03/18/15

March Mental Breakdown

There isn’t a billion dollars at stake this year, which sucks because I finally guessed a perfect bracket. Anyhoo.

This year has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “March Madness” for me. Basketball and my own.

But, tomorrow the ball is tipped.

Yours truly knows a little something about banging on the boards:

me and kris rotated updated

Not to be racist but but guess who’s not getting the ball here?

Please bear with me until April and I’ll be back on the grind. Until then some blong classics.

Performed by sintax.the.terrific. Music produced by djclutch.

Today’s blong and annual tradition here:

The Madness

12/8/13

Sour Purple Grapes

I hate Las Vegas.

They beat us by exactly 31?! Unbelievable.

For those that don’t remember or didn’t know or who still don’t care, my Furman University Paladins played two-time defending National Champions, North Dakota State Bison, in the second round of the Division I FCS football playoffs last night. They lost 38-7. I had incited an infinitesimal but virulent segment of the Bison fan base with this song.

NDSU responses were of three predictable varieties:

1. “It’s pronounced BIZON.” Without the pronunciation cues, I’m still not sure if they mean Bizon, as in rhymes with risin’ or Bizon, as in “Get your prize on.” Regardless, noted.

2. “Bizon are already on ice.” In the chorus to the song, I was not attempting to express a literal aspiration about the physical location of Bison. But, again, got it.

3. And, indecipherable.

In all, Bison fans were good sports about it, except on the rare occasion when I was invited to peruse the hairy underside of said school’s mascot. (I’m not sure if they meant the actual costumed mascot or the real animal version of said mascot.)

Couple things about the game, first.

1. Congrats to a deserving team in North Dakota State;

2. The final score says different, but two very questionable calls against Furman on consecutive attempts to score in the first half greatly affected momentum in the game. The Paladins weather the quick touchdown drives by NDSU, early in the second half, a lot differently with 14 on the board instead of 7; and

3. Their head coach was so impressed with the win that he apparently is taking the head coaching job at Wyoming. Which is super insulting because Wyoming football is the exact same thing as NDSU except worse and with more chaps and lariats.

So why would I continue to expend an embarrassing quantity of time taunting an entire state, after my team got housed and the Bison faithful have moved on? I’m sure even Furman fans are cringing at the thought.

Well, first, I need to just close the loop. I ran my mouth. Ate my words. I can’t just disappear on the subject like I wasn’t jawing.

Second, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to this site with the exception of automated bot comments.

And, third, there is something that needs to be said about FCS football, implicated here. I alluded to it in my original post. And, I know my audience can’t get enough editorializing on second-rate football.

Quick primer. Historically, the biggest colleges in the country played football at the NCAA Division I level. Oregon. Notre Dame. Alabama. Michigan. Florida State. Ohio State. University of Phoenix Online. (I believe that’s where Larry Fitzgerald played his college ball.)

Below that was a Division I-AA. Furman. Georgia Southern. Richmond. William & Mary. JMU. Montana.

Below the Division I levels were Divisions II and III and something called an NAIA. Apparently, the College of Charleston is very proud of all the basketball national championships it won at the NAIA level, against basketball teams taken from 6 small colleges, two group homes, and a chess club.

Just recently, a semantic slight of hand attempted to conjoin Division I and Division I-AA into a single Division I with two subdivisions: The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). See how that’s different than just Division I and Division I-AA? Obviously.

Anyway, like the FBS, the FCS has private and public colleges. But, some of those public colleges are the biggest educational institutions of their respective states. Delaware. Maine. Montana. Montana State. North Dakota State. Institutions where either (1) the name of the college is a State or (2) is the name of a State plus the word “State” or “Tech.” Think Michigan and Michigan State. Or Georgia and Georgia Tech. Or Devry and Devry Institute. Granted most of these FCS institutions were located in less populated states but these are still the flagship schools of a card-carrying member of our great Union.

For a long, long time, nobody cared about Division I-AA/FCS football. But, then it became increasingly clear that television exposure and the opportunity to upset a major FBS school could raise a school’s admissions and money profile through FCS football success similar to a good run in March Madness.

And, when people started caring, the publicly funded institutions were well-suited to capitalize.

North Dakota State University is one such example. But, it applies equally to the Delaware’s and Montana’s of the world as well.

Which is all fine. But, this advantage that comes with size and the support of either half or nearly all of a state’s population and coffers, should temper their pride in success against less comparably postured institutions. It inflames it.

It seems to me that a major state institution has two options. Either (1) qualify your arrogance over winning multiple National Championships by beating private schools an eighth your size or (2) move up to FBS with all the other state schools.

Like, I don’t know, Wyoming?

wyoming

Congrats, Cowboys. Err . . . Bizon. I suppose they’re both winners today.

How’s that for magnanimity? Go Chanticleers.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Fab da Eclectic.
Today’s blong here. Updated and final version of the original with new third verse:

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein do not reflect the views of Furman University or even its football team. They are exclusively the ramblings of a too compulsive fan acting entirely alone. As in, without any friends to speak of.

12/5/13

Sweet Home

In case you’ve been on hold over at the Affordable Care Act website for the last five days, the fate of a defending, two-time national championship team is on the line. A series of improbable events have put a dynasty in jeopardy. Its mascot, a rumbling, horned behemoth of a creature, hunted for millennia, looks to escape an extinction level event.

That’s right.

The North Dakota State Bison are on the run.

The Bison are the current back-to-back NCAA Division I FCS National Champions, with a 39-2 record since 2011. Sound familiar? Their relative dominance makes Alabama’s run look replicable by comparison. As a current member of the tier, formerly known as Division I-AA, the Bison have cooly beat Division I FBS schools, Kansas State and Minnesota, the last two seasons on the road. That would be like the Crimson Tide mixing in a couple wins over the AFC South in Houston and Jacksonville.

