TCFA

Posted Jan. 8, 2015

Sep 1, 2011

Why We Care

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In truth, we should not care as much as we do. About college football, I mean.

Yet, we do.

I do. You do. Millions of other people do, too. We care deeply. Sometimes we care too deeply.

And the question, of course, is obvious. Why?

Why do we care?

Why do we clear our calendars for those 13 precious Saturdays each Autumn? Why do we stress ourselves out, worrying whether The Inevitable Complications Of Life will stand in the way of seeing The Big Game? Why do we pick our cable carriers based solely on whether said carriers offer, oh, I don’t know, the Big Ten Network (thanks, Verizon FIOS)?

Why do we spend untold hundreds of dollars on tickets, on parking, on paraphernalia? Why do we allow ourselves to be extorted by college-town hotel operators (Days Inn? Middle of nowhere? Here's your deal: $300 a night, two-night minimum, no refunds) Why do we willingly purchase outrageously priced tailgating equipment that, in a good year, may only be used six times? Why do we not question these decidedly questionable financial decisions?

Why do we wake up early to watch the Outback Bowl, even if our school isn’t playing in it? Why do we stay up late to watch Hawaii play Louisiana Tech, even though we didn’t go to Hawaii? Or Louisiana Tech?

Why do we find Autumn nuptials so unacceptable?

Why do we care when ESPN analysts talk down our favorite team, or mock its schedule, or question its national-title worthiness? Why do we believe there is a conspiracy against our conference? Why do we get upset when others doubt our conspiracy theories regarding the conspiracies against our conference? And why do we feel compelled—I mean, really compelled—to defend the honor of our conference, even though defending our conference requires defending our most hated rivals?

Why do we get up at 4 a.m., fight traffic all morning, slog through mud and slop and set up our tailgates in downright untailgateable weather, just to see our favorite team play some bottom-feeder FCS opponent at noon—even though everyone in the goddamn country knows full well that the game is hardly a game at all, that the result is all but set in stone, that the poor little FCS school is just in town to get their paycheck, and that the game we spent so much time and effort and money getting to will be over by the second quarter (well, most of the time, at least)?

Why do we find Lee Corso so entertaining? Why do we keep tuning in for College GameDay? Why do we watch the Big Ten Network? Why do we all secretly want The Longhorn Network?

Why do we hate our rivals? Why do we revel in their misery? And hey, what’s that hate all about, anyway? Is it real hate? Or is it pretend hate? And if the latter, why does it feel so ... real?

Why do the actions of a bunch of 18- to 22-year-old kids that we've never met and most likely never will meet affect us so deeply?

Why do we thrill at victory? Why do we agonize with defeat?

Why can a win make our week? Why can a loss send us tumbling into a state of temporary depression and mild despair?

Finally, I ask you again, dear readers: Why do we care?

***

It’s a difficult question to answer, really.

Answering it properly—I mean, like, in a scientific sort of way—would require an understanding of the human condition that, quite frankly, lies well beyond my reach (we here at TCFA are many things, folks, but we are not scientists, I promise you that). I mean, you’ve got to figure there’s some kind of evolutionary or biological or deeply ingrained sociological basis for the phenomenon of college football fanaticism—some kind of basis from which we could unravel the mystery of Why We Care.

I don’t know what that basis is, though.

All I know is what I feel right about this time every year, and what I feel right this moment

What I feel is this: I care.

I care about college football. I care about Penn State. I care about Mount Nittany. I care about the Big Ten. I care about the traditions of this game, about the history of this game, about the future of this game.

College football matters to me in a real and meaningful way, just as it matters to you in a real and meaningfully way, just as it mattered those who came before us, and just as it will matter to those that will come after us. It matters because, as we discussed last week, it delivers. We care about this game because it does not fail us, does not disappoint us, does not let us down. We care about this game because this game cares about us.

This is a game that cuts across time, that transcends geography, that welcomes one and all, that can matter as much to a true alum of Notre Dame as it can to, well, a subway alum of Notre Dame. It is a game that can take you the highest of highs, that can crush your very soul, that can thrill, that can depress, that can make legends, that can create memories, that can add nothing short of true freaking joy to our all-too-short and not always joyful time here on earth.

It is a game that can and will do all of this.

All the game asks in return is that you care.

***

Of course, we are happy to oblige. We do care.

