Barrelhouse College Football Spectacular: Week One

Yeah, I know. We’re not exactly known for our sports enthusiasm around these parts, but I’m an unabashed and life-long college football fan. And the great thing about blogs is that no one’s making you read them. So suck it, literary whiners!

Last year I let my college-football fandom slip a little in the face of other obligations, but this year I’m ready to go all-in. I’ve even paid my hundred bucks for ESPN GamePlan, since Pennsylvania television makes scheduling choices I just can’t roll with. Apparently the residents of this state are under the impression, for instance, that Penn State games are enjoyable to watch. Maybe, like so many questionably attired Philadelphians, they’re having a little trouble letting go of the late 1980s? 

Before we get going on Week One, let me explain, for the uninitiated, why college football is far superior to the NFL:

1. Ridiculous fandom. Sure, there are serious NFL fans. Hell, I currently reside in maybe the country’s most NFL-crazy city . But no matter how insane Eagles fans get, they’ll never match the intensity of a full house at, say, Georgia’s Sanford Stadium: frat guys who just spent three hours doing keg stands in the parking lot, co-eds in party dresses sneaking shots of schnapps from bottles stashed away in their purses, alumni who’ve been scheduling their fall Saturdays around these games for upwards of thirty years, multi-generational families who arrive each week in tricked-out RVs, all of them yelling themselves hoarse in the hopes they’ll witness one of those historic moments that will be celebrated in the kind of oil painting half my friends’ dads had hanging in their studies.

2. Games on Saturday. NFL fans will try to tell you Sunday is the superior day for sports-watching: you don’t have much to do anyway, even God rested on Sunday, etc. etc. But it’s exactly this kind of thinking that proves Saturday’s superiority. If you’re a devoted college football fan, you’ll sooner or later have to say no to the wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend, you’ll have to turn down invites to parties thrown by non-football friends, when you’re forced to go to that stupid wedding you can’t get out of you’ll have to hunt out the one old guy who snuck in a miniature television, then listen as he describes the past week’s bowel movements in excruciating detail. Sundays are easy, Saturdays require dedication. But it’s a dedication that pays off. Let’s say your precious Eagles win on a Sunday afternoon, what then? Sure you can celebrate, but it’s Sunday, everyone’s cuddled up on their couches watching HBO and dreading the start of the work week. There’s no greater feeling than showing up late to a bar or party on a Saturday night after your favorite team’s just wrecked shop on their bitter rival. Ever hang out in a college town on the Saturday night of a big win? It’s the rare evening when every single college-party-movie cliché is true.

 3. College Game Day. Every single NFL pre-game show is unwatchable. Believe me, I’ve tried. If it’s not Frank Caliendo doing his President Bush impersonation, it’s Deion Sanders wearing an alligator suit and talking nonsense, or it's cartoons or CGI robots or whatever other gimmick the networks have invented to mask the lack of actual substance. With college ball you’ve got the Game Day crew, three guys who sit at a desk all day in front of a crowd of increasingly drunken fans and actually analyze the games. Bonus points for Lee Corso

 4. Every game matters. Yes, this is an old argument, but it’s also true. There’s no playoff system (yet), no reliable way to figure out which team is the best in a system with far too many teams for everybody to play everybody else. So what you’re left with is polls, and complicated computer rankings, and lots of animated beer-fueled arguments. But the bottom line is this: if you lose, even one game, it matters. A lot.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten the preliminaries out of the way, on to Week One!

For those of you unfamiliar with the ways of college football, let me explain something about Week One: it’s not very exciting. College teams, unlike the pros, don’t play preseason games, so the week one schedule generally consists of powerhouse schools “tuning up” by beating the living hell out of crappier universities willing to sacrifice the physical and mental well-being of their relatively scrawny student-athletes in exchange for a paycheck and a bit of national TV exposure. Week One’s pleasures, then, are derived mainly from: a) the fact college football has started again, and b) the schadenfreude of watching one of those powerhouse teams shit the bed against a weaker opponent. Which brings us, this week, to…

VIRGINIA TECH: Hahahahahahahahaha! I fucking hate Virginia Tech, for the following reasons:

1. They’re never as good as everyone thinks they are, yet somehow in the mid-90s they managed to sneak their way into the vaunted category of College Teams Everyone Assumes to Be Permanently Good (your Michigans, your Alabamas, your Notre Dames, etc.). So every year, the college-football pundits put Va Tech high up in their preseason rankings, then slobber all over Frank Beamer’s fire-ravaged face while praising his team’s “lunchbox” mentality. I put up with this bullshit for your Michigans and Alabamas and Notre Dames, since those teams have been beating other teams since, like, slavery times, but I refuse to suffer that bullshit for a team that couldn't even win a National Championship with Michael Vick.

2. Last year, for obvious reasons, I wasn’t allowed to hate Virginia Tech.

3. I once dated a girl who went to Virginia Tech, and boy did she turn out to be a terrible human being.

So it was with great enjoyment that I watched the Hokies embarrass themselves this week against East Carolina, a school with the kind of vaunted football tradition that allowed my high school best friend’s father to be a standout wide receiver in the early 70s despite the fact he was slow, short, and kinda fat. Also they wear purple uniforms, and their mascot is a cartoonish pirate.

