Okay, fine. So the fire's raged on for going on 72 hours. That's quite alright, because frankly, it's still a bunch of absolute bullsh*t.
I've let the counter arguments wash over me and I've tried to approach this thing pragmatically. To be fair, tradition historically does have a funny way of keeping innovation in check. It also occasionally has been known to preserve completely failed institutions solely for the sake of protecting the status quo. Try as I may to embrace progressive, forward thinking philosophies, even often unpopular lines of thinking, this is not one of those times.
There cannot be any shock or disgust about the mix of outside influence on the players or components of college football, because that influence is so old that it’s practically a part of college football tradition. No, this is a requiem for college football tradition itself. If the annual meeting between Ohio State and Michigan at the end of the schedule is altered, disrupted or moved, then nothing is sacred. If you think that the Buckeyes and Wolverines’ rivalry is the same regardless of when it’s played, you are simply too young or too ignorant of history to know any better. There’s no “agreeing to disagree.” Ohio State and Michigan must play to end the regular season and not one week sooner. This sacrilegious idea is borne from the absurdity that the Big Ten needs to have the potential for an Ohio State-Michigan conference championship game, and by playing to close the season it creates the potential for a quick rematch. This is like saying that Independence Day needs to be moved from its spot on the calendar to create a buffer between it and another, new patriotic holiday that hasn’t been invented yet, and the two cannot come close to overlapping because of, well, just because. There’s no agreeing to disagree. This is stupid far beyond the level of giving Charlie Weis $40 million guaranteed to do anything.
While it's no secret that a good majority of the league (and probably to some extent college football fans in general) may be experiencing topical burnout on the matter, it's as important as ever that they recognize that this is bigger than two fan bases; this is an attack on the very foundation of which college football is based. The pageantry, the recurring observance of something you can pinpoint on a timeline, fold the whole damn thing back 60 years, speak to someone from an era long since lost from that point in time's same geographic place, and instantaneously share a mutual, common experience about the same event. Jim Delany, Gene Smith, and Dave Brandon would rather default to a perverse interpretation of the importance of "playing for the Rose Bowl" and pretend that playing for a division crown would in any way marginalize everything that The Game is. This is nothing if but tragic. Naturally Brandon had a Gabriel Byrne in "End of Days" worthy agenda in mind to add to the topic Wednesday:
“I’ve heard that a lot the last couple days: what would Bo (Schembechler) say? Bo hated the idea that Penn State was allowed in the Big Ten. He hated it, he fought it, he thought it was a terrible idea. I love Bo, I owe a lot to Bo, I respect Bo immeasurably, but I can tell you the Big Ten is a much better conference right now that Penn State is in it. Bo would hate the idea that we let Nebraska in the conference. He would hate the idea of splitting into two divisions, and he’d hate the idea that we’d have a championship game to get to the Rose Bowl, as opposed to the way it’s always been. And there are a lot of people out there that feel the same way. … The favorable reaction to (Nebraska entering) was 99-1. People love the big brand ‘Nebraska,' great school. But now the reality is setting in… . You can’t split into divisions, you can’t have a championship game, without some changes occurring.”
Dead legendary coach strawman is dead.
Furthermore, Barry Alvarez continues to disgrace everything HBO's The Wire ever taught us. The latest news comes with word that Iowa and Wisconsin will all but definitely be in different divisions. Alvarez also states that the proposed 9-game league set would be good to go in time for the 2015 football season. This brings us closer and closer to a scenario of the same line of thinking outlined by Scott Dotcherman last week:
RUST BELT: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota — 412 league wins over 17 years GRAIN BELT: Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern — 428 league wins over 17 years
And without warning this all of the sudden feels an awful lot like the LeBron "The Decision" moment all over again. Echoing the sentiments of Will Leitch, the entirety of this just makes me feel frankly stupid for caring so much in the first place.
College football is the closest thing we have to tribal pride in this country. It's a living, breathing metaphorical means to vicariously live through an institution that in one 4.2 second touchdown play is capable of rekindling an entire 4+ year undergraduate experience and/or an entire childhood's worth of emotionally associated memories. While Ohio State-Michigan will live on and it's likely the next generation of Buckeyes and Wolverines won't know the difference between playing the last Saturday in November and the third in October, it doesn't mean we're foolish for wanting more than anything for them to have what we had, to have what our fathers had, and what our grandfathers had. It's beyond a shame Delany and co. won't let us share that with them.