TCFA (The College Football Antheneum)

Posted Jan. 8, 2015

Columns

Aug 31, 2012

This is the story of a game.

This is the story of how that game started, along a gloomy riverside 143 years ago, thanks to a handful of college kids, some wearing scarlet turbans, some not.

This is the story of how that game grew, and evolved, and became much more than a game—how it reached into the soul of this country and brought color and life and joy to Autumn Saturdays like no game before or since.

This is the story of how that game got too big and nearly died, how it thrilled America and broke America's heart, how it reached new lows even as it reached new heights.

This is the story of how that game convinced us all to give our Saturdays in its service, how it filled column inches and radio airways and television screens, how it created a culture within a culture, how it spread from that grey lonely riverside to every inch of this great country.

This is a long story, but it is an important story.

This is the story of college football, the greatest game there ever was.

More: The Complete History of the Greatest Game There Ever Was (Abridged)

Jan 25, 2012

Inside. Outside. Everywhere in between.

These are the three universes in which Joe Paterno lived his extraordinary life, and sadly but perhaps not entirely unfairly, they are also the three universes in which that life will judged.

Inside.

Outside.

Everywhere in between.

More: An Honest Assessment of an Immeasurable Life

Dec 6, 2011

The hangover

HOW AM I FEELING: Tired and mildly frustrated, but not in any way whatsoever apoplectic. Tired because the season is a long, soul-crushing grind that, inevitably and always, leaves me feeling like an emptied vessel by the time December rolls around. Mildly frustrated on behalf of My Beloved Penn State Nittany Lions, who drew the proverbial short straw in this year's bowl madness (more on this in a bit). But, unlike the rest of the nation, no, I am not feeling apoplectic about the supposed injustice done to Oklahoma State, who was passed over in favor of Alabama for the right to play LSU in the Mythical National Championship Game. Because they weren't actually passed over. They had their chance. They lost to Iowa State. Life goes on.

More: Over And Out

Dec 2, 2011

And so now, it's pretty much over.

Fourteen weeks.

Fourteen Saturdays.

Untold hours spent in front of the television, or tailgating in the glorious Autumn sunshine, or jammed into the bleachers, taking in the unmatchable atmosphere that is college football.

Four months, the greatest four months of the year, gone. Just like that.

We had college football season. We cheered its arrival. We welcomed it in September, we lived it in October, we suvived it in November. And now here we are, in early December, with just one true college football weekend left, and the more philosophical among us might indeed ask: What did it all mean?

More: At Season's End, What Is Left?

Nov 27, 2011

The hangover

HOW AM I FEELING: Done. I am feeling done. Goddamned done. After 13 weeks, 25 columns (here), another 30 or so elswhere, 14 award-winning podcasts* and, of course, thirteen straight Saturdays of all-out, all-day college football watching, I have just about had enough of this, the College Footballing Year of 2011. It's been a blast, yes, as it always is. But at some point it's gotta come to an end. That end is now very clearly in sight. Sad, perhaps, but necessary. Oh, also, Penn State got steamrolled 45-7 by Wisconsin, bringing an end to the single most bizarre regular season that any team has ever endured in the history of Our Great Game. More on that in a bit.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: The End Draws Near

Nov 21, 2011

The hangover

HOW AM I FEELING: Thankful. So very thankful. Thankful for my wife and my kids and my life in general. Thankful for this, the greatest week of the year, and thankful for the pending arrival of Thanksgiving, greatest holiday of the year. And thankful, of course, for college football. Which, as we saw just this past weekend, remains, quite unquestionably, the single greatest sport that This Wonderful World has ever seen. This Saturday past, in so many ways, was perfection. And, no, I'm not saying that only because My Beloved Nittany Lions went into Columbus, with the world on their shoulders, and gutted out a 20-14 win that moved them within one win of The Inaugural Festival of Delany. I'm saying it, too, because what we just witnessed was nothing short of historic. But more on all of this in just a bit.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: For One Day, We Achieved Perfection

Nov 18, 2011

I am writing this on Thursday morning, just a few minutes after reading yet another saddening, maddening story about the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.

