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News and Features
2008 Final College Futility Rankings
At the professional level, teams that finish at the bottom refer to this time of year as the beginning of golf season. And given the paychecks of most players and coaches, they don’t have to worry much about competing with retirees for tee times. The one disappointment in 2008 has been that in writing about the college game, the Sage can’t slam the Detroit Lions. The pitiful old motor city franchise looks as it has finally blown all it’s gaskets and not even the team ownership seems to care. At least Lions players get paid something for losing. Professional players have a paycheck coming in and a vacation to look forward to. At the college level though, players on losing teams are compelled to visit their respective Religious Studies Departments to seek inner peace. Their coaches seek employment.
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The Worst of College Football's Early Season
Why do so many top tier schools put dog games on their schedule? Of course they want to avoid injuries, but a better course of action to accomplish that would be to ban beer in the athletic dorm to keep kids from falling down the stairs or tripping over cheerleaders. Perhaps Ohio State wants to practice their second and third strings against teams that don’t have matching uniforms. The reasons for these games are anyone’s guess. But why a fan would pay attention to one is beyond comprehension.
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Surviving Football Withdrawal – Recognizing and recovering from football dependency


January 2, 2009

College Football’s season ending ‘hurrah’ that is bowl week heralds the conclusion of the 2008 season. For the more balanced among us, this signals the start of a new year and the chance to focus on surviving winter and to enjoy not having to cut the grass. For others, this time of year marks a merciful and justified end to more than four months of yelling, beer swilling, nacho loading and relationship damaging behavior. 2008 was notable for many formerly losing programs. Vanderbilt defeated Boston College 16-14 in the Music City Bowl on New Year’s Eve. This was Vanderbilt’s first bowl win since the Dwight Eisenhower Presidency and came over #24 Boston College. Not since Howdy Doody ruled Saturdays has Vanderbilt produced a post season victory. Vandy is now able to provide proof that the school indeed has a football program. Coming out of the cold after 53 years will provide enough fuel to keep the Commodore faithful happy through the offseason.

2008 saw many milestones achieved. It also saw some horrific collapses. Several formerly strong programs that expected to win, took a nosedive into the black hole of bowl in ineligibility. The Wolverines of mighty Michigan found out what life has been like for their Big-10 brethren at Indiana this year, as there was no bowl trip to a warm climate to salve the discomfort of a Michigan winter. Several programs that expected to be generating heat in the compost bin, didn’t fail to disappoint. Perennial doormats of the west, New Mexico State and Idaho managed to field teams that performed expectedly abysmally. The big surprise this year was former Pac-10 power program Washington. The team smelled like wet dogs as they competed with cross state rival Washington State to solidly anchor the worst group of 2008 football programs.

How do Husky fans survive the offseason? The obligatory firing of the old coach and replacement with poor Steve Sarkisian from USC will provide a few weeks of hope, but in the end, reality will set in just like the Puget Sound fog. The one bright spot is that expectations for Husky football are now set so low, that even a single win over a Division II school would qualify as a step in the right direction. UW is now trying to schedule Western Kentucky and Murray State just as soon as possible. But the purple dogs would be wise to remember Michigan scheduling Appalachian State at home some years ago. The maize and blue’s gagging in that game started the program spiraling into the septic tank. But well… if you are UW, there just isn’t much further to fall, so you may as well try and outbid Indiana and Nebraska to get Murray State to show up on your field.

How did we as a society get to a point where our daily happiness is dependent on how the alma mater did on the field? This question justifies some exploration as a good chunk of the autumn economy is driven by young, t-shirt clad alumni putting pizza, nachos and beer on their new American Express cards.

College football afternoons call to mind a time of hope and anticipation for university alumni. That time of being young and able to scope out the coeds with impunity is for many, the best and most hopeful time of their young lives. Many alumni get out into the world and before they realize it, find themselves with a mortgage, a wife and two great but loud kids. They wistfully look back on the feeling of exhilaration and optimism when they let themselves believe that Tammy C. from Accounting 101 might really go out with ‘em. For young alums the challenge is then to recreate those great feelings of exhilaration and optimism while encumbered by a real job.

University administrators take great advantage of this. Inviting alumni to fund raising events where they can mingle with students, alums and cheerleaders stirs just enough of that old college excitement that alumni are soon parted with significant sums of their money. When this occurs, a dysfunctional bond is created between alum and institution. Winning on the field becomes a validation of that relationship. And validation is important when going home to the wife to explain why one just contributed $500 to the University Therapy (read ‘Hot Tub’) fund.