Other things we learned this week:

1. Pitt Head Coach Dave Wannstedt is the Kevin Costner of football coaching. That one good season at the NFL Dolphins? Field of Dreams. Last season’s upset of West Virginia? Tin Cup. The mustache? Bull Durham. But how many Waterworlds and Swing Votes and Upsides of Anger can a person make before someone takes away his fucking SAG card already?

2. USC is still unbelievably good. And will continue to be good for infinity, or until they’re either taken down by scandal or California falls into the Pacific Ocean. While teams in the South, Midwest and MidAtlantic fight over recruits, every single awesome high-school football player living in California goes to USC because … well, why the hell wouldn’t they? Maybe one of USC’s West Coast rivals should hire that guy who used to work for Colorado and learned all the gang signs so he could recruit in South Central (he also famously used the “you don’t want to go to Nebraska ‘cause they wear Blood colors” line. True story.)

3. New Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez, it turns out, is not Jesus. I actually didn’t take all that much joy in Michigan’s loss, because a) everyone knew already Michigan would be crappy this season, and b) who the hell roots for Utah? Well, except for my uncle, who once told me he was pulling for the Utes because they were some “real nice white boys.” Fun fact: My uncle is a fucking racist.

4. Clemson’s cheerleaders are substantially cuter than Alabama’s cheerleaders. Apologies to Barrelhouse’s lady readers, but part of being a college football fan is that you’re legally required to make at least one inappropriate/creepy comment per week, directed either at a cheerleader, a co-ed in the stands, or a sideline reporter.  Alabama’s cheerleaders aren’t unattractive, per se, but they have a certain glazed-over look, like those girls whose parents forced them into pageants when they were ten. Clemson’s cheerleaders, on the other hand, are athletic and spritely and seem to actually be enjoying themselves. (Also there was a football game, in which Clemson got crushed and Tommy Bowden moped around on the sideline doing his best impression of Droopy Dog).

4. In other Bowden-related news, Penn State’s Joe Paterno drew even this week on the all-time wins list with Florida’s State’s Bobby Bowden. I’m a fan of both men, but I think this marks the perfect opportunity for a simultaneous retirement, after which Bobby and JoePa can settle their blood feud on a South Florida bocce court.

5. Brent Musberger’s jowls are bigger than all the other parts of Brent Musberger’s face, combined.

6. I still don’t care about Illinois or Missouri. Look, as far as I’m concerned, people in Illinois are good at basketball, and people in Missouri are good at … hell, I have no idea. Trout-fishing? Tornadoes?

Week one bonus coverage:

--Breakout freshman performance by someone who may be related to me: Mark Ingram, Alabama running back.

--Pointless sportscaster comment of the week (courtesy of Awful Announcing): “Both of these teams like to get up to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball.” Terry Gannon, Utah v. Michigan

--Curious product of the week: Bo Merlot. The amazing thing to consider here is that some Michigan fan actually said to himself: You know what would be a good way to salute our legendary, deceased head coach? Merlot! I imagine Bo Merlot has a generous bouquet, with subtle notes of sideline anger and farts.



TMC said...

Barrelhouse has lady readers?

Given how much this post mentions the Eagles, I more or less felt obligated to write at least one comment. So there it is.

dave said...

Weighing in here with your Week One Report from Happy Valley, where your humble townie re-transplant reporter had his first JoePa sighting (being driven into the pep rally in a very low rent pickup truck, walking very creakily into the stadium lights, pretty cool image, actually). The news here is:

-- If the rest of the NCAA is just as good as Coastal Carolina, the Nittany Lions will be undefeated.

-- Blue Moon Belgian White makes a nice tailgate beer for a noon game. Not too intense for the 10:30 AM twist-off, nice citrus, breakfast like tang to the whole enterprise.

-- Sunscreen! Doh.

-- Football games are the only place where it's totally cool and expected to just go full-on conformity and rock the home team colors/t-shirt/facepaint etc. Can you imagine if every single person at the AC/DC concert, which I fully expect to be attending this fall/winter, by the way, was dressed like Angus Young?

-- They don't sell beer in Beaver Stadium. Mental note made for future games.

-- One final note: my house is in walking distance (if you assume maybe a beer for the walk), forty-five minutes, from Beaver Stadium. All Barrelhouse peoples are officially invited for any game. We have a guest room and a futon in the basement...futon in the basement might be good for you.

Mike said...

I don't know if there are actual lady readers, but if there are I don't want to drive them away. Maybe we should invite that Palin lady to blog? She attracts the ladies, right?

TMC said...

good idea, Mike.

We can have her review those Traveling Pants movies. As long as she doesn't talk about creationism. That might not jive with some archived posts on here.

aaron said...

As I am apparently the only man in the USA who hated Field of Dreams, I believe Dave Wannstedt is the homeless man's mentally disabled and also homeless friend's Bill Cowher.

fun facts: Wannstedt ruined two running backs in two separate seasons by handing off to them 40+ times in one game. Lamar Smith was unable to walk the following day after the Dolphins playoff win, and they got shut out the next week. Then he ruined Ricky Williams for the 2003 season by running him 42 times in one game, rendering him ineffective the rest of the year, and breaking the hearts of fantasy owners worldwide who had drafted him in the 1st round. The pain Ricky Williams felt probably could only be assuaged by marijuana, for which he was busted the following year.

MattKP said...

I root for Utah! Go Utes!

Mike said...

Yeah, you would Kirkpatrick.

Have you gone through enough rituals yet to be allowed into the super-secret Mormon Temple? I hear they have full-strength beer in there.