There’s a moment during any good tailgate that really makes the event special. It usually takes place sometime during the second helping of pulled pork, or in the middle of a hastily organized 7-on-5 (someone clearly miscounted) Ultimate Frisbee match. It is the moment that you remember that you’re there to see a football game. At good tailgates, you somehow forget that for a few minutes. You’re sitting in a foldable camp chair, eating more food in three hours than you have during the previous 48 and opining on how a team can take down the West Coast Offense and you just get so wrapped up in the experience that you somehow forget why you’re there. You never lose sight of the fact that you’re in a field, surrounded by friends of yours wearing the same colors and within earshot of the marching band tuning up. But the “I’m here to watch a game” thought kind of seeps out of your head for a bit, replaced with hasty plans to shotgun a beer and visit your friend Matty’s party. And then you remember the reason for the season, and are made glad. It’s like finding $20 in your pocket – it was always there, and it was always yours, but you didn’t remember you had it until just that moment.
College Football (and College Football tailgating) season has begun. And it began in spectacular fashion. Fans packed the stadiums and the parking lots across the country for grilling and sports. Facepaint and hibachi sales were, I assume, through the roof. The tailgate in my own little corner of the world, Lower Campus at Boston College, was excellent. The game was good too. This off-season has taught me a lot about how alums and boosters deal with college football coaching changes, and this first week taught me what happens when lofty expectations are met.
As much as I would like to talk more about Boston College taking down Wake Forest, that’s not the biggest news. While I was walking into Alumni Stadium, a friend of mine checked his phone and noted that Appalachian State was up by a couple of scores against Michigan (at Michigan). I immediately thought that it was only a matter of time before the Wolverines got themselves together and took advantage of the undersized linemen and unpolished route runners of any Division I-AA school. But it turns out they never did. In the stands in Section A at Alumni, I was both cheering wildly for my team and constantly checking the score from App St/Mich. It made me feel like I wasn’t just part of the BC football family at that point, but a greater national community of fans. There must’ve been millions of people hitting the refresh button on their cell phone to get the minute-by-minute score update. In the end, wouldn’t you know it, the Mountaineers demolished the Big House. There seemed to be an entire nation of football fans cheering at that moment. Well, all except for the hundred or so thousand in Ann Arbor. That is college sports. Underdogs baffling the nation and the entire sports community celebrating together, even if their stadiums are thousands of miles apart. And they’re doing it on a full stomach.
Some other quick notes about Week 1 of College Football:
-The honeymoon with Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis is over. The offensive and defensive sides of the ball were overwhelmed by Georgia Tech, and the Nittany Lions will be no easier next Saturday. They’re getting recruiting classes together just fine out there, but coherent game plans against top flight competition just aren’t coming taking shape.
-Rutgers hype doesn’t seem to be going away. They’ll easily walk to at least 8 wins this season, thanks to a good running back and a schedule made up mostly of intramural teams. The New York market has needed big name college football, and Rutgers is as close as they’re going to get.
-We all need to get used to the fact that our favorite team is most likely capable of beating Florida State in football.