* Like a lot of USF fans, I was emotionally spent after that wild, last-minute 49-42 loss to UCF. But, as opposed to most observers, I still wouldn’t say this rivalry game has officially arrived. Hear me out.
This was a perfect grid-storm climax to the regular season with two nationally-ranked teams playing for the AAC division championship–and the opportunity to play on for national prominence. An opportunity to play on for the best season in either school’s history.
Actually, next year–at RayJay, where the turnstile count struggles to exceed 20,000 for most USF home games–will be the year to decree that the rivalry is for real. If the crowd is large and raucous, although much less is at stake because at least one of the teams (likely USF) is not as good, it’s I-4 rivalry on. I’m a believer.
When regional pride is viscerally at stake, and the utter chagrin of losing to your unneighborly rivals down the interstate is unthinkable, you have a real rivalry. If it’s merely an ultra-exciting game when both teams are uncommonly good, that’s a tease, however welcome and exciting.
* So UCF is now one of only two undefeated teams (Wisconsin is the other) in the country, yet it still isn’t ranked in the top 10. The AP has them at 12th–behind five 2-loss teams. Obvious conclusion: Still only begrudging national respect for teams in the American Athletic Conference.
* We went to a Lightning hockey game the other night and a Chicago love-in broke out. Seemed like a third of Amalie Arena was swathed in red–the color of Blackhawks’ jerseys. It still seems weird, but it is what it is in a hybrid market like this. I’ll leave it at that.
No, I won’t.
You just know most of these people are not visitors with a well-planned itinerary that happens to include ‘Hawks hockey. They are mostly locals still mired in their old allegiances. Get over it. This isn’t Chicago or Philly or New York or Boston. You have to be born somewhere. You choose to live here. Unless you arrived yesterday, this is your team. Act like it.
* Another point about that Tampa Bay-Chicago hockey game. Whatever happened to spectator-sport protocol? This isn’t a movie. You shouldn’t just pop up and head to the concession stand when a thirst needs quenching. All games come with built-in stoppages of play. Hockey is no different. Why not wait for a TV break or a penalty or an icing call or a fight or a puck flipped out of play to make that move–instead of a view-blocking, spectator-annoying trek?
* Bands playing at halftime is so old-school. It’s only for those in attendance, who may or may not be paying attention. They play on while TV viewers are seeing game highlights and a national scoreboard update.
But don’t tell the University of Louisville about band anachronisms. The band of its recent football opponent–the University of Kentucky–proved relevant, snarky and gotcha-funny last Saturday. At half time of the UL-UK game, Kentucky’s band formed a gigantic $. A less than subtle dig at Louisville’s reputation as a cheating, athletic outlaw. Advantage UK.
But next year could be payback. “One-and-done” UK basketball isn’t exactly immune from rival taunts.
* One way to get Roy Moore out of a certain news cycle: Have Alabama lose its undefeated, No. 1 ranking with a loss to Auburn.