There is something special about the calendar hitting September. Kids complain about going back to school—although I know there are now lots of places where they start in August—but most are excited about seeing their friends again and talking about their summers.
For someone like me, September is right up there with March as a month I always look forward to on the calendar. It isn’t just that football starts, it is that pre-season football ENDS. Honestly, the number of meaningless games and stories that take place during the summer in the NFL could fill The National Archives. Yesterday on Washington Post Live I swear to God we spent five minutes—which in TV-world is the equivalent of five hours in the real world—talking about Malcolm Kelly.
Malcolm Kelly? Seriously? A guy who has about 12 catches in two NFL seasons and is always hurt? He’s finally been put on injured reserve after grabbing his hamstring AGAIN on Monday after returning to practice for the first time in a month. This morning, in The Washington Post there’s a story on the Redskins lost draft of 2008—the one that was run without adult supervision by Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato. There’s even a quote from Cerrato—put out through Snyder’s new flak—claiming Snyder had nothing to do with the decision to draft Kelly. Of course Snyder flew to Oklahoma to watch Kelly work out. That, Cerrato said was, “just for support.”
And Tiger still loves Elin.
I know I digress but why do guys like Snyder insist on hanging on to complete untruths? (Also known as lies). Why not just say, ‘yeah, Vinny and I really blew it in the draft that year. If we end up with two guys panning out we’ll be lucky. That’s why Mike Shanahan’s here now.’
In every NFL city there is talk about irrelevancies like Malcolm Kelly and who will be the third string quarterback or the No. 5 receiver. Once the season begins, that goes away and the games have meaning. College football is different because there are no exhibition games although there are some really BAD games played early in the season—power schools lining up against lower Division 1-A (sorry NCAA, that’s still the term I use) teams or 1-AA schools.
The most intriguing game of this first weekend won’t be played until 8 o’clock Monday night in the stadium formerly named for Jack Kent Cooke. That means the 90,000 or so who go to see Boise State and Virginia Tech can expect to get home well after midnight because a national TV game will take close to three-and-a-half hours to play and then it will take about that long to get out of those god-forsaken parking lots.
Still, it is a game well worth watching. Boise State has been begging for games like this in recent years and, of course, very few power schools will play them. That’s why I get annoyed when I hear people like my pal Tony Kornheiser say things like, “well Boise State couldn’t go undefeated if it played in the Big Ten.”
Really Tony? How do you KNOW that? There certainly isn’t anyone in The Big Ten willing to actually PLAY Boise State. Except for a couple of Pac-10 schools NO ONE will play them home-and-home or even coast-and-coast. You think Virginia Tech is going back out west for a rematch? The only reason Virginia Tech is willing to play the game—besides money—is that it has less to lose than Boise. Why? Because the ACC has become a laughingstock nationally in recent years and a win would help restore some luster. A loss merely confirms what everyone already thinks anyway.
If Boise wins and beats Oregon State and runs the table it should play for the national championship. If the power schools whine about their schedule, like I said, PLAY them. Last year the BCS conspired to make Boise and TCU play one another in the Fiesta Bowl because they were so frightened that both would walk in and beat power schools.
Okay, I’m not going to go on one of my BCS rants today—plenty of time for that later.
What I really want to say is that I’m psyched it is September. I’m looking forward to Monday afternoon (Thank God it isn’t a night game too) when Navy and Maryland play in Baltimore. I’d prefer Saturday—ALL college football games should be played on Saturday; sadly we know that ship has sailed—but that game should be a lot of fun. It is very important for both teams: Maryland is coming off a horrific 2-10 season and needs to rebound to save Ralph Friedgen’s job and Navy has extremely high hopes after going 10-4 and crushing Missouri 35-13 in The Texas Bowl.
I’ll be starting my 14th season doing color on Navy radio, which is hard to believe. As I’ve said before there are few things I enjoy more than my association with Navy. I like calling games involving good kids—and they ARE good kids in spite of occasional transgressions and that one angry Navy professor who has made a cottage industry for himself by ripping his employer in any publication that will accept his work—and I enjoy greatly working with (new dad) Bob Socci, Omar Nelson, Frank Diventi and Pete Van Poppel in the booth.
All that said, this Maryland game makes me very nervous. There’s too much hype around this Navy team: Ricky Dobbs Heisman talk (I love the attention the kid is getting, but please let him play a few downs this season first okay?); talk about an un-defeated season (won’t happen—too many tough road games: Air Force, Wake Forest, East Carolina, not to mention this Maryland game and Notre Dame in the Meadowlands with a real coach in charge. Heck, even Duke has a reasonable team) and people acting like the Maryland game is a semi-walk over.
Please. Maryland has two very good running backs, BCS caliber and BCS-size lineman and defenders and a mobile quarterback. I’ve always though Friedgen could coach and the reasons for the team’s recent failures are based on recruiting not actual coaching. Plus, there is nothing more dangerous than a team that has something to prove and Maryland has a LOT to prove and knows it will be 3-0 (it has two cupcakes after Navy) if it can beat the Mids.
Either way, it will be a fun afternoon. Either way, September is always fun. The weather cools, the football gets better and I actually enjoy September baseball. I’m one of those guys who likes going to late-season games even if they don’t involve contenders. I like seeing who is playing as part of the expanded 40 man rosters and I enjoy the relative calm of a September game with nothing except pride and perhaps the long-term future of teams at stake. The pennant race games—and postseason—are fun for entirely different reasons. Of course most of postseason is played so late that I struggle to stay up and rarely go anymore. If there is an early round afternoon or early evening game near me, I might go.
There’s also some interesting golf the next few weeks, the U.S. Open tennis where there’s bound to be an upset (I think) at some point and another month of being able to swim outdoors. So, if we can just keep the damn hurricanes away, this should be a lot of fun.