Time to move on from college football

I like col­lege foot­ball. I also like the NFL (this may make me unwel­come in some places, but there it is), but there’s some­thing about the semi-pro nature of col­lege foot­ball, and the sheer num­ber of pro­grams, and the rival­ries, and the radio announc­ers, and the ter­ri­bly flawed bowl system(s, past and present)… it is messy, but some­times out of the mess comes some­thing as won­der­ful and fun as the 2007 sea­son was for us, here at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas.

It start­ed with a cream­puff non-con­fer­ence sched­ule that was delight­ful to watch, as we piled up points and yards and spec­tac­u­lar plays on unsus­pect­ing teams. Nobody thought much of it, but it was fun for us. But when KU start­ed win­ning con­fer­ence games (albeit with­out meet­ing any high cal­iber teams like Texas, Okla­homa, or Mis­souri), it got even more fun. We nev­er got much nation­al media atten­tion until this last week before the Mis­souri game, but that was fine. We did spawn a nick­name, the Fight­ing Mangi­nos, as well as some unmen­tion­able t-shirt slo­gans, and the Gov­er­nor of Kansas was the guest of hon­or in our Home­com­ing Parade (that didn’t hap­pen at Iowa). The whole town had fun with it.

We were lucky enough to be in Iowa in 2002 ((Wikipedia has a pret­ty com­plete page on the 2002 Iowa Hawkeyes)), when they had their excel­lent sea­son that end­ed 11–2. And now we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy this sea­son at KU. A sea­son which will hope­ful­ly end 12–1, not 11–2. No offense to the Iowa team (which had play­ers the likes of Dal­las Clark, Bob Sanders, and Nate Kaed­ing), but the bowl game in 2002 was dis­as­trous. I hope for bet­ter from KU this year. At least Iowa lost the game to Car­son Palmer and USC (my mother’s always-root-for team).

The game in Kansas City this past week­end was dif­fi­cult to watch, though we are glad we stuck with it, as the team did account for itself well in the last twen­ty min­utes of reg­u­la­tion. We switched to the radio announc­ers at half­time, even with the HD video being about twen­ty sec­onds behind the radio (it was like always-on instant replay!), and we had a much bet­ter time, despite the los­ing part. But now it is over.

Every­one here in Lawrence is very hap­py for the foot­ball team, and very con­grat­u­la­to­ry on their sea­son (despite send­ing impos­tors out for the first half against Mis­souri… real­ly, we could have won that game). And every­one is, en masse, turn­ing to bas­ket­ball.

There’s anoth­er unde­feat­ed team in town.

This game is proving hard to watch

Third quar­ter. This is awful. KU is play­ing like the team they were last year. Mis­souri is play­ing as adver­tised. I have offered a cou­ple of times to stop watch­ing and put on this week’s Sur­vivor instead. A Miz­zou fan holds up the best sign of the game, “Kansas Foot­ball, a Tra­di­tion since Sep­tem­ber.” I can laugh at it because it’s fun­ny. The KU radio guys are say­ing that KU has to be per­fect from here on out to win. The score is 28–7 Mis­souri, and my wife adds, “And what, Mis­souri is going to have to go home?”

The anticipation is killing me

I haven’t been so excit­ed and ner­vous about a foot­ball game since… a long time… maybe since John Elway won his first Super­bowl in 1997 (you can’t blame me, my wife’s fam­i­ly is Bron­co fan-atic, and real­ly, he deserved it). If KU wins, it’ll be because of their defense. None of the pre-game dis­cus­sion of Mis­souri has talked about their defense, so I’m assum­ing they have one, but it isn’t much to go on about (at least not to a bewil­dered nation­al audi­ence still try­ing to fig­ure out if Kansas City is in Mis­souri or Kansas). Oy, it’s Brent Mus­burg­er.

The Kansas Jayhawks are 8–0 for the first time since 1909

This has been a great year to be me, sports­wise. Of course, I’m going to curse it all now, but it may be that every­one needs a lit­tle hum­bling, right? (Nev­er­the­less, I’m knock­ing on all the wood I can find.)

I’m not what you would call a sports fan. I like the com­pe­ti­tion, I like root­ing for a team and see­ing them win. I grew up over­seas, and I remem­ber a Mundi­al between Argenti­na and Ger­many. As it became increas­ing­ly clear that the Ger­mans were hand­ing it to the Argen­tines, I got so upset I took my bike out and rode around the neigh­bor­hood. It was crush­ing, and I was… twelve, prob­a­bly. [And on doing research, I can’t find a game I would have watched between Argenti­na and Ger­many that Argenti­na lost… so, so much for mem­o­ry. Ed.] I used to watch some soc­cer, some bas­ket­ball, but I was nev­er a stats-track­ing, game-going, fan.

Then i came to the US, and went to col­lege in Rhode Island (a state that calls Boston teams home), and was steeped in New Eng­land sports. So I have been (and most cer­tain­ly am today) a Boston sports fan. Watch­ing the Patri­ots play unde­feat­ed foot­ball has been fun all sea­son. Not that I get many of the games here, but some make it through. It is dou­bly fun because we were in Min­neso­ta for the year of Randy Moss’ break­out, and it is good to see him back. Watch­ing the Red Sox last night was lots of fun, too, espe­cial­ly when it looked like the Rock­ies were going to spoil it. I used to watch a lot of base­ball (and even attend­ed some Paw­sox game dur­ing col­lege), and I have enjoyed the play­offs this year.

But I live in Kansas now, and watch­ing the unde­feat­ed Kansas Jay­hawks (KU’s col­lege foot­ball team) play foot­ball has been a blast. They played a pow­der-puff non-con­fer­ence sched­ule, but in the last three weeks have played tough road games and still won. Last year, our first col­lege foot­ball sea­son in Kansas, the team lost a large num­ber of games in the last quar­ter. This year, they are putting those games away. It actu­al­ly reminds me a lot of the years we spent in Iowa, when Kirk Fer­entz was just get­ting the Iowa foot­ball pro­gram back on its feet. Watch­ing this lit­tle team that could was great. The wife and I have fond mem­o­ries of week­ends spent work­ing on the house, or in the yard, with the game on the radio. And we’re build­ing that here, too.

[A note of con­do­lence for the Iowa foot­ball fans this year… sor­ry about your sea­son.]

And, of course, we have col­lege bas­ket­ball to look for­ward to, start­ing this next week! Would it be greedy to hope for their suc­cess, too?