You’ll pardon me while I go off to some e-corner right now and start giggling like a six-year-old girl. It’s the appropriate response after seeing Saturday’s result.
Over at SI.com, Stewart Mandel says he feels totally unqualified to interpret a scoreboard in Ann Arbor that stated, as night fell in more ways than one on that semi-worthy town, Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32. This is why you come to Inside Pulse, folks. We have writers that are qualified to speak about anything. Specifically, me. Everyone knows that I’m qualified to speak about anything that I want to. And since I’ve been neglectful of duties lately in Tailgate Crashers…look, when Tigger’s only major win this year came at the only major that I didn’t give him a chance at, and the damn Deutsche Bank runs Friday through Monday, and I can’t figure out the FedEx Cup format anyway, and I still have to face the specter of my beloved Western Open being contested under the moniker of a second-rank German luxury car, my confidence in my ability to interpret golf has been slightly shaken. So why not talk about college football?
Unlike Mandel, who has a reputation to maintain, I can be totally unobjective about this issue. So, let me tell you where I’m coming from on this. I grew up in Chicago, where college football support is an import. I went to The University of Chicago (where the “The” is more important to us than to those poseur button-down rednecks in Columbus), who left the Big Ten in 1938, left what is now Division I in 1940, put our football stadium to better use (like creating the world’s first sustained nuclear reaction), and now happily plays to no audience in Division III because everyone’s too busy studying. We’ve still got a Heisman to go along with those nearly-eighty Nobel Prizes, though. Now, add this to the fact that I grew up Catholic.
I think you can see where this is going, don’t you?
People under similar circumstances to me, and there are hundreds of thousands of us (subtracting the Top Ten US News and World Reports college education, of course), turn to the east on Saturday like Muslims for a day. We here watch the events from an hour and a half away (two and a half with the time change) with great interest. They are our adopted team, by geography, religion, and tradition. Those Muslims claim their submission to God with their bows east. We claim our submission to Touchdown Jesus.
And it’s serious love. There’s so much love there that I’ve had thoughts of making the Cleveland Browns my second team the moment that Crennel does the right thing and makes the right decision at quarterback. Right now, there are thousands of people re-reading that line and gawking in disbelief given my long-expressed hatred for Cleveland and anything to do with it. Hey, I cried when Bob Barker’s successor was announced. That LUV has to be serious for me to even contemplate something like that.
Sometimes, it’s a difficult thing, being a fan of THAT TEAM. We have more than our fair share of detractors, who are justified by us having more than our fair share of yo-yos in the fanbase. I encountered a bunch of them on a flight from Houston on Friday night. My attitude wasn’t helped one bit by the hour-and-a-half delay due to weather (and me not having JJ’s or Travis’ numbers on my cell in case the flight was canceled and I had to spend the night in that hurricane trap). But their inane prattling during the flight would have been annoying in any case. Look, I’m trying to get some sleep. Network with each other when we land, okay?
It’s so bad that I hesitate to even mention the team’s name, since college football fans tend to turn into frothing maniacs at the very sign of those three syllables. But, it’s the cross I bear, one of many. Along with that cross comes our own frothing hatred, which appears at the sight of maize and blue. So having what is already being called the biggest upset in modern college football history happen to them…oh, there are so many reactions. Neurotransmitters that feed a sense of joy start flowing uncontrollably, penises of all sizes and shapes get hard even for those who don’t have them. It’s all covered under one wonderful word that some unknown Kraut first came up with: schadenfreude.