The story in question came from The New York Times, was written by investigative-reporting ace Jo Becker, and basically laid out, in very stark terms, just how and why this colossal mess unfolded, just how and why a suspected predator like Sandusky was allowed prey on vulnerable boys for years and years, just how and why the too-small, too-insular world of State College, Pennsylvania, either refused to act or didn’t know how to act in the face of truly monstrous allegations.

Becker’s piece was remarkably well-written, excruciatingly detailed and unequivocal in its ultimate conclusion: People at Penn State knew. Specifically, people in position power at Penn State knew.

And yet they did nothing. So the damage went unchecked.

More: Make Alternate Plans

Nov 14, 2011

The hangover

HOW AM I FEELING: Hopeful. Hopeful, that is, that normalcy will someday return. I understand, of course, that this normalcy may not return soon. Indeed, it probably won’t, and we in Penn State nation must accept that we are likely years away from reclaiming even an ounce of what we once had. But I am hopeful nonetheless, because if nothing else, that football game they played up in Happy Valley on Saturday—that 17-14 Nebraska win, on a day when results hardly mattered—offered Penn State the opportunity to make a statement about not only what we reject, but also what we can and will and expect to be in the future. The entire community—players, coaches, fans—seized that opportunity. Yes, we are years from where we’d like to be. But as I write these words, I am at least more confident that we can get there, and that we will get there.

More: Thoughts From the Valley: The First Nervous Step Toward Redemption

Nov 11, 2011

I don't even know where to begin.

The words that I will use here—the words I will use to describe my mental state at this moment—are the same words that everyone else in Penn State nation has already used. They don't even begin to tell the full story.

Stunned and saddened.

Bewildered and confused.

Angry and bitter.

But mostly: Wounded. Wounded very deeply.

More: In The Darkness. Seeking The Light.

Nov 7, 2011

[Note: Today, for reasons that should be obvious to everyone, I'm scrapping the typical format of The Hangover in favor of a more traditional column. Given the events of the past few days, I simply could not muster the energy to write about anything except for the utter tragedy now unfolding in Happy Valley. Hopefully, we'll be able to return to form by next week. - Tim]


For Penn State, this is only the beginning.

That's the scary part.

For the alleged victims and their families, the indictments of Jerry Sandusky, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley may hopefully offer some sense of closure—some sense of justice achieved after years of having their personal nightmares ignored and neglected by the powers-that-be in Central Pennsylvania.

But for Penn State, yeah, this only the beginning. And as bad as things have been for the past 72 hours, well, I can only assume that, from here on out, they are going to get even worse. Much, much worse.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: We Were Fools

Nov 4, 2011

Not to bum you out or anything, but the fun is over.

The glory, the optimism, the sense that anything is possible—well, all of that stuff was left for dead back in October, back when the college football year was young, back in the halcyon days of this season’s proverbial adolescence.

In college football, of course, October is the month of belief. The month of dreams. The month when Our Great Game shines the brightest, the month when the tailgates are at their most perfect, the month when the Autumn weather oh-so-briefly offers us a small hint of what we shall enjoy in heaven. It is the month when the games are the most colorful and most beautiful, and the month when even heartbreaking losses seem to be not so awful, if only because there is so much more college football—so much more season—to come.

And then there is November.

More: Dying Dreams, the Loss of Hope, and Metaphorical Kicks in the Teeth

Oct 31, 2011

THE HANGOVER

HOW I AM FEELING: 8-1. Yes, that's right: I am feeling 8-1. Penn State 10, Illinois 7. Goddamned 8-1. I don't know how we're 8-1. I just know we are 8-1, and I am gonna enjoy the hell out of that, along with the fact that My Beloved Penn State Nittany Lions now need to win just two out of their last three games to earn a bid to The Jim Delany Festival aka the Big Ten Championship Game. 8-1, folks. Indeed, 8-1.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: Surviving. Advancing.

Oct 28, 2011

On Oct. 13, 1990, my father and I embarked on a college football journey that I still remember, and remember quite fondly, to this very day.

The trip took us from our lovely hometown of Solon, Ohio, across the vast and flat expanse of western Ohio, through the even more vast and more flat expanse of eastern Indiana, all the way to the college football Mecca that is South Bend, Indiana.

We made the trip, of course, to see the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were at the time flying high under the leadership of one Lou Holtz. Rocket Ismail was on that ’90 Irish team. So, too, was Rick Mirer, and Chris Zorich, and a whole bunch of other guys you probably remember. It was a damn fine squad, it really was. And their opponent that day, the Air Force Falcons, weren't too shabby either, boasting their typically maddening option attack and the strategic genius of coach Fisher DeBerry.

It figured to be fine game of football, and indeed, it turned out be exactly that.

But of course, my father and I weren't really there just for the football.

 We were there for the experience. The Notre Dame experience. The college football experience.

More: Our Loyalty is Being Tested


Oct 24, 2011

THE HANGOVER

HOW I AM FEELING: Nervous. Yes, for the first time all season, I feel nervous. Nervous because, all at once, and after that highly entertaining (as predicted) 34-24 win over Northwestern on Saturday night, My Beloved Penn State Nittany Lions are sitting alone atop the Leaders Division, with nothing standing between them and the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game except for ... well, games against Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The stakes are, all of a sudden, high. I mean, really, they are. How did this happen? Don't know. Don't care. Just happy to be here. Just happy to be nervous again. Just happy to have a team worthy of being nervous about. More on this below.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: A Very Good Kind of Nervousness

Oct 20, 2011

So here we are in Week 8 of this college football year—deep into the season, yes, and still looking at eight undefeated national title contenders, yes, but indeed, still a long ways off from The End Of The World As We Know It.

But of course, you wouldn't know that given the tenor of the conversation of late.

Yes, folks, it is sad but true: Already, it has begun.

Already, the chorus is warming up. Already, the stories and columns and frenzied blog posts are being written. Already, the bowl haters, the know-nothing outsiders, the well-meaning but clueless idealists and all the rest of the college football world's playoff propagandists are squealing about The Alleged Catastrophe To Come—too many undefeated teams, too few spots in the BCS National Championship Game. Already, these crusaders are crowing about the ultimate end of the hated BCS as we know it, and awaiting the arrival of the final and undeniable proof that the entire bowl system was, in fact, a huge sham.

And already, I am damn deadly tired of it.

More: What The Playoff Proponents Don't Understand

Oct 17, 2011

THE HANGOVER

HOW I AM FEELING:  A tad confused. For two reasons: 1. After a very odd and very sluggish 23-16 win over Purdue, My Beloved Penn State Nittany Lions are now 6-1, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how this is possible; 2. Everyone keeps saying that Michigan lost to Michigan State on Saturday, but by all appearances, Michigan actually lost to South Florida. But then there's this: My elder daughter, The Ever-Demanding Anna, scored her first-ever goal in the Springfield Soccer League on Sunday. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. Anna seemed mostly unaffected by it.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: Confusion and Happiness

Oct 14, 2011

I first heard the news while trapped in a horrific traffic jam.

After three hours of mostly blissful and relatively stress-free travel from suburban Philadelphia up to Happy Valley last Friday, our luck ran out when we found ourselves at a dead stop, all of a sudden and without explanation, on the two-lane "highway" that is Route 322. We were 5 miles outside of State College. It may as well have been 500 miles.