We care because at some point in our lives we were transformed by college football. Somewhere along the way, we had our moment—the moment when the game chose us, the moment we chose the game back, the moment that we realized, ‘Wow, this is really, really important [even though it’s really not important].’

We care because we know the thrill—the spine-tingling, unmatchable thrill—that comes along with seeing something incredible happen while sitting in the good company of roughly 108,000 others who also care. We care because we’ve seen history happen—and know history can happen again, at any moment, provided that moment falls somewhere between September and January. We care because this is a really wonderful game, full of color and tradition and history and pageantry.

But most importantly, we care because, well, if we stopped caring, the sport would die.

Really, it would.

Make no mistake: The moment we stop caring, the moment we stop watching, the moment we stop spending money we shouldn’t spend, the moment we stop hating our rivals, the moment we stop looking forward to what comes next in Our Great Game—that, my friends, is the moment it all slips way.

We cannot allow that moment to ever arrive.

So, please, I implore you: Keep watching. Keep hating your rivals. Keep being bothered by ESPN. Keep spending ridiculous amounts of money on tickets and tailgates and jerseys. Keep staying up late to watch games you have no actual reason to watch.

Keep caring.

Just keep caring.

THE NEWS, AS IT WERE: RAMBLINGS FROM COLLEGE FOOTBALL PROPER

•If you have been reading me over here or listening to the TCFA Podcast of late, then you know that I am Officially On The Record as saying that Michigan State will play Penn State for Big Ten Championship this season. By extension, this means that I don't believe The School Formerly Known As Ohio State will continue its unprecedented run of six straight (won or SHARED) Big Ten titles. My reasoning is simple: The Buckeyes have lost not only the best coach they had since Wayne Woodrow Hayes, but also, you know, their superstar quarterback and a bunch of other guys who would have been starters as well. The heart and soul of this team (and by this I mean The Shamed Vest, not Terrelle Pryor) has been absolutely ripped out; I remind you that Somebody Named Luke Fickell is now the head coach. And then there is this: Joe Bauserman, the 25-year-old former minor-league baseball player and general college football journeyman, has won the starting quarterback job. Think about that, folks. Joe Bauserman is going to be the starting quarterback at The School Formerly Known As Ohio State. The reason Bauserman won the job over Alleged Wunderkind Braxton Miller (who figures to play quite a bit, too, it should be noted), according to Temporary Coach Fickell, is his "experience." Yes, Bauserman is 25. So the experience argument makes sense, right? Actually, no. It doesn't make sense. Because while Bauserman may well be experienced at life, and while he may well be experienced in minor league baseball and clipboard holding, he is most assuredly not experienced at actually playing big-time college football. For proof, see the following, which encapsulates The Entirety Of Joe Bauserman's Playing Experience: 25 of 47 passing, 320 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception. Pack your bags for Tampa, Buckeye fans.

•Here's a story that ain't going away anytime soon: Texas A&M this week took another small, deliberate step toward leaving The Conference That Is Run Completely At The Behest Of Texas and joining the SEC, where they will inevitably win no more than seven games a year every year for all of eternity (but at least will be free of Texas). On Monday night, the New York Times reported that A&M officials sent a letter to the leadership of The Conference That Is Run Completely At The Behest Of Texas and informed them that they were leaving as soon as humanly possible, because they freaking hate Texas and Dan Beebe. And while A&M denied the story the next day, telling anyone who would listen that they didn't actually send a letter, it has since been proven that the Aggies' denial was all a bunch of nonsense; you see, while A&M did not send a letter to announce their intention to leave, they did apparently make a phone call to deliver the news, and a day after making their ridiculous denial, the Aggies announced that they would leave the Big 12 in July ... provided they have somewhre to go (SUCH AS THE SEC). The events of the week, in short, make it even more clear what's really going on here between the Aggies and the SEC. Specifically, this: SEC does want Texas A&M (in theory, because it would give them "the Texas market'); A&M does want the SEC (in theory, because their move would potentially harm Texas); but neither the SEC nor Texas A&M do want to be sued by The Conference That Is Run Completely At The Behest Of Texas, because getting sued is often costly, and both the SEC and A&M love their money deeply. As such, they are doing this methodically, with the able assistance of their respective general counsels, and as a result, the process is going to take a long, long time. But this thing will get done. This much I can promise you. A&M will be playing in (and getting beat handily in) the SEC by 2012.

