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Ken Lipshez

Some Strauss & Geography 101, please


The coming of the football season has always been a treasured segment of the sports calendar to me.

The humidity of summer departs and the sweater weather brings thoughts of the apple cider, chrysanthemums and my deck illuminated by the harvest moon. Football remains such a vibrant part of that, but for how much longer I’m not sure.

After watching Saturday night’s so-called exhibition game between the Giants and Colts, thoughts turned toward my mind’s tug-of-war between football and soccer.

Football is an American tradition, the likes of which I’ve always favored, but when harvest time came a mite early I found myself pining for the World Cup. The brilliant yellows illuminating the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis that my eyes have been trained to recognize as maple leaves were of a man-made nature.

Forgetting to consider that maple leaves wouldn’t be falling inside a dome anyway, these were far from welcome sights as they flew in dizzying numbers from the belts of game officials.

Football, which lacks fluidity by nature because of its stop-and-go, huddle-up framework, is prone to become nearly unwatchable. If the referees aren’t headed to the video tape while the league and televisions networks rack up more commercial spots, they’re nullifying plays due to don’t-touch-him infractions.

Allow me to put it all in musical terms.

Football, which once marched to the syncopated beat of a John Philip Sousa masterpiece, has devolved into a never-ending staccato of discordant segments about as melodic as fingernails being forcibly dragged across a blackboard.

Meanwhile soccer, with its consistent flow and elegant collaborations, is akin to the melodious strains of “The Blue Danube.” Interconnected and smooth always trumps choppy and detached, when it comes to listening to music and describing games in newspapers.

Where I’m headed with this is that the NFL would be best suited to spit-can its accelerated restrictions on defensive backs or I’ll find something more logical to do with my Sundays from September through January.

That segues into the college version of America’s irrational pastime.

Last time I looked, our great universities were commanding princely sums in the $50,000-per-year range in order to organize and train fertile young fertile minds as they prepare for life’s illogical path.

If their football decisions are any indication of what they’re offering students, I’ll urge my kids to enlist in the military or learn a trade.

Two areas in which the outmoded NCAA can use refresher courses are logistics and geography.

The Big Ten now has 14 members. That’s okay because the Big 12 has 10. Perhaps Horace Greeley’s advice in 1850, “Go West, young man, go West,” is appropriate when you consider that the PAC-12 indeed has 12 schools.

Divisions have been established in several of the major conferences, most of which are named geographically.

Take the great Atlantic Coast Conference, its name itself an anomaly since Louisville is about as far away from a coast (except the Ohio River shoreline) that an American city can get.

Louisville is in the Atlantic Division, just a fly pattern away from the Jersey Shore. Pittsburgh is in the Coastal Division. Here’s a memo to Pittsburghers – be prepared for tidal waves. If you’re looking to live in the Steel City, I know a reputable real estate agent who gladly will sell you some oceanfront property.

The Big Ten, always perceived as the standard-bearer of football Midwestern style, now includes Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers. Rutgers?

By the way, what happened to the Big Ten’s prior divisional arrangement that featured the Leaders and Legends groupings? Yes, you’d have to have a degree from accredited university to come up with that, never mind have it sanctioned by some committee in which I presume all the schools would be represented.

The Southeastern Conference includes Arkansas and Texas A&M, once cornerstones of the Southwest Conference. Can you truly be both?

Idaho is a member of the Sun Belt Conference. Will anybody in the Sun Belt’s administrative offices be embarrassed if a football game has to be delayed due to a Rocky Mountain snowstorm? No problem, the sun always shines in the Sun Belt.

I have a particular bias for the Mid-American Conference because I attended Ohio University. When my beloved Battling Bobcats took the field in the early 1970s, the circuit included Bowling Green, Miami, Kent State, Toledo, and Western Michigan — a nice mix of Mid-American representatives.

I look at the roster now and see Massachusetts and Buffalo. I guess I just didn’t realize that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and State of New York considered themselves Middle American.

$50,000? No thanks, and while my son is doing something sensible like learning a trade, I’ll satisfy my love for football by watching the high schools.



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