[Cross-blogged for Leland Quarterly]
This Saturday is a momentous day for Stanford football. Not so much because of the foe we face on the field, the dread grimalkins of the northwest, but because of the foe we face within ourselves. If the Cardinal can win this Saturday, if we can triumph over the Washington State Cougars, if we can travel to Pullman and back victoriously—well, we’re going bowling.
Okay, so not that kind of bowling. Football bowling.
I’m talking about BCS bowls. If we win this weekend, we’ve hit the magic six-win mark that’s the threshold of eligibility for postseason football.
I’m trying to avoid presumption, that most fatal of flaws, here, but c’mon. We’re playing Wazzu—Nemesis this school is not. And it’s not like anyone was predicting Stanford would fall short of those six wins this season, Andrew Luck being who he is and the Pac-12 being whatever the hell it is this year. So the only things standing in our way are hubris and history.
If (when) we go to a bowl game this season, it will be the third time in three years. That’s a first for the Cardinal in the BCS era. In fact, the last time we went to three bowl games in a row, Franklin Roosevelt was running for his second term.
So this is a kind of a big deal.
With if we go to a bowl not really in doubt, the question becomes which: which of the plethora of corporately-sponsored bowl games might we head to?
Some of them are short and to the point (Capital One Bowl), some are longer and a bit more obscure (Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl), and some just sound like food (Chik-fil-A Bowl, Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl). I can’t tell if this last point makes me more upset about corporate sponsorship or the fact that most American foods are perfectly at home in bowls.
But no, I’m not hoping for any no-name bowl in the Midwest. I’m pulling for the big ones. And I don’t want to jinx it, but Pasadena is lovely in early January.
But it’s not like getting to a bowl game is as easy as duck soup (though, in Stanford’s case, making soup out of the Ducks would probably, in fact, get us there). We forget how lucky we are, how harsh and depressing those 1-11 seasons can be, how easy it is to watch ourselves tumble from the spotlight. Take Washington State, for example: kings of the Pac-10 for early part of the new millennium, with three top-ten finishes in consecutive years, they’ve served as the punching bag of the Pacific for the entirety of Stanford’s meteoric resurgence in national prominence.
Yes, the tide turns quickly in college football. Pity poor Washington State and their forlorn fortress in eastern Washington, replete with halls that echo with what once was. They are stewards of a proud dynasty, waiting in the ruins for a chance to return to glory.
But hey, that cougar’s pretty cool.
Finally, a look at some rhetoric from around the internet:
- The cougar logo—not exactly a current article, but I just want to point out that WSU’s logo is actually pretty clever (if you want a fancy Greek word, let’s call it intentional pareidolia)
- What to Watch: Stanford-Washington State—nice to see others acknowledging sports’ writers tendency for hyperbole
- Oddsmaking for the undefeateds—statistics is but a form of rhetoric
- Cardinal receiver Griff Whalen has some Luck on his side—that’s it, I give up (this article is local, to boot—how many headlines with Luck puns would you say the Mercury News editors have okayed?)
- Gridiron Rhetoric: Week 7—this asshole’s full of hubris