One for the ages

Oct. 08, 2013 @ 06:14 AM

I know there are a lot of cynics when it comes to college football. “It’s all about the money,” they say, or “athletes don’t play for the love of the game anymore.” That may be true when you look at the big picture. But on Saturday, I saw what was right about college football.

Gardner-Webb and Charlotte took part in a good old fashioned Texas shootout in North Carolina’s Queen City.  By the time the dust settled, Charlotte pulled out a 53-51 win (I knew there would be 100 or more points scored, I just thought they would all be by GWU).   

Even though my Bulldogs lost, it was one of the greatest games I have ever seen. If it had been a game between two more widely known programs, the contest would have been the lead story on SportsCenter and every other highlight show.

I watched all the drama unfold from the press box at Jerry Richardson Stadium, which was simultaneously spacious and restrictive. Yes, I had room for my computer and game notes, but the press box walls also kept my emotions in check.

I wanted to cheer when Kenny Cook was torching the 49er secondary for two touchdowns and 100 yards receiving in the first quarter.

I wanted to reach over and give GWU SIDs, Marc Rabb and Kevin Davis, a hug when the Bulldogs successfully connected on a halfback pass to go up by 21 points.

I felt like uttering a Bobby Bowden “Dagum it” when a snap sailed 20 yards over Jordan Day’s head for a safety. Finally, I was on the verge of letting out a yell of anger and frustration that would have rivaled William Shatner, when the two-point conversion was missed that would have tied the game. But I couldn’t. I had to stay professional.

Evidently, one member of the Charlotte staff in the press box did not feel those restrictions. He was jumping around and letting his feelings be known on nearly every play. Must have been nice.

After the game, I was totally drained. I was too tired to feel anything except a gnawing emptiness in the pit of my stomach. I’m not sure if that came from the way we lost or the lack of food in the press box. Either way, I was ready to go home.

My whole perspective changed when I saw the looks of anguish on the faces of the Bulldog players. They had invested so much more time and effort into this game than I had. I knew they had to hurt much worse than I did.  Coach Carroll McCray put it best when he said, “They’re heartbroken.”

After seeing that, you can’t tell me those kids were only worried about big contracts at the next level or that they don’t love the game of football. If that was the case, the loss would not have fazed them. They would have shrugged it off without a second thought. But these Bulldogs were playing for each other and for their school. That to me, is what college football is all about.