The meat of today’s blog post is actually over at Noontime Sports, a New England-based site where I contributed an article on Boston College football. Make a visit over to Noontime, where Matt Noonan does a terrific job at covering the local scene here in New England.
In the meantime, writing that post on BC and looking forward to the Eagles’ season reminded me that today might be a good day for some full transparency on the college football biases of TheSportsNotebook. Here are the programs that I either openly root for or have an interest in that goes beyond their standing in the race for the New Year’s Six major bowls.
*Wisconsin: I’m from just outside of Milwaukee and Badger athletics is the only thing I remain loyal to from my hometown, as my brother and a friend remind me with every chance they get. Wisconsin is where the rooting interests lie every Saturday in the fall.
*Notre Dame: I can’t call myself a true hard-core Irish fan—I don’t unequivocally root for ND every Saturday and like most traditional programs, they can annoy me. But at the end of the day, I like Notre Dame and pull for them about 90 percent of the time. More to the point, I’ve realized that they simply must be on my radar every fall. If you’re an Irish Catholic in this country, Notre Dame is like the Church herself—you can be annoyed with her, even angry with her, but try as you might, you will never be able to ignore her.
*The Big Ten: Big Ten fans are as loyal to their conference as SEC fans, even if we aren’t quite as obnoxious about it. Everything that happens in this league, especially the push for bowl games for teams in the 6-8 win range, is something that draws disproportionate interest from me. One thing to note is that I have a hard time transferring that loyalty to Ohio State and Michigan.. I view them the same way of a lot of small-market baseball fans view the Red Sox and Yankees.
*Pitt: I lived nine good years in Pittsburgh and have tremendous memories of the Steel City. One of the unexpected things that happened when I lived there was developing an interest in the Panthers. This was heightened by making a good friend who’s a season ticket holder for Penn State and the text messages I get from him whenever Pitt predictably implodes against a lesser team have become sort of a masochistic highlight of the season.
*Boston College: As you might expect, the team I wrote about for today and my new hometown team, is on the list. I’ve been following BC football with extra interest since at least the late 1990s, as my interest in eventually relocating to this area grew. I really hope Steve Addazio can keep this program above water.
*Northern Illinois: When I was a kid, and NIU wasn’t even Division I (or FBS as we now call it), I had a relative who played for the Huskies and we made three trips to DeKalb to see the games. In more recent years, when I was living back in Wisconsin again briefly, I made some trips with my godson to see Northern Illinois play on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in November.
*MAC-tion: Speaking of Tuesday and Wednesday nights, even though I generally consider myself a college football traditionalist (I still want a guaranteed Big Ten vs. Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl), I absolutely love what the MAC is doing in November, moving all their games to midweek and having them picked up by ESPN. MAC-tion is taking on a life of its own and is the highlight of my midweek calendar after the World Series concludes.
*Navy/Army: This is an area that’s both too easy and also in flux. How can you not root for the service academies, including Air Force? For many years, Navy was the team I pulled for. I lived for four years near Annapolis and went to a few games (I know, I’ve lived quite a few places—an old boss used to ask if I was in witness protection). Now in the past year, I connected with a second cousin, who it turns out was married to a four-star general from West Point, so I have to completely rethink all of this. Rest in peace, General Bob Cone and thanks for your service.
*Michigan State: Just piece together three other comments previously made. I like the Big Ten. I find Michigan and Ohio State annoying. And I have a friend from Penn State who likes to rub it in when possible. Logically, that means, I’m pulling for Sparty to win the Big Ten East .And I do like Mark Dantonio in any case.
*Stanford: This is all about style. I love David Shaw’s pound-the-rock style and the way Stanford plays the game.
*Clemson: I don’t want to overstate this, but I really like Dabo Swinney so of the teams that are consistently in the running for the national championship, the Tigers are the one I’m happiest to root for.
I think that realistically covers everything. Like a political candidate discloses their contributors, I’ve disclosed what fuels my own college football passions on Saturdays in the fall.