COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND OUR WORLDWIDE STRUGGLE AGAINST TERROR: National struggle given a seasonal bye, no al Qaeda men seen at tailgate parties
College football season is DD's favorite time of the year. It's possible to put aside my natural skepticism and actually believe that most of the kids one sees on Saturday TV match-ups are doing it for fun. And that a reasonable number of them take a handful of classes which they try to pass as opposed to just being thugs-in-residence at school until tossed out for academic insufficiency or an end to athletic eligibility.
If you tune in to ESPN's College Gameday on Saturday morning, you must see that despite opinion polls to the contrary, most Americans -- by their mass actions -- don't give a shit about the war on terror.
Americans can't really feel mortally threatened by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, even as we creep up on another anniversary of 9/11. No one acts like they believe George W. Bush when he implies the country is in a titanic struggle of Good vs. Evil, the American way of life is in jeopardy from Islamofascists, and if we don't continue to wring more blood from the battlefields of Iraq, they'll follow us home.
If they did, it would logically follow that not so many of us would be crowded into stadiums over the weekend with the youngest, strongest and fastest among us --NOT IN THE MILITARY
-- but on the gridiron.
In an elliptical way, college football shows al Qaeda can't win the war on terror.
It says: "Most of us just don't care about you clowns. We'd rather watch football than send our best to stamp you out permanently like we should have done at Tora Bora but GWB had to attack the wrong people in Iraq so ya got off. Maybe you shouldn't count on that happening a second time."
Another aspect of opening day college football is the everpresent need for doormats.
The doormat is a patsy team, one from a college eager to win a big TV paycheck for its athletic department. This entails volunteering to be mugged by a much stronger and more famous opponent.
The Penn State Nittany Lions' Saturday doormat was Florida International University, a team known only for brawling en masse with the Miami Hurricanes in a game it lost, anyway, in 2006.
Winless in 2006, the FIU gridders entered Happy Valley and were predictably and justly slaughtered, 59-0. Even as a bunch of losers, they had it coming.
DD often feels sorry for those trapped in the process of being selected as doormats.
One views it as making student athletes jump on grenades for the sake of bags of cash to the Dean of Athletics. If college students really had a choice in the matter, do you think all of them would volunteer to have their heads beaten in for a few hours by guys they know are taller, stronger, heavier and faster?
In southern California, Idaho was USC's doormat in hundred degree heat.
No one from Idaho has any business in southern California. The demographics are wrong. Los Angeles County has more people in it than the entire Spud State. Embrace reality, losers.
Idaho is the definition of pathetic and lame, Mr. Bizarro world, when compared to southern California. It's everyone's civic duty to scoff at a school from Idaho.
Idaho is a place where gay people are feared and shunned so much an odious senator, a closeted Republican homosexual, must insist he is not gay even when he has revealed to everyone that he is. To give anyone from Idaho a tour of West Hollywood or Sunset Boulevard would be to put them at risk for stroke. In southern California you can be gay and go to college football games and not be arrested. That'd never fly in Idaho. You'd have to pretend to be not gay for an afternoon of fun.
The Trojans were sloppy and not particularly with it for Idaho. This did not matter. The Vandals, from a town called Moscow -- not to be confused with the real Moscow, were thrashed as the Trojans rotated through the entire squad. On television it was painful. Trojans, almost all of them twice the muscle mass of Idaho's freshman quarterback, regularly ran over Vandal footballers.
The TV announcers had a hard time finding anything encouraging to say about the Vandals other than numerous references to the fact their new coach had brought fresh spirit and enthusiasm to his program.
What should he have brought? Promises that as his first official contribution, the team would be sent out-of-state for a thrashin' in a cash in? Great!
Idaho eats it. They deserved to have their teeth kicked in.
Occasionally, however, doormats bite back, Appalachian State -- from Boone, North Carolina, surprised Michigan in Ann Arbor, potentially ruining the Huskies' -- ahem -- rather, the Wolverines' entire year and guaranteeing the retirement of Lloyd Carr at the end of the season.
