I’ve loved college football since the days of Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes and Pepper Rodgers. It offers something few sports can lay claim to – the ability to suspend cynicism and believe that coaches are honorable, players love their school, and college sports programs are honest.
Even so, there are some alarming trends creeping into the game.
College football affords fans the freedom to love and hate without guilt. I love Georgia. I hate Oklahoma.
Up until last year, I loved Clemson. For some reason, the school’s marching band – between plays – began holding the final note of “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” by Hector Berlioz. So annoying was that prolonged discord, it gave me a headache, and I no longer watch Clemson games.
This year, Oklahoma’s band began doing the same thing, holding the fourth-to-last note of its school fight song (stolen from Yale’s “Boola Boola” decades ago), which gives me yet another reason to hate them.
The NCAA has a rule stating that a team can be penalized if their band interferes with the signal-calling of an opposing team. It’s a dead ball foul. This note-holding business could qualify as targeting, so great is the risk of head injury. Bands can enhance the college football experience, but they should be reminded of their place. The show is on the turf, not the sidelines.
While we’re on the subject, can we stop with the obnoxious commercials repeated over and over during games?
I don’t want to single out any one culprit, but I hold particular contempt for the abject silliness of the T-Mobile commercial in which a mob of wide-eyed maniacs run toward the camera in slow motion to get their hands on a new iPhone.
While the image is muddle-headed enough, the fact they are running to the strains of Carl Orff’s mildewed “Carmina Burana,” is more than I can stomach.
In fact, let’s retire “Carmina Burana” from all airwaves – a work so derivative that a critic once described it as “music that a gland would write.”
Again, I don’t want to pick on T-Mobile, a telecom giant that has twice successfully sued other companies for using magenta, a color it claims to own. So, nothing personal, T-Mobile. Really.
Penn State has only recently dug its way out from the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal that tarnished a once-proud program. That’s good, because I’ve always loved the minimalist approach the school takes to its threads.
The Nittany Lions wear navy and white. Simple. No emblem on the helmets. No names on jerseys. The team has all the appearance of a work crew setting out to demolish a building.
That’s in stark contrast to the tricked-out, revolving-door wardrobe at the University of Oregon.
By virtue of having Nike co-founder Phil Knight as an alum, the Ducks now have more than 327 different uniform combinations with every color imaginable (except magenta), according to bleacherreport.com. This is a team more suited to Bravo TV than ESPN.
Dazzling and garish, the Ducks’ uniforms always scream for attention, begging fans to focus on fashion instead of…say, the scoreboard, which might read: Georgia 49, Oregon 3 (Sept. 3, 2022), or Washington 37, Oregon 34 (Nov. 12, in which the Ducks looked more like canaries).
While I’d love to isolate on Oregon, this emphasis on style over substance can be traced back to Iowa coach Hayden Frye. When he came to the school in 1979, Frye changed the Hawkeyes’ uniforms from the traditional, black-and-gold slice of butter on a coal pile to an exact replica of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, another team I hate.
Frye reasoned that dressing his perennially mediocre team to resemble the most dominant football franchise of the 1970s would turn them into winners.
Since suiting up as faux Steelers, the Hawkeyes have gone 325-203, a winning percentage of .624. They’ve played in 32 bowl games (Who hasn’t?), with a record of 15-16-1.
The lesson: There is a middle ground between originality and theft. It’s the same in any profession. Forge your own brand, elevate it by succeeding, and stick to it.