In a normal year, for which, obviously, 2020 does not qualify, the latter part of summer would be devoted to settling into a new school year, going to a baseball game as the pennant race heats up, getting in one last weekend on the water, and of course, lining up tailgate parties for the upcoming football season. Specifically, the college football season.
By now, especially since political discussions have become so acrimonious, many, if not most, conversations with friends would at least have a reference to something having to do with pigskin previews. “You know, all we have to do is beat (RIVAL SCHOOL NAME HERE) and we’re golden. There’s no way we’re not national champions this year.” Or, “The wishbone. We’ve gotta go back to the wishbone. We’ve got the perfect quarterback for it.” Or, “All right! Six home games! Six parties! Let’s head to Costco now and stock up!”
Instead, sports discussions among friends (and even enemies) reflect the reality of the viral situation. “Yeah, I think we may get to sit in the stands for one game. I heard it’s something like one fan for every 30 rows.” And, “Do the players have to wear masks? Those guys on the line aren’t exactly socially distanced.” And even, “Pretty obvious to me the Chinese don’t play football or this never would have happened.”
At least fans in some regions of the country can still talk about what might happen in the upcoming season. In Big Ten cities, the lament heard far and wide is, “Are you kidding me? How could they cancel the entire season?” Folks in Columbus, Ohio, are particularly riled up since the Buckeyes have been touted as one of the top two or three teams in the nation and a likely contender to be in the mix to hoist the trophy in January.
There is a nascent move afoot to have the powers-that-be in the Big Ten Conference reconsider their decision. One of the leaders of the effort is Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback who really doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch his dream of a Heisman Trophy (and a big bucks NFL payday) fade away while others are playing. (Plus, he and fellow scholar-athletes may have found out they actually will have to attend classes if they aren’t putting on uniforms.)
Much as the Major League Baseball season this year may well contain many asterisks, so too perhaps will the eventual winning college football team. After all, if Ohio State and others are not playing, doesn’t that tarnish a winner’s hardware just a bit? It’s almost as if the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers decided to sit this one out. There would always be a “what if” cloud hanging over the heads of the eventual World Series winners.
While you briefly ponder that, I have a quick football story to tell that involves my alma mater, DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. DePauw plays in the Division III level. Basically, that means the players are having fun, but are actually going to school to get an education. There are no scholarships available, and a chemistry lab can easily get a player excused from practice for an afternoon. I once attended a game whose outcome came down to the last play. DePauw had just scored and before going for the extra point, was down by one. Kicking the PAT would have simply tied the contest. The coach turned to the fans (all 3,000 of us packing the stadium) and asked what we wanted to do. As one, we shouted, “Two, Two, Two.” So, the kicker came off the field, the quarterback went back on, the team ran a pass/option play, and converted the two-point conversion to win the game.
Pretty exciting stuff, huh? Well, I told you that story to tell you this one: In 1933, the DePauw Tigers were undefeated for their entire season. That in and of itself makes for a good year. But – and this is the cool part – the Tigers were also UNSCORED upon. Seven games, seven victories. Combined, they defeated their opponents 136-0! Not even a field goal blemished the mark.
I don’t care at what level the game is played, undefeated and unscored upon is quite a feat. If my research is correct, I don’t believe any other team has achieved that record since. (The 1939 Tennessee Vols ran through their regular season unscathed but lost the Rose Bowl to USC that year.)
It’s 2020, so anything can happen. Let’s see if any team can match the mighty DPU Tigers.
©MMXX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer