Before we get started– no, I haven’t forgotten about Northern Illinois. Yes, there will be a breakdown, and yes, you will be amazed at how such a seemingly boring game can become so interesting when you take a closer look. Unfortunately for you guys, I actually had the gall to spend Thanksgiving with this “family” thing I’ve been neglecting for a few months. Strangely, I even found it enjoyable, in an interacting-with-real-people-instead-of-the-magic-messages-that-appear-on-my-computer sort of way. It compelled me to seek more of it, and as a result I didn’t feel like writing here. Casting aside the internet for actual, breathing people? How lazy! What is this world coming to? But rest assured, I am ready to leave this “sunlight” I’ve been looking at for the last few days in order to return to soothing glow of the LCD screen on my laptop. In the end, face-to-face conversation just doesn’t measure up to hurling long-distance barbs towards people I don’t know, using a “series of tubes.”
The first order of business is our regular Tuesday look at the bowl situation. With the exception of the conference championship game, the ACC season is done. Instead of clearing up the EagleBank Bowl picture, though, the end of the season has brought more confusion. On the surface it would appear simple: 10 bowl-eligible teams in the ACC, 9 bowl slots available, everyone has a dance partner (except for the kid who picks his nose and smells funny). But no, it just doesn’t work that way. To break it all down:
- The team we all wanted, Virginia, lost to Virginia Tech and didn’t even become bowl eligible. So they’re out.
- North Carolina State would be a great pick for the EagleBank Bowl, but they finished 6-6. Bowl eligible, yes, but not until the other teams in the conference with a winning record are selected for bowls of their own. With 9 teams at 7-5 or better to go with 9 ACC bowl slots, that means the Wolfpack will have to look elsewhere.
- Bowls like teams that travel well and put fans in seats. They pick accordingly. With the last pick among the ACC’s bowls, it stands to reason that the EagleBank Bowl will get one of the teams with a poor reputation for bowl game ticket sales. That would mean Wake Forest, Miami, or Boston College. BC is playing in the ACC championship game, and by rule cannot fall any farther than the Music City Bowl. So they’re out too. Miami couldn’t even sell its half of the tickets when they played in the Fiesta Bowl for the BCS championship. But they’re still a name-brand team that can draw more local interest in a matchup than someone like Wake, so they’ll probably be scooped up, leaving us Wake Forest and the rematch nobody wants. But just as it looked like there was one card left in the Uno game and we’re going to lose, Chet pulls out the Draw Four Wild Card and keeps hope alive. Surprise! There’s a “no-rematch” clause in Navy’s contract with the EagleBank Bowl! That rules out the Deacs, which means that nobody’s left.
- The EagleBank Bowl’s dream matchup is for Navy to play Maryland. But Maryland ruled out the EagleBank Bowl months ago, stating that the game conflicts with the school’s final exams. Chet obviously thinks that Maryland just doesn’t want to play Navy. (“We have exams that week, too, but we’re going to show up,” Gladchuk said. “Everybody has an excuse why they can’t do this or can’t do that. We’re finding a way to accommodate the bowl’s situation.”) I don’t know how legitimate the whole exam excuse is, and I don’t really care. If Debbie Yow wants to take her team elsewhere, so be it. Chet’s comments remind me of remarks from Air Force athletic officials when they whined about the end of the Navy-Air Force basketball series a few years ago. There comes a point where one protests too much. So what if they don’t want to play Navy in a bowl game? I don’t want to play them either. It wouldn’t be the first time a team has used the “exams” excuse to avoid playing in a particular bowl game, anyway. A few years ago when TCU said they wouldn’t play in the GMAC Bowl because of exams, Navy fans applauded them for “having their priorities straight” and “remembering what matters.” We saw comments like, “Can you imagine Florida State turning down a bowl game for academic reasons? Good for TCU!” Meanwhile, Florida State is cranking out Rhodes Scholars while Maryland is doing just what TCU did. Maybe the ol’ USNA “we’re the only school that cares about academics” elitism should be toned down a bit. Obviously USNA sets a higher academic standard than other schools, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else just doesn’t care. Plenty of you have expressed reservations about the Army-Navy Game being moved to the same week as exams next year. This is no different. Yow is a backstabbing trainwreck of an athletic director who runs her department with the grace and delicate skill of a trash compactor. I don’t care for Maryland any more than I care for swimmer’s ear, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they didn’t want to play Navy. It also wouldn’t surprise me if things shifted around and they ended up in the game. Either way, sometimes you just have to let it go.
So where does all this leave us? First and foremost it means that we won’t be playing Wake Forest, which is all I really care about. Just how the new mystery opponent will be found, though, is anybody’s guess. Right now there would appear to be two possibilities. Either the ACC can force unwanted teams on its bowl games and send someone like Miami to Washington, or it could cut ties with the EagleBank Bowl for this year and let them go the at-large route. Neither is an appealing option for the conference; either you set one of your members adrift, or you damage the business relationship with your other bowls. I’m sure EagleBank Bowl officials want an ACC team, but with Navy set to bring so many fans the game is probably going to be a success no matter what. We’ll probably find out this weekend.
Anyway, on to the poll. Last week’s poll was about the term, “Middies.” My childhood memories consist mainly of two things: my dog, and hearing Brent Musberger call the Army-Navy Game for ABC. Musberger made almost excessive use of the term, but it wasn’t until I arrived at USNA that I discovered that it was deemed inappropriate by the arbiters of such things. It’s never bothered me, though, and I am pleased to see that it doesn’t bother most of you guys either. To me, “Middies” never felt derogatory. Instead it sort of felt old school; a nickname that recalls the days of Grantland Rice, when the Ivy League ruled college football and when the game’s traditions were in their formative stages. Sure, it isn’t as alpha-male intimidating as if we were called the NAVY GALACTUS DESTROYER OF WORLDSes, but intimidating nicknames are overrated. I do what I’m told and say “Mids” instead, but I don’t give a second thought to someone else saying “Middies.”
In this week’s poll, we’ll talk about Army. It is Army week, after all. The prevailing sentiment towards Army among Navy fans seems to be that most of us root for the Woops in every game but one. It’s understandable. A lot of us have crossed paths with other service academy graduates in our careers, and those are the only people who can really relate to our college experience. “We’re all on the same team” and whatnot. I, however, never really felt compelled to cheer for the other service academies. I can see why others do; I just don’t, and the reaction I get when I say so would make you think that I was rooting for al Qaeda. I guess I’m able to separate the football program from the school and service as a whole, while others don’t. Besides, why would I root for a school like Air Force that embraced a coach that never passed up an opportunity to denigrate Navy, and allows some graduates to do little more than coach football? The whole Alternative Service Option flap really soured me on West Point, too. The country needs the school, but I don’t see what that has to do with cheering for its football team. It’s an opinion that gets me labeled as classless more often than not.
So that brings us to this week’s question. Do you root for the other service academies? And if so, what do you think of those who don’t?