Before heading to the cold of Montana, here’s a fresh batch of “David’s Appetizers,” assorted musings and observations from the sports scene:
In the past few days, our online products have apparently gotten a number of views from Montana Grizzly fans in anticipation of Saturday’s NCAA Division I Football Championiship Subdivision matchup with the University of Central Arkansas.
During the last couple of days, I’ve probably talked or communicated online with more Montana fans than UCA fans. They have made their presence known and are doing their homework.
This I’ve already discovered:
Even through cyberspace, it’s easy to detect the passion and pride they have for the school, the team and their part of the country. They are excited to show it off to visitors.
They ones I’ve communicated with are classy, knowledgeable and hospitable folks. I’ve seen or heard no trash talking. They are enthusiastic about relating places to see and go and eat in Missoula. From hotel clerks to just plain ole fans, some of whom now live in other parts of the country, they have been most gracious and kind to what we have written and reported and most congratulatory about UCA’s season.
One fan seemed to be chuckling a bit when he left me a voice message, noting how I had reported that UCA coaches were going to pump noise into Estes Stadium during practice to try to prepare the players and coaches for what they will face at Washington Grizzly Stadium, which seems to be universally noted for having one of the best and loudest atmospheres in all of college football. “They can pump all the noise they want into their stadium, but it is definitely not gonna work,” he said. “It’s really bad (at Wash Grizz) and I’ve been all over the country following the Grizzlies.”
I’ve been to College Stadium and Baton Rouge, watched many a game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock (when can be pretty loud in its own right) and here’s what I suspect: You can practice in noise and folks can create a form of loudness. But there is no way you can replicate passionate noise. Basketball teams used to do the same thing before they visited the old Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville and it didn’t really work to any significant degree once the Arkansas fans got cheering on the Hogs in key situations.
Here’s another bit of info from Mick, a Grizzly fan:
“The traffic is bumper to bumper for 120 miles on game day. Some diehard fans drive 600 to 700 miles every weekend to ‘Griz It Up.’ All our regular-season games are sold out with attendance in the mid-26,000. Playoffs generally draw 22,000 to 25,000 but the atmosphere is still great. I’ve actually seen quarterbacks more than once line up under the offensive guard rather than the center due to confusion from crowd noise. Tony Romo was once asked after a victory over Seahawks in Seattle if had ever experienced more noise in a stadium. His response was ‘Missoula Montana is way louder.’”
Here’s what I like about Montana and Appalachian State and Georgia Southern and other longtime traditional powers and great fan bases in NCAA Division I FCS. They illustrate that you don’t have to be in or watch teams play in major Football Bowl Subdivision Conferences to witness a bigtime football atmosphere and see first-class support and quality football played with the passion that most of us love about college athletics.
The Grizzlies to the city of Missoula and the state of Montana are just as prized as the Razorbacks are to Fayetteville and Arkansas.
When the opening became available that made the Arkansas State-UCA matchup possible and beneficial, the Red Wolves were a relatively last-minute replacement on UCA’s schedule this year.
Remember whose place ASU took? The University of Houston, which is undefeated and would have been another conference champion (Conference USA) that the Bears would have gone against.
It’s really a moot point now. But it’s intriguing to think this: If the Razorbacks had beaten LSU and were vying for points in the BCS and computer rankings, would their strength of schedule been helped if they had played Arkansas State instead of New Mexico — or even Texas A&M?
Some of those discussing and analyzing (and sometimes overanalyzing) Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino’s (possibly profane) rant along the sideline during the final moments of the LSU game (thought to be directed at LSU coach Les Miles) are missing the key point.
Many coaches are known to use some of what used to be called “wash-the-mouth-out with soap” language along the sideline, directed at officials, players, assistant coaches, whomever. Some bad language has seeped its way into our culture and has been too casually accepted as the norm — in the workplace, entertainment, recreation casual life. I’ve heard elementary students used words that would have gotten me in big trouble as a teen. I’m not going to throw stones about that. I’ve been in newsrooms when all the computers have crashed near deadline.
Generally folks are willing to give Petrino a pass because of the tremendous emotion of the game and the week with the death of Garrett Uekman.
To me, this is more a discipline issue than a profanity issue.
If coaches are going to demand their players to show discipline and conduct themselves with class under all kinds of conditions, in public and on the field, they need to hold themselves to the same standard. If a coach expects his players to control themselves (and punishes them if they don’t) for tirades or incidents of trash-talking, they should control themselves, however difficult and challenging, in the same manner.
It’s an emotional game. But part of the teaching moments of the game is learning to control oneself and temper emotions under the most trying conditions.
Tirades against an individual are best handled in private.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com)