MISCELLANY: NOTES FROM THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL FRINGES

•In last week's TCFA, we addressed The Quarterback Question at Penn State, and the ongoing battle for the starting job between Young Robert Bolden and Moxie Matt McGloin. Well, here's your update: The battle ain't over. Bolden and McGloin are listed as "co-starters" this week. And while many in Nittany Nation are enraged by this news, I am not. And here's why: You don't name a starter until one guy has earned the right to be the starter. Clearly, neither has done that. Let them keep battling. It will do them good.

•And if it doesn't? Well, you keep playing them both. It's not the end of the world. Just ask Urban Meyer.

•Up yonder in the news section we spoke of Texas A&M's impending move to the SEC. What we didn't speak of was what that move might mean to the rest of college football. That's an entire story unto itself, and one that cannot be addressed either simply or easily, but broadly speaking, here's What Shall Happen once this Aggie domino inevitably falls: Either Clemson, Florida State or Missouri joins the SEC; either BYU, Boise State or Pitt (yes, Pitt) joins the Big 12; talks begin immediately between the ACC and Big East about forming the first true Super Conference. Then everything goes to hell and college football as we know it ceases to exist. Should be fun.

• And, no, I'm not reaching there. This all could happen. Because at the very least, we know this: The Big 12 is doomed. It really is. Cannot survive in its current tattered state. Just check out what this "well-placed" Big 12 source told the St. Louis Dispatch this week: "We're in unchartered waters. I don't think this has really ever happened to a conference like the Big 12 before, mainly because some of the reasons people are choosing (for leaving) are not reasons we can control. Not money. Not quality of competition. Not natural rivalries. Not unwillingness to work through issues. It's just people thinking they'll pursue something else, so it's really kind of a unique spot. Obviously, everything's on the table." YEAH DAN BEEBE.

• LSU is doomed to a disappointing season. That is all. YEAH SHADY'S BAR.

• Bruce Feldman officially left ESPN this week. He had been there 17 years. He was by far the network's most professional and connected college football journalist. But ESPN forced him out, in large part due to Feldman's involvement in the Mike Leach autobiography (a book, you see, that does not speak very well of the Worldwide Leader In Lying), and so Feldman went out and got a new job. He works for CBS now. And here's what he had to say about ESPN when he appeared on The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday morning: "The last six weeks I’ve seen what they are capable of. You know, I’m glad I’m at a different place." Shame, ESPN. SHAME.

• I simply have no words for this. This, my friends, is Eco-Kat. And this is why Kansas State is Kansas State.

• Also, there is absolutely no chance that Bill Snyder approved that nonsense. Absolutely no chance in hell.

• UPDATE ON ECO-KAT: Eco-Kat program has been suspended.

• Al Golden is one impressive dude. Despite the fact that his career will inevitably suffer because of the rogue actions of Nevin Shapiro, aka The Most Perfect Miami Booster Ever, and even though all of his hopes and dreams of success down in Coral Gables have been shot all to hell, Golden remains steadfast. He may not actually believe that Everything Will Be OK, but that's what he's saying. And he's pretty darn convincing, too. Said Golden this week: "I really believe in my heart and I know the staff does too, that if we didn't have a foundation and a culture that was built on core values and built on principles obviously to teach life skills and to create self-reliant and independent young people, I think we would be struggling right now. We would be sitting here and there would be a lot of things collapsing." Things may still be collapsing, by the way.

• The utter stupidity of some our nation's college football stars never ceases to amaze. This week, a Marshall University wideout by the name of Troy Evans was arrested for armed robbery. Which sounds bad enough. But get this: The kid has actually been charged with four armed robberies. All of which allegedly occurred on the same day. Near campus. Again, folks, this is a football player--a good one, a prominent one, a recognizable one--who thought he could get away with four freaking armed robberies on the very campus on which he plays football. He was arrested immediately after practice on Tuesday. Good thing he got that last workout in.

• For reasons that are not entirely clear, I begin every College Football Saturday by listening to "Long As I Can See The Light," an under-the-radar hit by the the late, great Creedence Clearwater Revival. It goes well with coffee. It sounds like Autumn. There's a message deep down in there, somewhere. It speaks of hope, of life, of the moment. And to me, it speaks of college football Saturdays. Enjoy.

• Looking for the podcast? Click here.

• Looking for picks? Well, click here. And if you're interested in taking part in our annual TCFA Guest Prognosticator Challenge, which will kick off next week, email me here.

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