John Steigerwald: Early season cupcake games are dumb, greedy
Idaho has been outscored 158-20 in its last two season openers.
Penn State beat the Fighting Potatoes, 79-7, on Saturday at Happy Valley. Last September, it lost to Fresno State in a squeaker 79-13.
Nothing new here. The stupidity of cupcake openers has been going on for a long time, and everybody understands why.
Penn State and other top programs can count on their fans showing up and always can count on finding a program desperate enough for money that it will drag its team across the country to be humiliated.
Of course if tailgating and/or alcohol were outlawed, there wouldn’t be 20,000 in the stadium. As it is now, four times that many show up, and 90% of them leave at halftime.
They leave the stadium, but they reconnoiter in the parking lot for more tailgating. The football is incidental. Unless you’re one of the Fighting Potatoes out there doing your best to keep it under a hundred. You have to stay and take your punishment.
If your football program is so desperate for money that you have to force your kids to go 2,000 miles to lose 79-7, you probably should drop football.
And if the system for picking your Mythical National Champion in big-time college football makes it a good idea for teams like Penn State to play at least one team like Idaho every year, then your championship is dumb.
The Penn State team that won the Mythical Championship in 1982 had a couple of easy games, Temple and Rutgers, but neither was as ridiculous as Idaho and both traveled less than 300 miles.
That team also played four teams that were ranked in the top five in the AP poll when they played: Nebraska (2), at Alabama (4), at Notre Dame (5) and Pitt (2).
The only loss was at Alabama. And that game was played back-to-back with Nebraska. The Notre Dame and Pitt games also were played back-to-back the last two weeks of the season.
Any time the stupidity of scheduling games that are most likely going to end up with the visiting team losing by 50 points is brought up, apologists are quick to point out all the reasons.
Everybody does it.
It’s a good tuneup.
The visiting rent-a-victim can use to the money to fund other sports.
The small payout to the visiting victim means more money for the home team’s minor sports.
Tailgating. Especially the tailgating.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
It’s still dumb and doesn’t explain why anyone with a brain, or certainly anybody with any appreciation for what a football game is supposed to look like, would walk more than 20 feet to waste three hours watching Penn State play Idaho.
The only way that becomes a memorable football experience is if Idaho wins.
Does anybody go to a game like that to support the field hockey team? Would the field hockey team disappear if West Virginia had been the opponent Saturday instead of Idaho?
Buffalo rolls into Happy Valley this Saturday.
Everybody knows why it’s done. That doesn’t make it any less dumb, and everybody knows that theses institutions of higher learning will continue to count on fans showing up for the stupidity.
As long as there is tailgating.
What makes it all worthwhile for the brave Fighting Potatoes of Idaho is that they will carry the memories of playing against the big boys at Penn State for the rest of their lives.
Years from now they’ll be telling their grandchildren all about it.
Who could blame them if they fudge on the score a little bit?
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.