Throughout the last six to seven years, with 99% of what I write, I take my fandom out of it and be as objective as one can. My job isn’t to be a fan of Wake Forest or any team I choose to write about in the future, my job is to present what’s there, add context, and tell a story.
With realignment, well it feels right to let the guard down.
This sucks man.
I know the immediate rebuttal for that is, “well it’s because you’re a writer for/a fan of a small school that might get left out, so of course you don’t find any of this fun.”
Well, who cares?
I grew up in a single-parent home where my mom didn’t go to college, my aunt didn’t, none of my uncles did, and neither of my grandparents did. I had to really find my own path. Being in Atlanta, I latched onto Georgia Tech instead of Georgia (lol) and that’s where my start began. Not the biggest school, but it certainly isn’t the smallest Power Five school.
Come time to apply to colleges and Wake Forest stood out above all others, and that’s where I decided to spend four of the most important years of my life. I got to see the 0-0 Virginia Tech game up close and personal, I spent a drunken Saturday watching and being happily confused during the 3-0 Boston College game. I got to see John Wolford grow up before our very eyes and turn in a performance against Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl that felt like it signified that Wake Forest wasn’t a fluke, that this program has a shot to be something more than just a football doormat, which is how it appeared when I arrived in 2014.
I wasn’t alone in that feeling. Some of my best friends are people that went to Wake but hail from New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida, California, Connecticut, etc, all of who had no connection to Wake outside of it being a great school for academics. They all came out of their time in Winston-Salem with a love for the school and a love for Wake sports.
With the cyclical nature of college sports, I’m sure there are people at different points in Wake’s history that feel the same way. I’m sure people of frankly every other school that isn’t Alabama feel that way. Hell, even Clemson hasn’t always been a storied program.
Just because you make the game “National” in terms of having select programs from coast to coast, doesn’t mean you grow the brand of college football. In fact, it does the opposite. People don’t like being told what to do and what they have to watch. A large reason people watch college football isn’t because they think their team is going to win a national title. It’s everything else about the colleges that make them want to watch it.
I don’t sit there and watch the MAC on Tuesdays because I think it’s some high level of football, I watch it because I enjoy football. I couldn’t care less about UCLA going cross country to play a conference game against Maryland or Illinois.
TV money doesn’t equal the will of the people. It’s not the compass for a product most suits don’t understand. What stands out about college football is how unique it is, how quirky it is, and the fact that it’s not the NFL and you’re narrowed into a certain amount of teams to root for. That’s what’s been selling, not that this is some high-level stuff or even the need for that.
It just feels wrong and dirty that seemingly future 18-22-year-olds off to the college of their choosing won’t get to experience the wacky stuff that made a lot of us grow to love this game. Football will still be played, regardless of being in the super conference(s) or not, but we all know it won’t mean the same to everyone. Honestly, it’s a slap in the face that it’s just assumed people will just watch whatever the new product is.
I’m all for change as there are things in college football that need to change. 100% on board with NIL. I don’t mind if the limit of scholarship players goes up the schools have the money. The same idea with the number of coaches, you can’t really complain about schools not having money to hire people when they’re spending millions turning buildings for student-athletes into amusement parks.
I was going to write, “I don’t understand the end goal.” In reality, I do. The Alabama’s and the Georgia’s don’t want to be told what to do by the Nevada’s or even the Louisville’s of the college football world what to do. Suits want money. That’s the end goal. It’s the end goal of every company but this one just feels... dirtier than most.
Assuming that with all of this, fans of schools left out and kicked to the curb will just adopt another team, is the worst assumption you can make. People will just opt to do the million other things there are to do instead of watching college football. CFB has this national feel to it because just about every state has its own collection of schools that people root for or against.
Where are we now? Well, we’re at the point of people like me constantly refreshing Twitter, message boards, literally anything to try to figure out what’s next, when there’s a season coming up in less than two months. It’s all just become one big distraction instead of bringing college football fans together.
This all just sucks man. None of us want to be told who to root for by some people in suits who couldn’t care less about us, and none of us want to lose the feeling of our teams going out there and at least feigning to have a chance for a special season. Hope is one of the only good things we have in this day and age, and all this does is serve to strip that away.