I have made that drive—from Philly to Happy Valley—approximately 5,000 times, and during those approximately 5,000 trips, I have experienced a traffic disaster at every pinch-point along the way: I've been stuck in Valley Forge and I've been stuck at Harrisburg East. I've been ground to a halt on I-83. I've been backed up at Fishing Creek. I've been stonewalled at the Lewistown Narrows.

But never in My Penn State Football Lifetime—I mean, not once—had I been stuck, even for a moment, on Route 322, just 5 miles outside of State College.

More: Urban Meyer and the Suddenly Expanded College Football Universe

Oct 10, 2011

THE HANGOVER

HOW I AM FEELING: Refreshed. Recharged. A little bit sad. A tad depressed. But overall, quite happy to have made the effort to head up to Happy Valley this past weekend. Because let me tell you: The weekend was every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be. Good friends. Great weather. A lovely tailgate. A (long, long) stroll around town and campus. And, perhaps most notably, an unexpectedly complete performance from My Beloved Nittany Lions, who improved to 5-1 (!) with a 13-3 whooping of Iowa. I mean, for the first time in a long time, the Nits actually controlled the line of scrimmage against a decent opponent; it was a fitting tribute, in that sense, to the 1986 Penn State national title team, which was honored at halftime, and which specialized mostly in, well, controlling the line of scrimmage. That, and kicking the crap out of people. Miami still doesn’t know what hit them.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: Back To Reality.

Oct 7, 2011

It may surprise you to learn that I have not actually set foot in Happy Valley, my spiritual autumnal homeland, in about two years.

That's right, my dear friends: Though I spend an inordinate amount of time writing about college football both here and elsewhere, and though I oft find myself proselytizing to anyone and everyone who will listen about the utter beauty of Our Great Game—its history, its passion, its traditions, its beauty, and why it is so clearly superior to every other American sport—I have not actually been able to return to Penn State, the place that sold me on this game more than any other, in 24 long months.

In part, this is because of the general complications of life itself—kids, work, events, the demands of the day.

But it is in part, too, because I have allowed myself to fall into ... The Trap.

More: Back to Happy Valley. On a Mission.

Oct 3, 2011

THE HANGOVER

HOW I AM FEELING: Honest. I am feeling honest. And because I am feeling honest, I can admit this: The state of the Penn State football program—the very treading-waterness that we are now enduring as The Seeminginly Endless Joe Paterno Era painfully grinds on—is beginning to affect my enjoyment of the game of college football itself. I am finding harder to care as much, and this does pain me deeply. But the reality is, when it comes to any sport, you need to have a horse in the race to really, really care. And though I really, really want to really, really care—though I truly miss that life-and-death feeling that I used to have, even a couple years back, on the day of every Penn State football game—the fact is that I don’t really have a horse in the proverbial college football race. Not anymore. Because my horse, as currently constructed, isn’t built to win. And so I am left to endure games like the one I endured on Saturday: A 16-10 win over a truly awful Indiana team—a win that was not wrapped up until late into the fourth quarter. More on this in a bit.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: Honesty and Joylessness

Sep 30, 2011

Of all the months on the sporting calendar, there is but one that, in the grand scheme of things, really does matter.

That month is October.

Now, perhaps if you are a longtime reader, and I know that some of you are, you just rolled your eyes. Perhaps you just said to yourself, "Oh. This. Again." Perhaps you feel that I'm getting lazy, that I'm recycling old ideas, that I've already written this column, and that you’ve already read it.

Well, I admit it: You’re right. At least to a certain extent.

Because, yeah, I have written this column before. And yeah, you've read it.

More: October Has Arrived. And With It, Perfection.

