So here we stand on the doorstep of another college football season. The games begin on Thursday and then just about everyone plays on Saturday.
I'm like most people: I get fired up this time of year. I love doing Navy games on the radio because the kids who play there really do stand for something that goes way beyond trying to win football games. I feel the same way about Army and Air Force--often to the chagrin of my friends at Navy. This year, the Mids have a brutal start to their schedule: they open Saturday at Ohio State and, while I think the notion of playing in Ohio Stadium is a cool thing for the players, it could be a long afternoon.
It's nice that the Ohio State people are asking their fans to greet Navy with a standing ovation when the players come onto the field. Personally, I've always felt that should be the case anywhere the academies play and I'm an absolute zealot about opposing teams waiting for 60 seconds at the end of games to show respect during the playing of the alma maters. Many teams now do this. Last year, Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano, after a brutal loss in Annapolis, literally chased one of his players down when he started to leave the field before the Navy band had played, 'Blue and Gold,'--which, if you've never heard it is one of the most spine-tingling alma maters you'll ever hear. Army has the better fight song (although Anchors Aweigh isn't bad) but Navy has the better alma mater if you're scoring at home.
The contrast to Schiano was the sight of the players from my alma mater jumping and down and completely ignoring the playing of 'Blue and Gold,' in Durham. The Duke people were upset when I ripped them for that behavior. Let's see if they get it right when they play at Army in a couple weeks.
Okay, enough ramblings about the academies even though they are the teams I care about most. To be honest, I really don't get all that excited about who is going to play in the BCS Championship game because half the time the system coughs up a fraudulent championship game. Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral site last year and didn't even get to play in The Big Twelve title game because it lost a tiebreaker after losing at Texas Tech in what was probably the best college football game of the year. I won't even get into what happened to Utah--which went undefeated, hammered Alabama in The Sugar Bowl and was not given the chance as (let me make this clear) ANY UNDEFEATED TEAM IN ANY OTHER SPORT would get to play for a championship. Things like this happen every year and there won't be a legitimate championship game until someone sends the BCS Presidents into solitary confinement and tells them they'll be released when they come off their high horses and take the 15 minutes that would be needed to organize a playoff.
President Obama has said a couple of times that there should be a playoff and most sane human beings know that to be truth. All the old arguments have been shot down long ago. A playoff would NOT affect players academically--far LESS in fact than the basketball tournament--and it doesn't render the regular season less meaningful. In fact it would make it more meaningful because more teams would have something serious to play for into December. But the BCS hypocrites went into a meeting last spring and came out with their usual garbage about how well the system was working. I won't even go over it again because it is too boring and so ridiculous it doesn't even merit comment. The BCS Presidents are a bunch of arrogant hypocrites who should all be made to watch Dick Cheney speeches the rest of their lives because he's clearly their role model: "If I say it's true, it IS true no matter how much evidence there is that I'm lying."
Okay, enough of the BCS rant--for now.
There are all sorts of fun games that will be played over the next few months. I happen to be a big Division 1-AA fan (or whatever the NCAA calls it now) in part because there's a real national championship but because there are so many different stories to be told at that level that don't focus on who is going to be a No. 1 pick in next April's draft. Personally I could care less right now whether Tim Tebow is going to be a good NFL quarterback. Let him be a great college player until January and then come talk to me about the draft. Actually, come talk to me next September when he puts on an NFL uniform for real. Then I'll be interested.
Richmond was a great story last year making its late run to the national title under ex-cop Mike London. Montana always plays great football that none of us in the east notice before December--if then. I love The Ivy League although I'm not a real big fan of their presidents either who keep insisting that their players can't participate in postseason in football even though they do it in every other sport. Why is it that Cornell's lacrosse team can come within seconds of a national championship just before exams start in the spring but the football players at Harvard--which has dominated the league in recent years under Tim Murphy, one of the best little-known coaches anywhere, can't play in the 1-AA playoffs? You know what the answer is if you ask The Ivy Leaguers: because we say so. Oh, okay thanks. Why don't you go give that answer to your players who are denied the chance to test themselves against the best. Isn't education supposed to be about learning to be the best at whatever you choose to become?
As my mother used to say to my father: Stop being logical.
Saturdays in the fall are still great fun in spite of it all; in spite of the hypocrisy of the BCS; the constant investigations of big-time programs and the fact that some people just make it a much bigger deal than it should be. I love the weather and the changing leaves and the atmospheres--from the 100,000 seat stadiums (not crazy about the traffic) to the 15,000 seat stadiums and on down. I still want to get to see Amherst play Williams someday and Harvard play Yale again, which I haven't done for more than 20 years. Every school has its own niche and its own big rival and its own traditions--many of them unknown to most of the country but known to those who care about them. I can't stand the weeknight games but that ship has sailed. The schools will never say no to the money or the exposure. I'm just glad Army has signed a contract with CBS College Sports that will ensure all its home game starting next year are on Saturdays. That's as it should be.
So, I'm psyched. I'm looking forward to seeing John Glenn dot the i on Saturday and to the reaction of the Ohio State fans when Navy takes the field. The game I'm a little more apprehensive about. But there will be more games and more Saturdays after that and for a few hours each weekend I will pretend there are no BCS Presidents--or college presidents, period now that I think of it--that there are no out of control boosters or control freak coaches. I'll just sit back, take it in and know that on December 12th sometime before dusk the players from Army and Navy will stand shoulder-to-shoulder when they play the alma maters.
All that other stuff ceases to matter or exist at a moment like that. And there will be others along the way.