Once the alumni and university relationship is firmly established, a dependency is created. Dependency like substance abuse gradually demands increasing contributions of attention and resources until a breaking point is reached. This breaking point typically occurs at the end of the football season when the credit card bills arrive and the wife is threatening to take the two loud kids and move to her cousin’s place near South Beach.

It should be noted that these dependencies are created in winning as well as losing environments. In winning environments however, there are more alumni to shoulder the burdens of keeping the players in hot tubs and nice cars. For rebuilding or losing programs, these dependencies really threaten financial health, family well being and all manner of relationships. So, before one has to endure news that his former wife is dating Rodrigo from the South Florida Modeling Agency, immediate action is required. Fortunately, science has provided us with at least two tactics that work.

Replacement

Replacing the substance at the core of the dependency is a common strategy. Frequently, an over dedicated alum turns his attention to the basketball program. The general strategy is to decrease the dependency though gradual reduction of the substituted environment. Unfortunately, an indoor sport doesn’t allow for nearly enough seating to bring enough alumni and cheerleaders together to generate the same level of interest and excitement that a big outdoor venue provides, so using basketball to replace football as an area of interest frequently fails.

The big risk to the replacement strategy occurs when a basketball program actually gets exciting. This creates yet another dependency that one has to wait until baseball season to cure. By this time, the ex-wife and Rodrigo will be a sipping Champaign in a hot tub of their own. Should the replacement strategy be chosen, the author recommends hockey. Even at a professional level, hockey is fast enough to allow the viewer to forget about gawking at college aged coeds. And almost no one has hockey cheerleaders.

Many wives may be prevented from achieving the status of ex-wives by including them in the replacement area of interest. Replacement interests need not be sports related. Especially if one’s wife has participated to any degree in the football season, the recovering fan will need to consider all options for replacement – just to be fair. These areas may include opera, classical music and other artistic disciplines far removed from anything resembling a sweat sock.

Rebound

The term ‘rebound’ is a more clever way of saying quitting ‘cold turkey.’ After a period of time removed from the dependency, the fan will simply rebound to something resembling normalcy. Rebound depression is a natural consequence here, but… depression is better than sending off alimony checks to South Florida. The central tenant of the Rebound strategy is to tough it out, read the updates on what ridiculous statements the new coach makes, and watch as the best recruits in your area commit to USC. And just deal with it.

The more difficult part of this strategy comes when trying to talk the wife into unpacking the UHaul and telling her with a straight face that you will never again drop $400 to pick up the bar tab for the senior members of the Pom squad. Should the alum be successful in coaxing the wife into the house, he must actually make conversation about something meaningful – like life, love, finances and try to find areas of common interest.

These areas of common interest then overlap with the Replacement tactic as some of these conversations will require actual commitment and follow through. Attending an opera really isn’t the point of this. Should you get into a situation where you are committed to participate in something your very significant other is interested in, remember that you must actually ‘participate.’ When your wife attended a football game with you, she probably didn’t just sit there when your team scored. Now when the fat lady sings, you don’t stand up and do the wave, but you get the point. One must invest the effort to learn who Pavarotti was and what really distinguished him from John Mayer.

Joint Recovery

Occasionally, husband and wife teams will experience the same withdrawal and depression problems together. While it may appear to be an advantage to share a dedication to a particular football program, joint recoveries from football withdrawal are frequently more than twice the work. They are certainly almost twice as expensive. Since both parties to the relationship are involved in the problem, there is no one available with a strong connection to reality to set the baselines for expected behavior.

Connecting to reality is then the central part of a joint recovery. Reality consists of things like cleaning the house, paying the bills and shoveling snow. Sharing in these tasks is not something anyone would naturally give up Sports Center to do. However, the recovery requires tasks and chores to be shared. It also requires the couple to investigate what other areas of interest the relationship might pursue. These might include things like biking, hiking, dog walking – usually something ending in “ing” would work. This again implies action and participation. The exception – for obvious reasons – to this rule would be the addition of (new or more) kids to the relationship.

Concluding the 2008 football season is best done in some form of ritual. Something like taking the Christmas lights down or finally throwing out some salt on that driveway ice patch might help you get it into your head that it is winter outside. Football will have to wait until the spring game. And when the spring game does roll around, for God’s sake, don’t pay for a ticket to see it. Just let it go by and take the wife to a nice dinner. Otherwise, she and Rodrigo will be drinking rum and chomping calamari under a palm tree.

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