October 14, 2004

Homecoming Not on TV

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Picture this: Lambeau Field, Vince Lombardi at the helm of the 1967 Green Bay Packers in sub-zero temperatures. Fans are bundled up in overcoats and wool hats. The team takes the frozen turf.

Now picture this: last year’s halftime show at the Super Bowl when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s breast, or Deion Sanders ripping off his helmet and high stepping to the sideline after a decent punt return.

How did things get so out of whack over the past 37 years? How did football go from a gritty, hard-nosed game, to a sport that glorifies primadonnas like Leon from the Budweiser commercials?

Easy – the media did it. As soon as people could get information 24 hours a day about sports, things went downhill.

Think about it: if you were Joe Horn, a little known wide receiver from the New Orleans Saints, wouldn’t you whip out a cell phone from under the goal post just so that ESPN and Sports Illustrated and every other media outlet in America showed your face about 500 times in the span of a week?

I would. Because even if your image gets tarnished, people will remember you and pay more attention to what you do on the field, and, in turn, you reap the benefits of a rich contract and yes, even some lucrative endorsements.

Don’t believe me? Terrell Owens got a deal with Sharpie after pulling a marker out to sign a football after scoring a touchdown.

So no, I don’t blame the athletes, I blame the media. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I watch ESPN religiously, but I can also make a case that ESPN ruined sports. Who cares that the offensive lineman made a key block to allow the quarterback to throw a touchdown strike, when at the end of the play Terrell Owens played with a pair of pom poms? Nobody will ever notice the lineman, but rest assured, T.O. will be the lead story on Around the Horn and PTI. And why actually watch a game as its being played when you can find out the score that night on SportsCenter? You won’t, and because of that athletes will do more and more ridiculous things just to get some airtime.

My solution for this problem — go to the homecoming game this weekend between Cornell and Colgate. I know, what a ridiculous idea! Who actually goes to the game on homecoming when you can go play beer pong and chase drunk sorority girls in the parking lot? But trust me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Yes, Ivy League football isn’t exactly playing in the Big 10 or the SEC, but the quality of football is not as bad as you think. Watch D.J. Busch throw a rocket to one of his speedy receivers, take note of Andre Hardaway running over opposing linebackers, and pay attention to Joel Sussman on special teams because he’s got four blocked field goals in as many games this season.

Yet, more important than the quality of play, is how it will be played. What you won’t see is junior wide receiver Brian Romney run into Schoellkopf after scoring a touchdown, and then come out on a cell phone with his agent. And the only time this game will get airtime on TV is when it shows up on the BottomLine on ESPN2.

But what you will see is a bunch of guys just trying to gain back some respectability after a lackluster 1-9 record last season. Every player has worked their butts off since last semester so that this campaign would be a success. Not because they hope to get drafted and sign for big bucks, but because they want Cornell football to be something everyone here can be proud of. Every guy to step on the field Saturday will be giving 100 percent. Why? Because of their leader.

All the desire and determination that the guys will play with against Colgate begins with the team’s head coach — Jim Knowles ’87. Yes, that “87” means that Knowles is a Cornell alum. And after talking with him you know that he wants nothing more than to have his alma mater be great again.

He took the first step a few weeks ago when the Red pulled off an upset against Yale. This weekend, the team will take the next step with a win over Colgate. But be sure not to miss it. SportsCenter won’t be covering this one.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro