Big Ten at Ten 8.28.12: Growing Up With Football and a Justification for Fandom

I know, I know. I'm not a big fan of Michigan myself, but it's Michigan's day AND it's great to see a packed house in one of the great stadiums in America.

I have loved College Football for most all of my life. From the obnoxious baby pictures in the Nebraska Cornhusker onesie (is that how you spell that? I don't have kids...) to the oversized Nebraska Apex coat in the 90s, and even into the unnecessarily expensive Nebraska gear I have acquired over the years, I have supported and been a fan of College Football. I love the pageantry of the band on the field right before Nebraska comes barreling out of the tunnel, the camaraderie of watching the game with friends and sharing the intense stress that comes with close games, the gorging of ones self and inviting others to do the same as a smorgasbord of grilled meats and melted cheeses adorns the kitchen table, and I even love the agony of defeat because it makes victory that much sweeter.

With two days left before the 2012 season kicks off, I am emboldened to remember why this sport is great. We have had a rather tumultuous two seasons in the Big Ten. Between scandals at Ohio State and Penn State, probationary measures taken at pretty much every school but Northwestern, coaching carousels, teams losing players to the South, and the terrible mantra that everything rises and falls with the SEC, a lot of us have grown weary of the sport that brings us all here. But that's just it, it's a sport that brings us all together, and maybe that in and of itself is worth praising.

Despite the reality that NCAA Collegiate Football as it stands now is nothing more than a shill for a bunch of old guys to make money on the backs of young guys under the guise of academic integrity and pursuits, I feel like College Football gives us all a short escape and a chance to connect across geographical, economic (I mean, we invited Northwestern to the party), social, and even racial divides.

I was reading an article by Charles Pierce yesterday on Grantland and he was both praising and decrying the mess that is College Football, but he had this beautifully stated thought:

The whole sorry mess is overdue to come crashing down on the people who have profited from it the most.

But there are reasons why it hasn't yet, and one of them is that, in many places, especially in the places established under Justin Morrill's great idea, football began as a part of a greater whole, and it began as a statement of something that had great value to the people who spread out west and south to make new lives for themselves. It is deeper than provincialism. It is a question of hard-won identity and, if that hard-won identity is occasionally employed by small men to their own profit and advantage, that doesn't make it any less real, or its origins any less noble.

I love this point because it really does make sense of why there is such an attachment to football for me. I know it's just a game, I really do. My life is not adversely affected by a loss and there is no real net gain in a win, but there is a certain place of identity - an equalizer if you may - that makes it mean something. In Nebraska, we do not have a lot to bring us all together. With no professional sports teams and more urban sprawl than one state should ever have, there is very little to form community, but on Saturdays, we all are neighbors. I grew up with football as something I could talk about with almost everyone. Man, woman, or child, we all knew that the on thing that could bring us together was Nebraska football.

So with that little walk down memory lane, and with some slightly stretched justification for obsessing over 18-23 year old men in pads for the next four months, bring on some football! Links after the jump.

Team Links:

Conference Links

Are you all ready for Thursday?!?!?! I seriously could not care less who is playing at this point, so long as football is on! Have a great afternoon.

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