Part of my job here at Grantland is to solve moral dilemmas. For example: Are you a real college football fan? Or are you rooting for Alabama or Michigan in a manner that I might find offensive?
The Sports Guy has already laid out a set of rules for pro-sports fandom. College football deserves the same thing: a guide to picking a school, keeping a school, and, in extremely rare cases, changing schools.
I’m not interested in small-time rules. Like: Can you refer to your college team as “we”? (Yes.) Or: Can you watch a game plastered? (Of course.) Like an NCAA enforcement officer, I’m looking at your eligibility. Anyone can watch College GameDay or buy a T-shirt, but there are only a few circumstances in which you have a bona fide claim to a particular team.
When Jontel Evans' 3-pointer rattled out at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday night, Duke held on for a narrow 61-58 win over Virginia. Duke's lengthy home-court winning streak, which began in February 2009, was intact at 44 games. No fan section in the country can match the fame of the Cameron Crazies, but 531 miles to the northwest, in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue's “Paint Crew” saw the end of a streak that might have been even more impressive. Since a loss to Michigan State on Feb. 28, 2010, the Boilermakers had won 26 straight in Mackey Arena. Coming into Thursday's clash with Wisconsin, they boasted the best home court advantage in the country's toughest conference. And it had everything to do with their fans.
In advance of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which begins tonight, Shane Ryan and Mark Titus exchanged e-mails discussing Duke, Ohio State, the nature of the Challenge, and a few odds and ends, including a new game called Azerbaijan. And after much fanfare, picks were made.
Well, friends and enemies, here we are. No. 1 LSU vs. no. 2 Alabama. The national championship play-in. We've been anticipating this game for so long that watching it will almost feel strange, as though, with all the buildup and the weight of our collective expectations, it shouldn't actually happen. It would be like if one of the wacko apocalypse predictions you hear about every few years actually came true. This is fire-and-brimstone stuff, and I'm not ready.
I'll forgo any suspense and admit to you right now that I have no idea who's going to win. In fact, I'm so overwhelmed by the sheer size of this game that I can barely think straight. But I'm lucid enough to know that this is:
Have you followed the Jordan Jefferson saga? If you haven't, it's not measurably different from any of the other black marks on college football's name. The gist is that the LSU quarterback and some teammates were at a Baton Rouge bar in August when a fight broke out. Four people were badly beaten — one suffered three fractured vertebrae — and witnesses reported that Jefferson kicked another in the face. He was charged with felony second-degree battery, and that charge was reduced to a misdemeanor last week. Nobody seems to be denying that the alleged brawl happened, but a grand jury decided it didn't warrant a felony. As his lawyer argued, the injury wasn't serious enough. Jefferson was reinstated, and scored a touchdown in the first quarter of last week's win against Kentucky.
Fair enough. If you can't live with that storyline, you shouldn't be watching college football at all.