My brothers and sisters, ye of the pigskin and face paint, of the tailgate and fight song, I come to you now, on the eve of college football’s 150th season, to deliver good news. Our football forefathers have taken a mystical snap and firmly stuffed an opportunity into our numbers. Now it is up to us to tuck it safely into the cradle of our elbow and truck it upfield.
Gridiron brethren, I say unto thee that this is the time to tear down the chain-link fences and finely trimmed hedges that divide us. The time to stand shoulder pad to shoulder pad, moving toward pay dirt together in lockstep, whether to the “Victory March” or March On, or while ambling along like a Ramblin’ Wreck. It is time to celebrate this great game that we all adore with our red- (or blue- or orange- or green-) blooded souls and use that energy to love one another just as dearly.
College football is a world built on divisions. Like, literal divisions, from the ACC Coastal to the Mountain West West. This is a world where we sing defiant songs, wear clashing colors and eat different foods. Hell, we can’t even agree on the best manner with which to matriculate, be it run ‘n’ shoot, Fun ‘n’ Gun, Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust or whatever Mike Leach just drew up on the back of a national park pamphlet.
But why is now the right moment for a college football harmonic convergence? Why is 2019 the time to quote (Touchdown) Jesus and implore you to “put away your sword” … or Jeweled Shillelagh or Mountaineer musket or whatever weapon your mascot might wield? Because, like a Trevor Lawrence dagger TD dart to Tee Higgins, our timing will never be better.
Princeton and Rutgers played the very first college football contest on Nov. 6, 1869, barely four years removed from the end of the Civil War. No, not Oregon-Oregon State, the actual Civil War, these United States in the earliest stages of reestablishing the “United” part of our name. A sloppy rugby-ish game that produced only 10 points in front of 100 fans has grown into a phenomenon that connects millions of us every autumn Saturday. College football is a place where everyone, no matter their background, skin color, whom they voted for or what they worship, can spend a few hours screaming together instead of at each other.
It’s the American dream.
The 150th season of college football is the perfect opportunity to unite. When two coasts and their continentally divided styles of football can come together. When the gray-hairs in the technicolor blazers occupying the high-dollar-donor section of the stadium can spin yarns of riding the train to watch their alma mater in a pre-WWII Sugar Bowl, while their grandchildren in the student section share tales of Ubering to their Airbnb in New Orleans to watch the College Football Playoff championship.
Yes, my eyeblacked brothers and sisters, I look upon you now and beseech you to raise your red Solo cups, from Happy Valley to The Grove. I hold aloft a torch, a Mississippi State cowbell stuffed with Boise State blue turf and blades of grass from FSU’s Sod Cemetery, lit with a match struck upon Howard’s Rock. Let us conjure up the spirits of Walter Camp, Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant and Eddie Robinson, asking for guidance in our quest to become one in the name of their game. Let us ask for wisdom, for happiness and the ability to enjoy all of the above together during this 150th fall.
Buckeyes and Wolverines. Tide and Tigers. Gators and Dawgs. Trojans and Bruins. Boomer and Bevo. Even Army and Navy. Friends forged in football, for one glorious celebratory season.
Next year y’all can go back to despising each other. I promise.