I don’t get to tailgate.
When I’m out of this racket — and I have no desire for that to be anytime before automobiles are completely independent of oil-based products — I may tailgate once or twice a year. I’d want to do it in places I’ve never seen a football game, like LSU or Notre Dame or Georgia or Army or Florida or Florida State or Texas or Clemson or Washington or Navy or Boise State or Harvard or Tennessee or Yale. Or even Alabama. Places where I have images of what it’s like, but don’t really know for sure.
Where would you most like to see a football game of all the places you haven’t been?
Sure, I walk around the parking lots of stadiums before games. Surprisingly and delightfully often, people offer me food and drink. For some reason, they never do this when I’m just walking on a street in Cedar Rapids. But I pass (unless it’s a food item that’s too irresistible to, you know, resist) because I’m working. Which few people believe, even though I’m leaving the press box at 9:30 p.m. on the day of a 2:30 game while everyone else is wherever they wanted to be after the game.
I’m not complaining. Not a bit. Other than for the fact I don’t really get to be part of the tailgating thing. So I guess I am complaining.
But the thing is, the game’s always the thing to me. If I’m interested in the matchup, I couldn’t care less about never playing that tailgating bean bag game that looks like it shouldn’t capture the interest of anyone over 10 years old, yet does. Why does it, by the way? It’s lobbing bean bags. That’s a game? What, everyone forgot how to play “Duck, Duck, Goose” or “20 Questions?”
If the football game is appealing, I’ll leave the grilled burgers and chicken sandwiches to someone else without caring. If the game is appealing, I’m happy on Saturday. I’m happier in the week leading up to Saturday.
This week? Not so happy.
I like good stories. But this Saturday, my assignment is Central Michigan-Iowa. Maybe something will happen during the game that will make for a good story, maybe a great story. Mark Weisman came out of nowhere to be a great story last week. Maybe something totally unforeseen will give CMU-Iowa some drama, some human interest, some comedy, something fresh and captivating.
But right now, I don’t see it. Right now, I see a game that was scheduled for the sole purpose of commerce. Give the Chippewas a nice check, give Iowa seventh home date, give the merchants of Johnson County a seventh home date, give the Big Ten Network a piece of programming.
Right now, I can’t imagine remembering this game in the future, the same way I remember nothing about Ball State-Iowa and Eastern Illinois-Iowa in 2010, or Maine-Iowa and Florida International-Iowa in 2008. You’d be amazed and maybe frightened by how little I recall from some of the games I have written about. I know I am.
On the other hand, the good games with the good stories hang around in my brain for a long time. Too long, probably.
You can’t have great matchups every week, otherwise none of them would feel that great. So the sensible thing to do is accept that and understand it takes a few Central Michigan-Iowas to make the really good games seem really good.
That makes more sense in weeks other than those in which we have a Central Michigan-Iowa.
But you know what? If I write fast, I can get home in time to catch most of Michigan-Notre Dame. And Kansas State-Oklahoma. And Clemson-Florida State. And even Syracuse-Minnesota and Louisiana Tech-Illinois.
Then at 9:30, we get Arizona-Oregon.
And the next day, it’s Minnesota-Iowa and Texas Tech-Iowa State Week. I think I’ve just written myself back into a better frame of mind. Thanks for indulging me. If I can return the favor, let me know.