WVU Interest Puts CFP Game Atop Poll Wishlist
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Let us assume, for the sake of something to write as the slow summer months begin to overtake us, that you awake tomorrow morning and find in your email or junk mail an opportunity to enter a contest.
Truth be known, it would bigger news if you did NOT find something along this line, but this one catches your eye, for the question is easily answered and the prize offered is a good one.
“Answer this question correctly and have a chance to win your choice of attending the next Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball Tournament championship game, Game 7 of the World Series or the NCAA football championship game.”
You win,and you get your choice, all expenses paid.
Be hard to resist?
That is why the other day I offered a summertime poll on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, asking, “If you could attend only one of these events, which would it be?”
Again, if you were among my followers — and really there is no reason not to be, unless you wouldn’t enjoy a YouTube posting of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “16 Tons” in honor of the West Virginia-Tennessee football finally being set for 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1 in Charlotte, which I did offer among my columns and some trivial nonsense — you already know what won.
The results, in a way, surprised me, for there was no runaway winner.
Actually, quite to the contrary, it was far more evenly split than I had imagined it would be, with none of the four approaching 50 percent of the vote.
The only thing that didn’t surprise me was that Game 7 of the World Series finished last, for baseball understands that it is moving in that direction in fan appeal and that all sorts of crazy things are being offered as solutions — from former pitcher Jim Kaat’s suggestion that games be shortened to 7 innings, to extra-inning games being decided by starting the extra innings with a runner on second base, to even far crazier things to put the game more in touch with the times.
At 15 percent, though, Game 7 was pretty much a throwaway.
In truth a few years back I would have had no doubt that the Super Bowl would be a runaway winner, such was the power of the NFL’s promotional abilities.
But recent events involving fears for the safety of our children playing the game, as well as fears for the safety of our citizens from police brutality in minority neighborhoods that has spurred protests among the players, have eroded much of what the NFL and the Super Bowl were built upon.
NFL football once was a Fantasyland that was capped off by its Super Bowl — from halftime shows that rivaled those put on in Vegas — now a normal event at NHL hockey games in that city — to the spectacular use of slow-motion in NFL Films Productions that turned the game into a virtual ballet performance.
Reality, however, has allowed itself to creep into the sport, and all of a sudden many fans have been sent seeking other entertainment options.
Personally, having been fortunate enough to be able to combine a noun, a verb and a modifier within the same sentence with some clarity, while combining that skill with a healthy interest, if not, knowledge of sports has allowed me to pursue the only profession I ever wanted to pursue.
Life as a sportswriter has allowed me to attend such events as Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, World Series, Masters, Wimbledon, Kentucky Derby and so forth … a large slice of Americana.
Such events as the Masters, the Kentucky Derby and Wimbledon are wonderful diversions, but you might be in the wrong place at the wrong time at the Masters; the Derby takes only two minutes to run; and Wimbledon is too, too, too far away.
And while I never have attended a CFP championship game for the NCAA football title, I did get to write about and attend the next best thing — the 1971 showdown in Norman between Oklahoma and Nebraska, a game that was not billed as the “Game of the Year” but instead as the “Game of the Century” and which let no one down as Nebraska survived 35-31 and won the mythical national championship of the era.
It was a nice way to spend Thanksgiving with 61,826 fans and a national television audience, along with a couple of baseball Hall of Famers in Johnny Bench and Joe Torre.
My original thought about my online poll, considering the way things have gone recently, was that people in this college town would be swayed toward one of the two college events, and, in the end, with what the Final Four has grown into, I assumed that would win out.
Having been on hand to see Notre Dame end UCLA’s 88-game winning streak and having been caught up in so many WVU runs into the NCAA Tournament that produced magnificent moments that are etched forever — from a Jarrod West jump shot that knocked Bob Huggins and Cincinnati out one year to a courageous 3-point shot by Kevin Pittsnogle that tied Texas, only to have a buzzer-beating 3 just seconds later rain down atop his to leave the entire state stunned — it just seemed that the most thrilling, best event would be the NCAA Championship game.
But my online poll, which certainly is no better than any of the presidential election polls from the 2016 campaign, wound up with the football playoff on top with 35 percent of the vote, the Super Bowl second at 27 percent, the NCAA Final third at 23 percent and Game 7 of the World Series lagging at 15 percent.
Why the football championship game?
Certainly it isn’t the spectacle of the Super Bowl, but there does come to mind a reason.
It is something West Virginia can win. It hasn’t yet, but it’s stood on the edge, each time fate dealing an ugly blow — first the magnificent Major Harris being injured early against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl that was for the national title in 1989 and then Pat White also suffering an injury in the final game of the regular season against Pitt — a game in which WVU was a four-touchdown favorite and ready to be thrust into a game against Ohio State for a crown than many believed they would win.
These were cases of being close enough to leave a thirst for the football championship, much more than the basketball team’s lone venture into the final game when Jerry West and Co. came up a point short against Cal in the 1959 NCAA championship.
What people would cherish most of all would be a Blue and Gold trip to the football championship and to come home a winner, best served if their own favorite son, Nick Saban, could be on the losing sideline with his Alabama team.