Thursday, August 05, 2010

Big Ten Championship Game Goes to Indy

The only surprise about today's announcement that the inaugural Big Ten championship game was going to be played in Indianapolis was the timing, just days after the Big Ten held their meetings. Indianapolis is a safe choice: modern stadium, centrally located, and indoors, so weather isn't a concern. That being said, I haven't decided whether it makes more sense to rotate the game or pick a regular home for the Big Ten championship. I like the idea of playing the game at Lambeau (but only in an afternoon timeslot, prior to the Pac-12 Championship game) occasionally.  Chicago?  More convenient for Husker fans, I suppose...but a remodeled Soldier Field doesn't have the same history as Lambeau, yet has all the negatives (grass field in a bad weather locale).  Detroit? A little to close to the Weasels, truth be told.

Cleveland or Cincinnati? Perhaps in a rotation, but again...even more negatives, and now a home game for the Buckeyes.  Philadelphia?  Might as well hold it in Jerry World; no conflicts there anymore.

Tom Shatel learned a little bit about the psyche of the Big Ten conference this week at media days in Chicago. The interesting perspective is how the Big Ten views themselves.  Big Ten folks see no issue with putting Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State in one division, with Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin in the other. From their perspective, that's splitting the six big names in the conference even-steven.

Of course, to those of us outsiders, equating Iowa and Wisconsin with Michigan and Ohio State seems ludicrous.  Sure, it's the easiest way to split things, but not necessarily the most balanced. But that's the difference in the mindsets of the two conferences.

Another mindset is the importance of the Rose Bowl. I've openly mocked the Rose Bowl for years.  In the past, it was the game that you generally ignored after the rush of the early New Year's Day games (Cotton, Citrus, and Fiesta Bowls) and the big games of the day in the Sugar and Orange.  The "Irrelevent Yawner Bowl" was the perfect opportunity to step away from the television and have a holiday dinner.  Walk the dog, reload the fridge, etc. The game would be on in the background, but it was just that: background noise.

In 2002, when Nebraska played, I joined thousands of other Husker fans in Pasadena and encountered the worst-operated bowl game I've ever attended. Awesome tailgating, but that was it. Locals were upset that Nebraska wasn't a Big Ten team. The stadium was a dilapidated fire trap that wasn't prepared for 40,000 fans, let alone the 93,000 fans that had tickets.  Arrived outside the gates at 3:45 pm for a 5:20 kickoff, and barely made it to my seats as the Huskers took the field.  Others in our group missed the third quarter in a fruitless search for food from the concession stands. After the game, my wife nearly got crushed in a stampede as stadium crowd control funneled fans out of the stadium into barricaded walkways from both ends.  In the middle, the two crowds met up with the only escape route being to jump over the metal barricades.

So when I read Big Ten fans talking about the Rose Bowl being the ultimate destination for a college football season, all I have to do is roll my eyes. I suppose the parade is nice, but the Rose Bowl pales in comparison to Phoenix and the Fiesta Bowl or Miami and the Orange Bowl.  And I have to figure it pales to New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl.  Granddaddy of them all?  Well, on that particular night in early 2002, Grandpa overfilled his Depends.

But that's the mindset of the Big Ten. It's their tradition. It's how they view things. And you know what, if Nebraska fans don't share that viewpoint, well, I'm sure that's our problem, not theirs.

It's going to be a learning experience to learn this Big Ten culture over the next few years. I'm sure Nebraska will have the opportunity to suggest changes and provide a different point-of-view, but in the end, it's going to be up to Nebraska to accept much of what the Big Ten has, whether we particularly agree with it or not.

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