January 11 - Coming Up Roses
I went to – if memory serves me – my fourth NCAA Division I-A football
game the other night. My lifetime list reads like this:
--1985: Army vs. Western Michigan, Michie Stadium, West Point, N.Y.
--1991: Maryland vs. Syracuse, Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.
--1996: Army vs. Ohio, Michie Stadium, West Point, N.Y.
--2006: Texas vs. USC, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
While each of those was fun in its own way, this list is akin to saying that
I’ve driven two Yugos, a Pinto and a Bentley.
What an experience! Finally, a big game lives up to the hype and I’m there. Now, I’ve been fortunate
to live in New York, where Yankees World Series trips have been frequent in the past decade,
affording me the opportunity to see baseball on its largest stage. And through my work I have been
able to experience events like the World Cup (in Korea and Japan, still the most dramatic spectacle I’
ve ever witnessed), Women’s Final Four and Stanley Cup Finals, among others.
But there is something about a big-time college football game that is different from any other sporting
event. At most big professional events (and even the Final Four), it seems that at least half the crowd
is there for the show, with no particular rooting interest other than to see a good game and to enjoy
Last week, 45,000 or so Longhorns fans and 45,000 or so Trojans fans (the split at least seemed
fairly even), came to Pasadena clad in orange or garnet, displaying the familiar “hook ‘em horns” or
two fingers, signifying the two titles already in the Trojans’ bag.
At a World Series game, there are 50,000-plus fans, most of them rooting for the home team. Same
with the ’02 World Cup matches I saw in Korea and Japan. The energy I felt at the Rose Bowl was
more like the North Rockland High School sectional championship games I attended as a student in
the mid-1980’s. Fans from one side or the other living and dying on every run, pass and kick. Cheers
and groans on every single play.
I live in New York, where really big-time Division I-A college football all but disappeared after World
War II. Before then, as unbelievable as it seems today, Fordham and NYU used to sell out Yankee
Stadium or the Polo Grounds annually. But today, we are missing this environment. I have never felt
the loss much, since there are so many other sports and activities going on here. And my live football
fix has been more than adequately sated with the occasional Fordham or rare Giants or Jets game I
Economics are clearly the driving factor in play here, but it would seem to me that big-time college
football could find a home in New York. Rutgers, its winning season and creditable Insight.com bowl
appearance notwithstanding, doesn’t feel like New York to me. Army has had a mostly unsuccessful
run over the past three decades. The other locals have long since abandoned the world of I-A.
It would take a massive commitment by thousands of alumni, but wouldn’t it be terrific if St. John’s or
Fordham or Hofstra were one day playing Notre Dame, USC or Texas at the new Giants Stadium?
John Druze, the last surviving member the famed “Seven Blocks of Granite” line that helped Fordham
to a 7-0-1 record and No. 3 final ranking in 1937, passed away late last month. Maybe one day, the
Blocks will live again.