I’ve always been a sportsball fan. I’ve joked that I’d watch ant wrestling if they put it on television. My sports passion does not manifest itself equally across all sports. I’ll watch the international kick-ball tournaments, but I have zero interest in European league play or the MLS. Baseball is a sport I listen to, more than watch. I’ll often put a game on and read a book, paying attention as the situation warrants. American football is a TV-only sport for me. The same is true of hockey.
For me, Thanksgiving weekend is one of the best sports watching weekends of the year. I’m not a big fan of the NFL anymore, but I enjoy the Thursday games. The big draw is the college rivalry games. Friday and Saturday are packed with old fashioned grudge matches where the records don’t matter. The players on both sides are fueled by a good old fashioned hatred of the other guys. You don’t have to be a fan of the teams to enjoy the games because you know they count.
My guess is I love the rivalry games because I played sports as a kid. As a freshman in high school, the week we played our arch-rival in football was almost overwhelming. Freshman played on the freshman team, but we still played our nemesis at the end of the year. All week the older boys reminded us of what it meant. By the game, all of us wanted to kill the other guys. The only thing better than facing your enemy on the ball field is walking off the field triumphant.
In Dublin, I struggled to explain American football to the locals because they could not grasp the brutality of the game. In my first rivalry game, I hit a kid so hard I heard the air escape his lungs. He was left gasping for air like a fish. To play football requires a reckless disregard for your physical well-being. That’s the thrill of it as a player. Add in the rivalries and the traditions and it is as close a young man can get to being a gladiator. Wrestling and boxing are the only comparisons.
Anyway, watching all of the rivalry games is good fun for me and I look forward to it every year. What struck me watching the games yesterday is that football is no longer a sport played in parts of the country. That’s obvious when you look at college ball. There are no good teams in the Northeast. Penn State would be the one exception, but Western Pennsylvania is more Midwest than northeast. There’s also the fact the players they recruit are from the South and Midwest.
If you look at New England, which is the most feminized part of the country, the high school football is laughably bad. No major colleges recruit the region. Their local colleges are not very good either. The one exception is New Hampshire, which is good enough to make the play-offs, but just barely. The rest of the colleges range from really terrible to just terrible. Boston College is the one major college program in New England and they are one of the worst major college programs in the nation.
Looking at the top division, the Power Five conferences, you have Boston College, Syracuse, Rutgers, Maryland, Pittsburgh and Penn State. Their combined record against their FBS opponents is 21-and-35. That includes the two teams that get most of their players from the Midwest. No one in Western Pennsylvania thinks of themselves as Northeastern. Net out those schools and the Northeast is 7-and-29 this year. That’s about as bad as it get in the college game.
This is not just a college phenomenon. In the South, high school football teams have to cut players because they have so many boys trying out every year. In New England, they struggle to field teams and the players all play both ways. I know parents in New England that would not allow their boys to play football because it was too rough. There’s also the firm belief that anything girls can’t do must be immoral so it must be stopped. The result is a dying sports culture.
It’s not just that the men in these Progressive strongholds are wimps. There’s also a demographic issue. New England is the nation’s oldest region. Whenever I go to Boston, I’m always struck by how old it is. There are loads of students around the colleges, but outside those areas it is mostly older people. It’s also mostly white people too. New England is honky town. Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are the three whitest states in the country. Massachusetts is 8% black.
I’ll also note that the war on football via the concussion issue started in Boston. The hysteria over concussions has all the trappings of junk science, driven by fanatics, rather than facts. Blows to the head are never a good thing, but these people are claiming football causes ALS, which is quackery on stilts. My guess here is the Cold Civil War is at the root of this. Football is a Southern sport now so that means the neo-Puritans of New England must try to ban it as immoral.
Given how things happen in America, my guess is football is headed for the same end as boxing. Once the vinegar drinking shrews of New England decided boxing was bad, boxing slowly disappeared from the public sphere. I grew up seeing pro fights on daytime TV. Now you have to buy fights via pay-per-view, as if it is pornography. The best fighters these days are not Americans because American parents will not let their boys go to a boxing gym.
Of course, the future is not written. We may be at peak lunacy with places like New England. The rest of the nation loves football and loves the masculine traditions that surround it. Watch Alabama – Auburn and you see girls being girts and boys being boys, just as their parents and grandparents. No amount of preaching by prim-faced lesbians from Boston is going to change that reality. But, I used to think that about other things that have been banned by the Left.