College football season sneaks up on me every single year. I can’t pinpoint why that is, exactly. The NFL season and its accompanying news cycle never ends. That’s a big part of it. There’s the absence of preseason games, which whet the palate but don’t sate the appetite. Locale is a huge factor. This is a pro town, and the college teams haven’t been very good. It’s not tough to see how the college game gets pushed to the back burner. I know there are diehard Pitt fans out there, but even the most ardent H2Person won’t dispute that Pitt football doesn’t exactly play at the forefront of the local sports consciousness. General enthusiasm for Penn State football hasn’t returned to pre-2011 levels, and maybe never will. I’m not talking about the alums or the season ticket holders. I’m talking about “sports fans.” For lack of a better explanation, I’m talking about the folks who only care when the team is good. The bandwagoners. The people you know that live for the Pirates now, but don’t quite care about the Penguins or Pitt hoops as much as they did, say, 5 or 6 years ago. I have no issue with bandwagoners. Heck, I admire their ability to enjoy the good times without suffering the bad. I wish it worked that way for me. The attention of the masses drives chatter, and right now, in Pittsburgh, college football doesn’t draw that attention. Also, it’s summer. College football is fall’s business. Anyway, I’m not really interested in figuring out “why” I’m surprised by the start of the college season. It’s just that it arrived…suddenly. I like the surprise. I hope the start of college football catches me unawares for years to come. {shrugs} It’s better than waiting impatiently.


I know that football is a dangerous game for young men to play, and I know that the structure that allows schools, conferences, the NCAA, and television networks to profit from the labor of those who play it is patently exploitative and unfair. BUT, I’m a sucker for spectacle, and college football is great at spectacle. Student sections, marching bands, SEC night games, six-figure crowds at Big Ten games, town-emptying fanaticism on the Plains, terrible uniforms on the West Coast, sideline cameramen taking blatantly creepy footage of cheerleaders in the air….it’s all great. I hate preseason polls, but I love that every game matters. Every week is meaningful. From playoff berths to bowl games to superiority over a rival, even the most disappointing season can be salvaged with one perfect result.


Saturday night, for the first time since I became a Notre Dame fan (the day I matriculated; I never cheered for ND as a kid), I get to watch my Irish take on Texas. That’s awesome. The Longhorns and the Irish, at Notre Dame Stadium. That FEELS big, even if Texas is, as a program, well below where they should be, and Notre Dame’s rosy preseason expectations are sure to turn into massive, soul-crushing disappointment after a week 4 loss to UMass, if not on Saturday night. Ohio State will be seeking weird revenge on Virginia Tech (sure, Tech handed the Buckeyes their only loss last year, but they still won the title, so how upset could they be?), but they’ll face the crush of massive hype and practically unattainable expectations, and it’s always interesting to see how a team responds to that. Wisconsin-Alabama could be entertaining, and we’ll all get to complain that Pitt and Penn State are playing Youngstown State and Temple, respectively, instead of one another. That’s never not fun. That’s just week 1. I can’t say I was “ready” for it, but now that it’s here, I’m pumped. Go Irish.

Posted in College Sports