While on the subject of doormats, three classic examples of such are found in Army, Navy and Air Force.
The days of Doc Blanchard and Glen Davis (Army) or, more famously, Roger Staubach of Navy, were long past when DD started attending Penn State football games in the late Seventies.
America's best athletes were not then and have never been interested in playing football at the service academies.
Why should they be?
Student athletes can get scholarships, be on national television, and play for teams with much better coaching and facilities. Plus they don't have to tolerate being formally hazed by upperclassmen for a year or two as part of their process of seasoning and education.
Being in State College, Pennsylvania, in the middle of winter can seem grim. If you're on the football team, though, you'll get a trip to a sunnier clime for a big bowl game and have played for someone famous, Joe Paterno.
If you're at West Point, NY, in the middle of winter, it's dire. You're stuck. If a miracle should happen and the team wins six or seven rather than the usual three out of twelve, the best that can be hoped for is a trip to a place with a name like the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, NC. Can you even name Army's coach? How about Army's most famous coach? Give up?
This was obvious to even a child during the Sixties. My grandfather, who was old enough to have seen Glen Davis and Doc Blanchard, would always ask if I wanted to go with him to see Army vs. Navy in Philly over Thanksgiving.
"Are you nuts?" I would think to myself before declining the offer.
In 2007, the football programs of the service academies are the worst for schools of their repute. On Saturday, Army lost to Akron by a touchdown. Air Force beat an even more obscure doormat, South Carolina State, and Navy struggled past Temple, a team with a longstanding tradition of being the most wretched of the wretched.
"Leading 14-0 late in the first quarter, the visiting Midshipmen could not deliver the knockout blow to the downtrodden Owls," reported a local newspaper. "Slowed by turnovers and penalties on offense and hampered by missed tackles on defense, Navy needed three field goals from kicker Matt Harmon in order to hold on for a 30-19 victory ... 'The good news is that we found a way to win the game. When you make mistakes, it's better to be 1-0 than 0-1,' said Navy head coach Paul Johnson..."
Navy, while a reliably sub-mediocre-to-dreadful team like many much less prideful, has figured out a way to cobble together a schedule which always theoretically gives it a way to claw its way into a basement-tier bowl game, one played well before the New Year, preferably before Christmas.
Last year, for example, Navy made it to the aforementioned Meineke Car Care Muffler Bowl. Pitted against an average Boston College team, Navy led for the entire game before finding a way to lose in the last thirty seconds.
Navy could make it to a bowl game in 2007 because its schedule has just the right number of stiffs.
Five of its opponents won four games or less in 2006, two of them being among the worst in the nation, the already mentioned Temple Owls and -- Duke
-- which lost all twelve of its games in 2006. Duke was crushed by powerhouse Connecticut on Saturday.
The Middies are banking on having at least four sure wins in the schedule. Temple is already a notch on the belt. North Texas, Army and Air Force, a trio which won only nine games between them last year, are part of this cagey strategy.
Of course, Navy must also play Pitt, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois. The Scarlet Knights, with Heisman Trophy candidate Ray Rice, will make pemmican of the Midshipmen next week.
Getting beaten lifeless early in the season could make eking out two wins among those left a tough business for Navy. The only team Navy would seem to realistically have a chance against is Pitt. And while Notre Dame looked very bad against Georgia Tech yesterday, the Irish are never so poor they can't beat Navy.
“A lot of [our] guys are young and no one has heard a lot about them,” said Navy's coach to a local newspaper. “We aren’t going to intimidate anybody," he added sensibly.
Americans pay much lip service to the notion that the US military is a treasured and highly-regarded institution in everyday life. However, no one acts like it when it comes to practical matters. If you can't get out of Dullsville because your parents can't afford to send you to college, you can join the military.
But if you can get a ride out of town on an athletic scholarship, it's never refused in favor of an appointment to a service academy.
The American war on terror is an option, one most silently choose to decline.