I am an aggressively casual college football fan. This is absolutely the result of my future alma-mater having aconsistently mediocre football squad
. While I love a great (read: terrible) football game to drink loads of alcohol with my peers at, its much harder for me to get into a mode of religious check ups on the new AP rankings every Sunday like I would with some other (read: basketball) sports.
Nonetheless, I still follow and have certain amount of investment in the world of college football. As a fan of an actual good NFL team, I have a duty to scour draft reports from January – May and get really really excited about how the next year will shift the odds to something good for me and terrible for the Jets. And beyond the rooting of/for individual SEC linebackers and Big Ten quarterbacks, the teams I become a fan of on a weekly basis appeal to me on very weird, very arbitrary standards.
For example, I loved Georgia for about two weeks this year. I watched Aaron Murray be intensely mediocre, and I watched a pretty good-not-great defense play with all the intangibles that we love to hate on, and I got pretty into it. I saw a coach with a great story and overhead pans of a small town that reminds me of my own filling in TV spots and I thought, man, this is a team that I could get behind.
I pride myself on the level of die-hardedness my father and his father before him instilled in me. I chose teams really weirdly as a kid and I’ve stuck to them since. But college football is the chance to flip the script. There’s always some record or feel good story that allows you to hop the bandwagon and be a part of a fan nation and do things like google ‘grad school cost Tennessee.
‘ And they change weekly, allowing the fair-weather consumer (read: me) to pick and choose.
College football is one of the most American things in the world. There is an intrinsic tie to the geography of a place, each one with its own specific taste. There’s an abundance of raw talent and overwhelming personality. It combines the plight for education AND drinking for godssake. The casual viewer can wonderfully disappear into a fan-base for a few hours, truly living the dream. And that brings us to tonight.
There are no winners tonight. Not Alabama, not Notre Dame, no America. For if Tide lose, the Irish will win. If ND loses its first National Championship appearance since 1988 (!!!), Alabama will repeat. Frankly put: one of these teams will win tonight, and thats a gigantic turd in the oven.
Its like the Lakers v. Yankees. Each of these teams is deplorable not only personally for me, but objectively. It’s like a coin flip if both sides, but if both sides were Hitler. We as Americans don’t want either of these teams to win.
My issues with Notre Dame might be likened to quote unquote ‘Daddy’ issues. There’s a long illustrious history that begins with me growing up two hours south of Vatican South Bend, in the shadow of a university that dared to consider itself a rival yet found a way to lose every year. It continued with me going off to said university’s rival and fervently refusing to think in terms of enemy’s enemy. Even in its worst years, it somehow always managed to not only maintain within but dictate the conversation.
Alabama was different. To watch a promising coach go from my beloved Big Ten to the Spell Egregious Conference hurt somewhat. To permanently get demolished by those outstanding defenses hurt in ways I didn’t know it could. Every out of conference match felt like we were playing a mid-tier NFL defense. I watched the SEC dominate early and late in the season, and the Crimson Tide were the worst offenders. Knowing that their Running Backs could start any position on your squad and go All American any given year contributed to the pain.
It was a perfect synecdoche of high school athletics. As someone who played on a number of alright squads in my adolescent years, there were always two constant that gave you fits.
The next was the out of town school that would draw from talent that literally didn’t exist within an hour radius of your hometown. These huge kids who’d step off the bus with scholarships in tow and step on the bus with a decent sized chunk of your outside linebacker’s soul.
These two teams are playing each other tonight, and I many people in my life have taken sides. I can’t. I can’t bring myself to root for either team that have tormented me in spirit for decades. I can’t root for the dual running back threats I’ve watched adoringly slack jawed this season. I can’t root for the insider linebacker I have a sneaking suspicion is literally made out of titanium (sans the heart which is made of gold
). I can’t root for either of these coaches I secretly love. My aggressively fair-weather college football brain can’t take it because my heart was broken by both of these squads so long ago.
So here we lay America. With two teams that are arguably the most hated ever in the sport. It doesn’t matter that they are even moreso beloved. Tonight will probably be a closer game than people imagine, which will hurt us even more. Our greatest sport being played at a great level by two grhate teams.
I wish I could care.