For a while, until the actual game this year occurs between them, we have the advantage, the only advantage that matters in sports fandom: the Big Swinging Dick. It’s a feeling I’m now used to thanks to the events of October 2005, when all it took was twelve little games, eleven of them victories, for us to finally strap on our prosthetic penises and point them in a general direction ten miles north of the Cell, accompanied by fart-in-your-general-direction actions with thumbs to noses. No longer did we have to live on short rations like reminding them that we threw a World Series since they won one, or the mentions of the names of Leon Durham and Steve Bartman. Our prosthetics were the Real Thing, baby (just in case someone at the Day Job is reading this, I’m referencing Marvin and Tammi, not the competitors). The only regret was that it wasn’t the Cardinals that the team beat in the World Series. That would have made their pain so utter and complete that mass suicide by anyone bleeding blue would have been the only appropriate action. Hell, we were so happy that we’d even accept them walking a couple blocks east down to Halsted wearing signs supporting Fred Phelps and let the guys at the leather bars take care of that problem. Then, maybe the rents on the North Side would fall to a merely ridiculous level instead of the utterly rapacious rates they are now.
And now we fans of those gold-clad warriors from South Bend can indulge in that sweet, sweet feeling. Michigan became the first ranked team in the nearly three decades since Division I was split into I-A and I-AA to lose to a I-AA team. The only problem with this scenario was the opponent (and the fact that those retards from Columbus might even be happier than we are). After all, the two-time defending I-AA champions are not dog meat. They’re real, too. It would have been far, far better for them to have lost to someone like New Hampshire, which made a meal out of Northwestern last year. But we can’t have everything. If we did, it would be a far less interesting world. At the very least, it takes some of the bad tastes out of our mouths. Maybe we’ll stop saying “Bush pushed Leinart, it was so damn obvious, how did they miss it?” for a week or two.
The result was a reminder that sports is a microcosm of the world at large, when entire weltansschauung turn at a single moment. College football is still exhibiting the aftershocks of the last moment, a single Statue of Liberty play at the Fiesta Bowl in January. Now, suddenly, the world has expanded. Those mid-majors have to get attention and respect. We’re still getting used to that, and now…a blocked field goal attempt, and the world changes again. Not only do we have to pay attention to mid-majors, we also have to pay attention to teams from small schools, even ones that aren’t involved in I-A. We have to focus even more on the miracle at South Florida, who literally built a team from nothing and made it respectable in under a decade. While we’re in the Big East, we have to gaze at what happened at Rutgers last year (and those of us in Chicago can help you; we went through this in 1994 with Northwestern). We have to adjust to a world in which a Boise State can play on New Years’ Day and defeat not only a program of the stature of Oklahoma, but beat down any remaining detractors. We’re now in a world where the freak show in Hawaii, despite June Jones’ failure in implementing that offense in the NFL, is regarded as Serious and Innovative.
Now, we have to look carefully at those big programs’ non-conference schedules, heretofore grouped under the sobriquet “cupcakes”. Well, someone with high blood sugar (I hesitate to call a condition as marginal as mine “diabetes”) can tell you how dangerous cupcakes can really be. And Ann Arbor got the giant-sized economy pack from Hostess on Saturday. It made them sick to their stomachs, and the groans of pain and sounds of vomiting echo throughout sports fandom. We fans of THAT TEAM can certainly hear them, and we see them passed out over the porcelain throne, attempting to empty their GI tract of the overdose. And, frankly, we’re going to do the only thing we can. We’re going to take down their pants, write a letter “L” on one cheek, and “SERS” on the other, letting the brown eye serve a useful function for once as an “O”, since Michigan fans are so full of shit that we know their rectums are vestigal organs.
In a world such as ours, where Republican conservatives can play George Michael for a day and think they can get away with it, when the situation for labor on this Labor Day is worse than any time since the Haymarket bombing, when the job on Noo Yawk hasn’t been finished six years after it started, when the concentration on the political situation in France is how hot the PM’s wife is (Canadians can help you on that; Google “Pierre Trudeau”), when my wrestling-esque scenario for the Demos that I outlined in the Hot Seat is coming true as they start to eat each other alive and endanger taking back the country next November, one must find a little happiness somewhere. It’s not a shame that it’s in other people’s misery. In fact, it’s the best kind of joy there is.
Hail to the Victors, indeed.