And, who, you might suppose, is the Bison’s fearless hunter?

As it turns out . . . my Furman University Paladins.

fu

A team with a rich football tradition itself, including a I-AA National Championship and more conference championships in the storied Southern Conference (whose historical members boast Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and South Carolina among others) than any other member school, Furman has recently fallen on hard football times. But for a host of comparable improbabilities to rival that which has recently played out in the SEC, the Paladins (8-5) shouldn’t have even sniffed the playoffs.

(Did I mention the inventor of the laser is a Furman alumn? You know. THE laser. Laser pointers. LASIK surgery. Light Sabers.)

My kids and I were there when they clinched as co-champions of the SoCon and secured the FCS playoff automatic bid.

fu me and j

(Actually, to clinch the auto berth also required the Samford Bulldogs to beat the Elon Golden Phoenix in its final game of the season, thereby creating a three-way first place tie with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs and Furman, which the Paladins would win by virtue of the applicable tie-break. I know. Have you ever read a college football sentence with fewer recognizable teams?)

The Paladins promptly beat in-state bretheren, South Carolina State Bulldogs out of the MEAC, last weekend, in the opening round of the playoffs. They now face North Dakota State in Fargo Saturday.

For those unfamiliar, a “playoff” is a single or multi-elimination game tournament format in which eligible teams compete, head-to-head, in an attempt to decide a single champion on the merits. Admittedly, it’s a pretty bizarro way to crown a champion, I know, but that’s all the FCS has for now.

Anyway, you think the odds of Duke beating Florida State and Michigan State beating Ohio State, to keep Alabama’s national championship prospects alive, are long?

Furman was a 31-point dog at one point.

There were shorter odds on the Christmas Raccoons in their conservationist-minded grudge match against Cyril Sneer’s Hockey Bears to preserve Evergreen Lake.

Which is pretty appropriate, as my crusading Paladins prepare to take on the bigger, uglier, and generally more malodorous team from the icey North where hockey matters a whole lot more than football . (As an aside, if your school is one of the top two flagship public colleges of your state, get the what out of the FCS. That would be like the Texans playing in the SEC and thinking they had done something. You too Montana and Montana Jr.)

And, by “bigger” and “uglier,” I mean “1/8 viking.”

North Dakota State designed it’s punt rush after a Capital One Card commercial.

They forge their own helmets.

The quarterback’s wristband cheat sheet is written in rune.

The Fargodome doubles as a smokehouse in the offseason.

“The pigskin” is not euphemistic in North Dakota.

So, to the point — Alabama’s remaining shred of hope. As a disclaimer, my dad’s family is from Alabama and he attended for like 6 semesters before eventually graduating, ironically enough, from the aforementioned Samford where he met my mother. As a result, I pulled for Alabama my entire childhood including through the time of this National Championship and historic play:

But, in my adult life I became a Paladin, first, and, shortly thereafter, a Gamecock, during my time at USC School of Law, which happened to correspond with the Lou Holtz era. And, as USC plays in the SEC, that was pretty much the end of my Alabama loyalties.

Sooooooooo, it’s been a long, long time since I felt any real allegiance to the Tide. But, in the recesses of my nostalgia lingers some little wish that they succeed, so long as their success doesn’t otherwise interfere with my real teams (which in the case of Furman and the University of South Carolina is essentially never).

In addition to these dormant childhood loyalties, Alabama’s dynastic run has implicated an important aspect of my heirarchy of fandom that historic streaks and accomplishments not be disrupted. And, so I root for a third national championship, and fourth in five years, just like I did with the USC Trojans, because it’s essentially impossible to do and our society’s infatuation with empire destroying is pretty petty.

Taken together, all of this amounted to some investment in the outcome of last Saturday’s Iron Bowl that Alabama prevail. And, again, in case you’re still buffering through the Obamacare Insurance Exchange, they didn’t.

Speaking of improbable plays, isn’t it time that a creative playbook, built exclusively around the hook-and-ladder, be designed? It’s considered such a high-risk play, relegated only to hail-marry situations, because of the lateral involved. But, what makes an orchestrated, discretionary open-field lateral any more risky than the triple option? You practice the play just like other offensive schemes so that it’s familiar. The receivers have discretion to not make any lateral that’s dubious. What am I missing? You could have all these mid-field variations of wideouts crossing underneath each other creating a sort of secondary option effect. Someone’s going to do this and I’m going to get no credit. Quick. Give me a team to coach.

hook and ladder

So, now finally to the point. I wanted Alabama to three peat. They aren’t going to, barring something as nearly as improbable as Furman beating the Bison. So what am I pulling for? There is still a streak on the line and one hardly anyone has mentioned, although Forbes led with it here.

The State of Alabama streak. It’s won the last FOUR National Championships. Forget SEC dominance. Or the South’s dominance. Arguably one of the poorest, most marginalized states in our union owns college football. And, but for it having cannibalized itself on rivalry weekend, would be particularly poised to make it five.

But, the feat is still very much alive. Whereas both FSU and Ohio State must lose for Alabama to have any shot, only one has to lose for the State of Alabama, in its other son, Auburn, to keep the streak going.

Sweet home, indeed.

Oh. I almost forgot.

To the visigoths who await us in Fargo, in the indelicate words of Furman’s late President, John E. Johns, “F.U. one time! F.U. two times! F.U. three times! . . .

F.U. all the time!”

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Fab da Eclectic.
Today’s blong here: