July 4th--Celebrating The Uniquely American Game

With the 4th of July days away the Pigskin Stew blitzes across America to celebrate the uniquely American sport—College Football. Other American sports from baseball to basketball have gone international, but football remains our sport.

And on the college level the pageantry is most unique. This sport reflects specific experiences and passions of each school. Individual traditions grew alongside the game independent of oversight from a centralized league office.

. . . . . . .

In 1966, following a 51-0 loss to Notre Dame, USC coach John McKay said, “I told my team it doesn’t matter. There are 750 million people in China who don’t even know this game was played.”

While that may have been true, for Americans, college football is passionate, emotional and draws us together, while also dividing us by team allegiances.

I’ll always be a Penn Stater, just as a friend from Ohio State will always be a Buckeye.

Win or lose we root for our team, and the show goes on each week, each fall. From its roots in Ivy League institutions, the college football show has been evolving for decades.

So take a quick ride along as we revisit a column written in October 2010 to celebrate the greatest sporting tradition in the United States…..and don’t just take my word for it; here’s what one of our Nation’s greatest writers had to say:

“For at Princeton, as at Yale, football became, back in the nineties, a sort of symbol. Symbol of what? Of the eternal violence of American life? Of the eternal immaturity of the race? The failure of a culture within the walls? Who knows? It became something at first satisfactory, then essential and beautiful. It became the most intense and dramatic spectacle since the Olympic games.” --Princeton’s F Scott Fitzgerald 1927

A college football game isn’t just about the contest. It is the spectacle and the drama that binds alumni and families across generations.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS…

Wisconsin’s fifth quarter, a stadium celebrating a great band win or lose.

The showmanship and drumlines of the bands from Grambling, Southern and Florida A&M.

The repetitive and often annoying songs, like the war chant of Florida State, or USC’s Tribute To Troy or Michigan’s “The Victors.”

Rocky Top, Fight On and The Eyes of Texas.

The World’s Biggest Drum -- which is either at Purdue or at Texas.

The USC Song Girls.

Penn State students camping out.

Pep Rallies.

A student section wearing all white, or all red, or all maize, or all green. The 12th Man.

Toilet papering the trees in Toomer’s Corner at Auburn.

Face paint, body paint and shirtless students on a freezing cold afternoon.

Tailgating in The Grove at Ole Miss.

Tailgating on boats on Lake Washington next to Husky Stadium or with the Volunteer Navy in Tennessee.

Ribs at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa.

Saturday night on the Bayou.

The Script Ohio-The Tuba player dotting the “I”

Howard’s Rock in Clemson.

Ralphie The Buffalo thundering down the Colorado sideline.

Nebraska fans applauding the visiting team.

Sooner Schooner, the Ramblin’ Wreck and Chief Osceola’s Horse making their grand entrances.

We Are, Roll Tide, War Eagle, Hook ’em Horns, Gig ’em, Bear Down, Go Gators and Go Irish.

The Big House, Between The Hedges, Death Valley, Memorial Stadium, The Horseshoe

The Red River War at the Texas State Fair.

Ohio State-Michigan, Williams-Amherst and Lehigh-Lafayette.

The Iron Bowl, The Civil War, The Apple Cup and The Bayou Classic.

The Game.

The Rose Bowl.

Big Ten Trophy games for Floyd of Rosedale, Paul Bunyan, the Little Brown Jug, the Brass Spittoon and The Old Oaken Bucket.

Army-Navy and not a dry eye in the house when they play the National Anthem and the flyover screams overhead.

Which brings us to the most important game, the one that every year ends the College Football regular season: Army-Navy. No matter how passionate we are about our team and our school. No matter how much of our heart and soul we pour into it, college football is a game. It is not life or death, it is not determining the fate of a nation or a society or the world.

Army-Navy is the reminder that these are young men, strong in mind body and spirit playing a tough physical game while also going to college. They are 18 to 22, and they have their whole lives ahead of them. No matter what they do in life or how long they play, on that Saturday they strive to cast an indelible image of on-field valor as a player and as a team.

That has driven this game since that first afternoon in 1869 and through almost a century and a half of changes as a nation, in our institutions of higher learning and in our sport.

College football became and remains as Fitzgerald wrote, “Essential and beautiful."

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