One fun thing about working in sports media is that you have to care about sports, but don't have to care whether a team wins or loses. You can if you want, and despite what you've been led to believe, lots of people care in their hearts about specific teams and still do good jobs of covering sports. It's pretty easy!
Sometimes it's fun to care about a team, though. I help cover college football, but don't really have a team.
I was raised a Georgia Tech fan, the fourth in a line of Yellow Jacket men. But that stopped feeling like a cultural fit because, for one thing, I am barely OK at normal math, let alone engineering math. My alma mater is starting an FCS program this year, and that's cool, but I'm unable to get too excited about a schedule including the NAIA Point Skyhawks.
Do you ever adopt a team temporarily, even if you already have a favorite? Maybe it's a team in some other conference that has a fun offense or a hopeless program whose interim coach says funny stuff. That's fun to do!
For the last two years, I've adopted Michigan State. I got mad when the Spartans were ranked in the 20s in 2013 despite completely squashing offense after offense -- seriously, imagine 2015 MSU being ranked No. 24 despite a clear 7-1 record, with that only loss due to some penalties in Notre Dame's favor -- all of which paid off when Rich Homie Quan led them to a Rose Bowl win over Stanford.
Last year's Cotton Bowl champion Spartans played something more like normal good football, with a good defense and a really good offense, and it just wasn't the same. I wanted grueling, 14-0 wins over Purdue. Most distasteful of all, Michigan actually gained a few yards this time. Also, Rich Homie stopped showing up.
While I'm thankful to Coach Mark Dantonio for the hideous joys his team has brought me, it's time for me to move on to the next chapter in my fandom. MSU has grown into a good all-around team and simply is no longer the team to deliver the crisp, three-hour beatdowns I require.
With that said, I'm excited to continue my rooting by committing to the University of Arkansas.
Yes, the Hogs play a variety of football worthy of being grimaced at. As even the SEC West itself indulges in scoring excessive touchdowns, Arkansas stands not only as a totem of ancient football, it's so comfortable in its disgusting identity it put its offensive line on its media guide cover. I like points, and I like innovation, but there's nothing more endearing than a team that knows exactly what it wants to be, then becomes it.
"We should want to tell [our opponent], 'Here's our five runs.' We are going to run and give it to them and say, 'This is why we are going to do it and this is how we are going to do it. What can you do about it?'" head coach Bret Bielema says.
But it's not just that. Here are the things Bielema has done this offseason:
- He lobbied for himself to be on our Piesman Trophy voting panel, which we welcome. And if you think we should worry about an SEC head coach calling a gimmick play just to get one of his offensive linemen a trophy from us, just know that we hope this happens.
- He called Arkansas' demolition of the Texas Longhorns "borderline erotic."
- That followed the Texas Bowl itself, when his hands apparently spasmed into anti-Texas hand signs for a solid week.
- He's learned to be a pretty good cook, sharing his recipes on Twitter.
- Air Force 1s are what they are, but it's special that Bielema wore some to SEC Media Days, apparently to counter Dan Mullen's Yeezys.
- His Media Days performance didn't include his usual whining-about-tempo bit; he just dropped bars. Nobody else was really worth watching.
- He's probably still talking about how easy it was to destroy Texas.
- He up and said he hates Auburn. I don't mind Auburn, love Gus Malzahn's offense and think Jordan-Hare Stadium is wonderful. But it's good to hate teams.
- He shot down a report about Nebraska wanting him by calling himself "all hog."
All of this, plus an exceptionally unhinged Internet fanbase and completely contradictory sets of expectations for the 2015 season? I don't know how any of you people can root for anybody else. At some point I'll have to learn our fight song. I feel like Bobby Petrino learning how to do the WOO fingers. Forget I said that.