Friday, September 02, 2011

2 SEP 11: Pump Up the Ball

A few weeks ago on my poker night, a man walked to the table with one enthusiastic question for all the other players. "Are you ready for some football?"

When he turned to me, the answer was ready. "I really came here to play poker."

So imagine my surprise Thursday night at the poker table. I looked up at a big-screen TV about to show the first college football game of the season - and someone had changed the channel to QVC. And this was a bar which has never been known for holding ladies' nights....

It turned out the TV stopped at QVC for only a moment. The eventual target was WXTX and the Baltimore-Atlanta N.F.L. game. This struck me as strange. Why turn off a college football game that counts in the standings, for a pro football game that doesn't? But then, they turned off Nevada-Las Vegas-Wisconsin - and if college football isn't played in the South, many fans still don't think it counts.

Many people in our area consider this the weekend when football season really starts. In fact, I figured out Thursday why college football gets rolling on the first weekend of September. It's for the Southerners who don't really understand what Labor Day is all about - especially now that Jerry Lewis has left that telethon.

Georgia Tech raced into the local lead among college teams Thursday night, by whipping Western Carolina 63-21. Tech is trying to get the attention of Columbus-area football fans with two running backs from Phenix City Central. Orwin Smith scored two touchdowns - so this season could be a case of "Orwin Or Else."

But to be honest, Georgia Tech's game almost qualified as an "exhibition" as much as the Falcons game did. Western Carolina plays in what used to be called Division I-AA. And on this night, not even Standard and Poor's dared to rate the team on the level of the U.S. government.

I discovered Thursday Canadian college football teams play exhibition games before their regular season begins. U.S. college basketball teams do the same thing now. So should college football teams do it, too? Even if it means my alma mater Kansas might fall one more game away from being bowl-eligible?

Other area college teams play more impressive-sounding opponents this weekend. Alabama hosts a Kent State team which has its own Columbus connection. Pacelli graduate Jacquise Terry is a starting running back and an Academic All-American. So he would have been smart enough to avoid scheduling a game at Tuscaloosa....

Jacquise Terry and several other Kent State football players spent time in Tuscaloosa during the summer, helping to rebuild tornado-damaged homes. If they think that will win them any sympathy Saturday.... well, let's put it this way. Some Alabama fans want to rip the gold off their uniforms, take it to Gentian Corners and sell it to Steve Toms.

Georgia gets going Saturday night, battling Boise State in Atlanta's "Kickoff Classic." It's not yet clear if Carver graduate Isaiah Crowell will start at running back as a freshman - or whether he would qualify in Boise as a "smurf."

This also happens to be the weekend of the NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And in a strange move, one driver in the Nationwide series will take to the track in a car with the Boise State logo on the hood. They must be having trouble selling race tickets when they have to pull a "wrestling villain" stunt like this.

Meanwhile, the second week of area high school football began Thursday night - and WTVM discovered ticket prices for Muscogee County games have gone up two to three dollars this year. You'd think a couple of spaghetti dinners during the summer would have made this unnecessary.

Buying a football ticket at the gate at McClung Memorial Stadium or Kinnett Stadium now will cost you ten dollars. The Muscogee County School District Athletic Director explained it's due to higher prices for equipment and uniforms. It's also because Carver's Dell McGee is the only head coach worthy of his own shoe contract.

Fans who paid ten dollars at the gate Thursday night saw Shaw shell Smiths Station 20-7. They also may have seen the Shaw mascot -- a Raider whose head seemed to be in serious need of repair. Can someone in medical training at Columbus Technical College do this mascot a favor over the holiday weekend?

Shaw scored a touchdown on the final play of the first half - with a pass sportscasters love to call a "Hail Mary." Someone should remind them Pacelli is the only high school where football coaches can utter that phrase, without risking a lawsuit.

The big area high school game tonight has Carver battling Buford. They're the top two ranked teams in Class AA - and this is one time the makers of Buford's Brownies have to be extra-careful about promoting their product.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Because of time constraints, our "track down" of a Columbus reporter will be postponed until this weekend.)

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