There are university campuses across America where the anticipation of another college football season will charge the atmosphere. Students and boosters will count down the hours to kickoff.
Bloomington, Indiana, is not one of those college towns. At Indiana University, people will go about their business, attend class, and instead of charging the atmosphere, students will charge kegs to daddy’s credit card.
Football is a diversion for Indiana students and graduates, not a way of life. Attention is paid, but games don’t get in the way of fun. Nights of sleep – or at parties – are not lost because Indiana loses to Ball State.
Two seasons ago, Alabama’s Nick Saban threatened to strip season tickets from students who left before the end of four-hour games. At Indiana, leaving early is seen as a sane response to games that take too long and end unsatisfactorily more often than not.
It’s not that Indiana partisans don’t hope for the best, or have passion for sports stirring within them. Indiana has a fervent hysteria related to basketball, but a lack of success in football has rendered Hoosiers exceptionally sane when it comes to football.
Going to a football game is not a planned activity, but a spur of the moment decision made based upon the timing of other available options, as in “Let’s go to the game if the tailgate gets stale and only until it’s time to go to Kilroy’s Sports!”
The goal for IU Football fans is always the same – eke out enough wins to earn an invite some off the beaten path bowl. That would get some college football coaches fired, but at IU – a program with one winning season since 1994 – it’s a cause for a parade and party.
IU fans are a little more optimistic than normal this season opening week. The offense returns almost everyone, and the defense might be deeper than in years past. There are reports that players have added as much as three miles per hour to their straight line speed.
But that optimism will be countered by the sanity of students and alums who have never allowed their occasional fits of hope to outshout the siren call of an afternoon with friends playing Sink the Biz or Beer Pong.
Maybe Tom Allen will be the right coach at the right moment to get the right result to ignite the long dormant passion for football that burns so brightly at so many institutions of higher learning.
But there is something cool about a student body and fanbase unencumbered by a mania that infests so many. It’s kind of nice to be an alum of a school where the challenge of clawing to the top of the pile of football programs run by singularly driven zealots is met with a shrug and an order of another pitcher.
Like I said, basketball is a different issue, but in Bloomington, football is exactly what it should be – a diversion, not a focus.
I would like to see Indiana go to a Rose Bowl, but all-in-all I’m pretty pleased with a couple of decades of watching Hoosiers football when I felt like it, and wen’t to Nick’s with friends when the moment was right (usually in the middle of the third quarter).
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.