Sep 26, 2011

THE HANGOVER

HOW I AM FEELING: Completely and utterly exhausted, in most every way one can be completely and utterly exhausted. As I write these very words I am sitting here at the Memphis airport, whiling away the hours and not-so-patiently waiting for my flight, which doesn’t leave until 2:50 p.m.. I had to get here at 8:30 a.m., however, because Co-Host Mike and Your Editor’s other travel companions’ flight left at 9 a.m. So it’s been a fantastic day of basically walking around the Memphis airport and feeling miserable. I just want to go home. In happier news, OH MY GOD WE WENT TO THE GROVE YESTERDAY AND I MAY OR MAY NOT PACK UP THE FAMILY AND MOVE TO OXFORD. Because The Grove was that good. I mean, so good that there is no point in me even attempting to write about it. But I will try anyway. Shortly.

More: Thoughts from The Valley: There is The Grove. And Then There is Everything Else.

Sep 23, 2011

On November 6, 1995, a haggard-looking Arthur B. Modell stood before a small collection of media at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and announced that he was moving his storied old football team, the Cleveland Browns, to Baltimore.

In so doing, he sent an entire city into convulsions, flushed four decades of good will down the toilet, and generally proved himself to be a world-class jerk.

As a native Clevelander, I remember that day vividly. Perhaps too vividly. I remember the bizarre scene on that podium: Modell standing up on stage, pretending to be sad, pretending to care about those he left behind; Modell gladhanding with the thoroughly disgusting Parris Glendening, governor of Maryland; Modell sitting awkwardly while the myriad other speakers of the day spoke of the glories to come for the City of Baltimore, a city whose residents had been complaining for years (quite ironically) about the injustice they had suffered at the hands of Jim Irsay, former owner of the Baltimore Colts, who packed up his team in the middle of the night and took it to Indianapolis, proving himself to be, you know, a world-class jerk; and, of course, most notably, Modell uttering that awful, stilted, lie—that lie that rings hollow, even today, 15 years later. “To the people of Cleveland,” the miserable old man said, “I had no choice.”

More: Money First. Everything Else Second.

Sep 18, 2011

THE HANGOVER

HOW I AM FEELING: As though an opportunity has been missed. No, I was not exactly rooting for Penn State to lose to Temple on Saturday; to have done so would have been, in a word, wrong. But in the latter stages of That Freaking Debacle, as the clock ticked toward zero and there seemed to be a legitimate possibility that the Nittany Lions would lose to Temple (!), a part of me started to realize that, all things considered, such a loss would not have been entirely a bad thing. I mean, at the very least, the wake-up call that would be delivered by the first Penn State loss to Temple since 1941 may have been precisely what was (and is) needed to wake the Penn State powers-that-be from their bizarre slumber, alert them to the utter ridiculousness of the current coaching situation and force their hands on a decision that absolutely needs to be made. This has to stop. It's beyond silly at this point, and to be frank, the people who pay their hard-earned money for Penn State football tickets deserve better. More on this in a bit. Oh, and by the way, Penn State won, 14-10. How awesome.

More: Thoughts From The Valley: Joe Must Go. And Other Stuff.

Sep 16, 2011

This time next week, I will be sitting in a window seat of a Delta flight out of Philadelphia, nervously flipping through some crappy in-flight magazine, sipping a Bloody Mary and counting the minutes until we blessedly land on solid ground.

I will be antsy, I will be jittery and I will be generally enveloped in claustrophobia. Because, you see, I absolutely abhor flying.

But I will also be … excited. Excited about my arrival in Memphis, home of Graceland and the sound of the Memphis horns and one of the most stunningly mediocre college football programs in American history. Excited about an evening spent hopping from one blues club to the next with three good friends from Charm City, USA. Excited about waking up at 4 a.m. the next day, piling into a rented SUV and driving South, deep into the heart of Dixie, down to Oxford, Mississippi, home to William Faulkner and The Grove, the single most famous patch of tailgating turf this country has ever known. Excited about the game itself—Georgia vs. Ole Miss, a game with nothing much on the line, except for pride and bragging rights and maybe a bid in a third-tier bowl game. Excited, in general, for roughly 48 full hours of compete and utter freedom.

More: College Football. Four Kids. And How it All Fits Together.

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