Consider this: Almost every single organized sport known to man plays their exhibition games at the beginning of the season. College football chooses to do so at the end. Why?
First, what else are they going to do in the absence of real live playoffs? You know, the kind that virtually every other organized sport engages in?
Second, in a clandestine meeting held decades ago, the mayors of every city that houses a major university resolved the following: For just one week each winter, their respective student bodies should get obnoxiously drunk and throw up in somebody else’s town for a change.
And thus the bowl system was born.
L.A. Times sportswriter Eric Sondheimer called the Northern Division Championship one of the best he’d ever seen in his many, many years of covering CIF Southern Section high school football. Hollywood is about 35 miles away from the town of Westlake Village, but they may as well have occupied the same ZIP Code during the game between arch-rivals Oaks Christian and Westlake.
It was one for the ages.
I wish I could have seen it.
But eight months into the IGTS Tour, my luck ran out. I was left with my nose pressed against the ticket window, so to speak. The game was sold out, and no amount of begging, pleading or influence peddling worked. Trust me, I tried. I made promises that would make a U.S. Congressman blanch. I was positively Cecil Newton-esque in my shamelessness.
Who would’ve thought – after successfully worming my way into 75 consecutive events, that the one that ended my streak would be a high school football game?
…Continued from the previous post.
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. That goes double when you are playing for the right to advance to the CIF Southern Section 8-Man Football Championship. Especially when you are the owners of a 7-4 record, and you’re playing against an 11-0 powerhouse.
Such is the case when you are a member of the Windward Wildcats.
To lend support to their efforts against the heavily favored Faith Baptist Contenders, I had braved L.A.’s 405 freeway on a Saturday during the Christmas shopping season. Embedded war correspondents have it cushy by comparison.
As for that “ever so humble” thing, it’s a perfect description of the athletic complex at Windward. Sandwiched into a parcel of land scarcely larger than the average dog park are the Wildcats’ baseball, softball and football playing fields. Suffice to say, there’s some overlap.
While 8-man football may consist of reduced roster sizes and smaller fields (just 80 yards long), if I had any inclination to devalue the skill level of the players, all I had to do was remind myself of this: Just across town in the L.A. Coliseum, where USC was preparing to host Notre Dame, the quarterback ready to enter the game should anything happen to the Trojan’s starter Mitch Mustain was John Manoogian – Windward High School, Class of 2009.
Regular readers may have gleaned an inkling that football isn’t exactly Number One With A Bullet on my list of favorite spectator sports this week. Going to an NFL game will do that to you these days.
But duty called, and the name of this duty was 8-man football.
The concept is a good one – the 8-man version of football allows teens to play the game even if they don’t attend a school with a large student body. Instead of simply saying “Sorry, we’re too small to field a team”, 8-man football puts high schools in a position to offer the All-American athletic experience.
Sunday morning came early to the lavish World Headquarters of the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour. As soon as the first rays of light filtered through the blinds, I was wide awake and headed for the Executive Locker Room to shower.
What prompted this burst of energy on the sleepiest morning of the week? I was going to an NFL game! The pinnacle of fan-dom, a fact that ESPN reminds me of every 6 minutes. As I brushed my teeth I found myself actually starting to care whether Brett Favre was coming back to play in 2012. Or 2013. Or…well, you get the picture. I was excited.
My mind wandered back to all of the enjoyable times I’d spent at NFL stadiums in the past – both inside and out, tailgating with friends. And as I thought more about it, I was genuinely surprised to realize that it had been over ten years since I’d been to an NFL game. My pulse quickened…
Many hours later, I rolled back into the IGTS Parking Garage, ascended to the Board Room and wearily slouched into an over-stuffed chair. In the ten years between my visits to the NFL, the product had, ahem…evolved, shall we say?
Commissioner Goodell, we’ve got a problem.
…Continued from the previous post.
With a tightly contested game taking place between St. Francis University and the home team Cal Polytech, we lost a “G”. Apparently one of the female fans who made up a human billboard spelling out “GO MUSTANGS” across 10 adjacent bare midriffs got a call and had to leave.
There were two options: Carry on with a somewhat incomplete message for the rest of the game, or recruit a stand-in. Fortunately, nine women working together can be awfully persuasive, and soon enough some helpless male was bearing a large, hastily spray-painted “G” on his now-bare chest. He was clearly not wild about the idea, but gamely did his part throughout the evening, despite temperatures that began to drop precipitously after dark.
Welcome to Division 1 college football, slightly off the beaten path.
The quick and obvious reply is “only on the ‘It’s Game Time Somewhere’ Tour”, but the full answer requires a little explanation.
As for the mileage, that is the distance between FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland and Alex G. Spanos Stadium on the campus of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
On Labor Day evening, I traveled to FedEx Field to attend the marquee game of the college football season’s opening weekend: Boise State vs. Virginia Tech. On Halloween weekend, I made the drive up California’s central coast to witness Cal Poly’s Homecoming game against the Red Flash of St. Francis (PA) University.
OK, so the 2,782 miles weren’t exactly logged in direct chronological order, but you get the idea – the two games were a long way apart. But the physical distance was secondary to the real difference between the two games – that one letter. The distinction between a “C” and a “B”, to be exact. Hear me out on this.
We Sports Fans have a working agreement with our sports. As long as they are fun to watch, provide us with the opportunity to choose and root for our favorites, and culminate in a compelling chase for a championship, we’re pretty happy campers.
Otherwise…there’s a disturbance in the Force.
In college football, that disturbance is the Bowl Championship Series, which takes a perfectly good sport and turns it into a three-month popularity contest followed by a bunch of exhibition games.
This doesn’t work for me. Per the pact described above, I am all but constitutionally guaranteed a playoff system which determines the champion of college football on the field instead of a conference room. And I’m not alone in my thoughts here.
The announced attendance at FedEx Field on Labor Day night was 86,587, which I figured had to be close to a complete sell-out. From my vantage point, every last seat seemed to be occupied – and I definitely had a birds-eye view from which to make that assessment. A bird with very good eyesight.
I had secured my ticket for the college football game between the Boise State Broncos and the Virginia Tech Hokies only a couple of weeks beforehand, so I didn’t expect premiere seating. And I was right. I did a quick count of the number or rows between me and the absolute top of the stadium. One.
Despite my location high above the field though, I must admit that I had a pretty good seat. Which came in handy during time-outs. Because that was the only time I would actually be able to sit down and see anything beside other people’s backs.
Perhaps it was because it was the first home game of the season. But I don’t think so. I get the overwhelming feeling that a B.C. Lions football game is always a BIG DEAL in Vancouver. As far as the eye can see, everything and everybody is Orange. Except for the guys from Saskatchewan with the watermelons on their heads. I still can’t quite figure that one out, but never mind – right now I’m dealing with a bad case of Anthem Envy.