past 24 hours would have to rate as particularly outstanding. There's a story in The New York Times that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish want to play a game against Army at the new Yankee Stadium, just like they did in the days when wide receivers were called "offensive ends" and those offensive ends were usually all white guys. Far be it to point out appealing to nostalgia can sometimes be the worst kind of cynicism, since the past is a place where, hey-hey, things cannot get any worse after going 10-15 the past two seasons under Charlie Weis.

You can respect what happened in the past and realize it was past. It's odd and off-putting to want to harken back to a thankfully bygone era that predates good things in college football, like integration, the two-platoon system and New York City being less important to the grand scheme of things than places Sinatra never sung about, like Lubbock, Texas and and Gainesville, Florida.

One impulse is to let the blue-and-gold babies have their bottle. Notre Dame wanting to play Army at the Yankees' monument to malfeasance isn't about honouring the Four Horsemen or Johnny Lujack.

Notre Dame is simply trying to ensure it never has to play more thanfour games a season (out of 12) in an opposing team's stadium. Their tentative schedule through 2014 is loaded with neutral site games:
  • vs. Washington State in San Antonio this season;
  • vs. Army at Chicago;
  • vs. Navy in Dublin, Ireland;
  • vs. Arizona State at Arlington, Texas;
A modest suggestion is Notre Dame should schedule a game against Turner Gill's Buffalo Bulls at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Of course, they'd probably lose.

Deadspin was on this:
"Great news! The most obnoxiously self-indulgent team in college football wants to join forces with the most obnoxiously self-indulgent team in baseball. Yes, folks: Notre Dame wants to play football in shiny new Yankee Stadium.

"The guy goes on to yammer incontinently about the "great historical significance" of a mediocre college football program playing tackle football in a brand new, boondoggling slot machine of a ballpark — excuse me, stadium. I'll grant him that such an event would be "historically significant," but only to the extent that it would very likely create a vast sucking vortex of televised insufferability such as the world has never known. At least, not since the last time Michael Kay called a baseball game.
Meantime, as for Syracuse, The Times' college football countdown has ranked Kinger's new favourite team No. 103 in the country. That's kind of bad for a school which has had so many great football players that Marvin Harrison isn't even included in the old grey lady's top five (Harrison is the fourth-leading receiver in NFL history).

There is the residual hope that comes with a coaching change. The new head football coach, Doug Marrone, was successful in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and he played for the 'Cuse. At the same time, when someone is saying a home game against the University of Maine (a lower-division team) is a must-win, there's a long way to go.

Granted, there is some appeal to becoming an Orange fan for sports other than basketball just for the jokes, but what would that make me?*

(* An even bigger A-hole than usual?)

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