I'm going to a sports bar to watch this Sunday's NFL games, but that's not *exactly* what I mean about the old days. It's also not about Panther QB Jake Delhomme's unreasonably poor performance as the hometown guys coughed up *SEVEN* turnovers while getting thumped in their home opener by the Eagles, looking like an expansion team instead of 12-4 division champs.
"The old days" is about watching college football until my eyes are ready to bleed, and even if I had to work Saturday afternoon, multiple pre- and post-game highlights shows filled me in on all the extraordinary events. Thankfully I don't have to get up and change the channel like in the OLD old days, but from the stunningly great Boise St.-Fresno St. slugfest in 100 degree heat Friday night through the straight-ahead comments by Georgia's Joe Cox after throwing five TDs in a 52-41 win over Arkansas (and yes, watching Auburn's 'D' hold off West-by-God Virginia), I was a happy camper. Cox, who announcers mentioned never lost a game in high school, is a local Charlotte product, part of that Independence juggernaut that won 7 state titles in a row, and while he is going to be compared to recently departed #1 overall NFL pick Matt Stafford, I'd bet its going to continue being a favorable comparison. For a guy who couldn't have gotten a lot of 'mike time' as a collegiate QB, Cox is an exceptionally polished performer there as well, no umms and ya' knows at all.
If you saw the Fresno-Boise game Friday night, or the enthusiasm of an absolutely drenched crowd that stayed for the Auburn-WV game despite a torrential downpour and PA announcements about lightening and staying "at your own risk", THAT is what's most charming about the collegiate game. While a lot of those players will only fulfill themselves at this level, they are busting it for glory while they can.
I can't immediately recall the players, but one RB for Fresno scored three times on 60 yard-plus runs, and a Boise back had HUGE runs on consecutive possessions, one off a simple check off pass that he took 70-plus, outrunning the angles the defense tried to use, the second something that looked like a practice run against the scout team--nobody around him coming back to the right until waaay late on a 65-yarder. That the Fresno QB took some *sick* hits, one on a scramble where you KNEW that the defender who crunched him but stayed down was feeling it too, another where the defensive end *launched* himself over a blocker and crash landed on the shoulders of that Bulldog quarterback, thats worth watching. The announcers mentioned that 'launching' deal would have drawn a fine in the NFL, but the wow! factor is what I appreciate, and having several games going, every one of them hard-core action and roaring "those are our boys!"crowds, thats better than the NFL any old day.
Notre Dame *finally* beating Michigan State in South Bend after 6 losses in a row? You're darn right about being happy for your players Charlie Weis, and just maybe the alumni will get off your back for a week because of it. USC losing, AGAIN, to a Pac-10 opponent on the road? I loved Pete Carroll's classy analysis about being glad for a former assistant because victories like that mean a lot to rebuilding programs, "but I hate that it happened" because it will turn the Trojans season into a real scramble, thats goooood stuff. Texas Tech and Texas going at it after the ohmygod! finale of last year? Three cheers for Colt McCoy for sure, but doesn't it amaze you that those Tech receivers never seem to drop passes that are frequently stuck into some incredibly tight spaces? Florida's Tim Tebow going without a TD pass for the first time in 31 games, but messing with Tennessee's mouthy Lane Kifflin (wasn't that Tim putting him in a headlock?) before the game and, helmet off and sincere as heck, telling the 'Gators around him how things were going to go from some point in the game forward, that's what is sooo good about watching college football.
My brother Mike cheers for the Univ. of South Florida, which has come a very long way since it began a Division I program, because they didn't even have football when he graduated in 1981. He still pastes a USF logo on his truck and talks in terms of 'we' when conversing about the Bulls, as in, "We play Miami and Florida St. this year, and we play Florida next year." He about lost it two years ago when USF made it to #2 in the country (actually, they were undefeated through middle of their schedule and LOTS of major teams got beat when *they* got to #2), even bought the special pay for view package in order to watch them play Rutgers, who beat them fairly handily. They've lost every time he's seen them actually, including a bowl game vs. NC State here in Charlotte--I wonder if he'd stop watching them for the good of the program...
I missed calling my Uncle Frank about the Gators-Vols game, something I did every year until he died two years ago. He wasn't always confident about Florida winning, having been disappointed for many years when the team would climb high in the polls and then blow up, and of course, Tennessee had Peyton Manning for several of those years. That game meant something to me though; even if I didn't always send a Christmas card, I knew Uncle Frank was going to be watching, and even a few minutes on the phone meant we were connected.
That's the biggest difference between watching college ball and whatever I see watching the Panthers this afternoon--you root for the institution and The Boys who are currently there because those team colors are painted on your heart. Uncle Frank was Orange & Blue all the way through, and I'm thankful to have one of his bobble-head Gators watching me write. Of course I'll cheer for the local guys wherever I wind up today, but next week I will again watch late college games as long as I can keep my eyes open.