Sometimes I feel like Abe Lincoln or Mark Twain. I write something and people immediately start quoting my pearls of wisdom. For example, in the last two days, a dozen readers must have sent this gem from Thursday's column right back to me by e-mail:
"An Oklahoma-Michigan game scheduled in 2001 would have been a safe bet to be a marquee game in '07. It might have turned out to be a dud. But then, what, Michigan vs. Appalachian State -- that's this Saturday at noon EDT -- was a surefire humdinger?"
Not exactly malice toward none, charity for all, I guess. But people seem to have been touched by the brilliance of it.
Or it could be that Appalachian State won that game 34-32, one of the great upsets in college football history. Yeah, come to think of it, the fact that I specifically called out as a bum the game that has a chance to go down as the most memorable one of the century in certain circles would be a little embarrassing to a person capable of embarrassment.
I wish I'd been at Saturday's stunner, wish I'd even seen it. But I don't think it argues against my point, which is that college football, as a sport to follow, is a joke. The upper echelon of teams, the top 40 or so that have a ghost's chance at ever winning a championship, almost never play each other except when their conference affiliation or a bowl matchup forces them to.
Those same conference affiliations fill up the powerhouses' schedules with a handful of dog games a year. The powerhouses take care of the rest by signing up cream puffs to stomp in September.
Every once in a while, there are exceptions. A cream puff takes a bite out of the hand that's feeding it its operating revenue for the year by bringing it to town for a beating. That happened at Michigan Stadium. And there are minor exceptions to the cream-puffs-only rule. Fans of Ohio State and UCLA are quick to point out that those schools are making at least some effort to play worthy foes in their nonconference season.
But one stunning upset does not a healthy sport make. The very thought that Michigan's loss was so unthinkable, which is what makes Appalachian State's victory so phantasmagorical, is also a clue that something's very wrong. There shouldn't be any games in which a win by one team is all but unthinkable. There are a half-dozen such games a week just in the top 25.
The reason I didn't see the Michigan-Appalachian State game is that I was hanging with the family before heading across the Bay to be a fan in the stands for Cal vs. Tennessee. I couldn't have had a better time, which is the same thing I said last year -- game outcome notwithstanding -- when I sat in the stands to watch the same teams in Knoxville, Tenn.
The game experience in college football is unbeatable. That's why it's so frustrating that as a sport, it's such a mess, rife with colossal mismatches and a pathetic excuse of a championship system, not to mention the leaning tower of corruption that forms the sport's foundation. The only other sport that can be described in those terms is boxing. Nice company college football's keeping there.
Great for Appalachian State for pulling off that big win. But don't kid yourself that it's going to point the way to something positive in college football. All it means is that no powerhouse is going to make the mistake of scheduling the Mountaineers any time soon.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -