The Outsiders

Over-saturated with sports? I have several gripes when it comes to my alma mater, Central Michigan University, and it’s athletic conference, the Mid-American Conference.

These are not new. I wrote a note for myself to write this more than a month, maybe two months, ago. It stems from a partial conversation I had with another sports editor for another newspaper.

This complaint revolves around having mid-week football games, just so it will be on the conference’s television partner, ESPN. From the outset, I don’t have dillusions of grandeur when it comes to the television audience for schools in the MAC. The alumni of the respective institutions barely keep an eye on how their schools do, so I understand the MAC and its schools are relegated to poor viewing nights.

It doesn’t have to be that way. And that’s my overall point.

With the advent of expanded sports network offerings from the likes of NBC and Fox Sports, there are options.

Take NBC as an example. That network has a FCS conference, the Ivy League, and Notre Dame football. Why can’t the MAC supply a lead-in noon game to the big Notre Dame game? The MAC could supply not one, but two games as a lead-in to Notre Dame. There’s potential for four, really, if NBC goes with a FBS conference (MAC) over the FCS conference because of potential prime time Notre Dame games on the network. Would all MAC games be televised? No, but a larger number will be to a wider audience.

Or take Fox Sports as the other. There are their litany of regional networks in the MAC footprint, which dominated Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Blanket MAC coverage on FS2 and some of the regional networks.

Both networks could run some of their programming online or via their smartphone apps, or both.

What that does is take the games off of mid-week and puts them squarely back on the traditional college football Saturday.

What that also does is potentially put more fans in the seats. I have a family of four. Because of schedule conflicts in the early season, I typically can’t attend a game at my alma mater (and we’re also imagining that money is not a conflict). When the late season games take place mid-week, I can’t take my family of four to a game. I can’t really go myself, either. Those games are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, meaning there’s work the next morning if I decide to attend a game that is a solid two-hour drive away.

That means the alumni that aren’t living near the MAC schools can’t possibly return to their campus to enjoy a football game.

Last I knew, the NCAA will impose sanctions on schools for not having enough fans in the stadium over a particular period of time. So, why would you actively make sure you can’t maximize your gate? It seems it’s an eventual decline to a lower level of football for the conferences such as the MAC.

That leads me to this anyway: I would not be opposed to schools such as CMU going to FCS. At least those schools would be treated as equals with an equal opportunity to play in the playoffs as opposed to continued elite conferences such as the Big Ten, SEC and ACC. The MAC already gets a sort-of fair shot at the NCAA basketball playoffs, it just seems the cards are completely stacked against the MAC and it’s football programs when it comes the bowls.

Which, by the way, is why we have so many bowl games. Schools in the Group of Five have bowl eligible teams and they want their shot at the big boys and the fun of bowl games to improve. They deserve an equal shot, of course based on strength of schedule.

Get the T-shirt. I’ve heard a sad refrain about me when I’ve been in the community, especially these last couple of months.

One instance was in discussion about a nonprofit organization’s board. The retort by the person I speaking with, “It’s all run by outsiders!”

Another instance was that someone said it would take “20 years” to be accepted into a community.

After these instances, I told my wife I should just buy one of those old school WCW Outsiders T-shirts that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash wore when they jumped from the WWF to WCW some 20 years ago (Geez, that was 20 years ago? Time flies). And I’d wear it around the community, with a smirk, sneer and likely contempt.

For pretty much my entire life, I’ve been the “new kid.” I didn’t know any of the kids when I first started elementary school, none of the kids when I spent a year and a half in the Clarkston district. My Northern/Michigan accent seperated me from the kids that I got to know in two different towns in South Carolina, let alone my affinity for sports teams that weren’t Clemson or the Braves. After some years in the South, I had bits of a Southern accent, and that was carried right back into Michigan. Although I was a Michigan-born son, I continued to be an outsider, a loner.

When my family and I started our lives in the Thumb, I was clearly accepted. Sure, some circles weren’t too thrilled only because you can’t please everyone. I at least had a solid working relationship with folks who may not have liked me. A respect was generated.

It seemed to be there when we moved to Wisconsin, too.

This area? It’s been one tough nut to crack. I’ve laughed at myself at times when I catch myself yearning for the days in Wisconsin only because I spent my formative years in the South yearning for Michigan.

I don’t see things changing, really. I go out, do what I have to do for my job, and I come home. I do work around the house and work with my kids, go out to work again, and then that’s it. Cycle it again.

Because I’m adverse to fighting, or is it trying, I’m not inclined to continuously battle wits with others. What’s the point? What does it solve? And then there’s those who flat-out won’t discuss anything if you present a counter point-of-view. If there’s no resolution, and no hope of a resolution, it just isn’t going to work. That’s to a point, though.

You learn to cope. You don’t take risks, and any thoughts let alone discussions and actions of being anywhere from constructively critical to brutally honest are measured with as much tact as you can muster or altogether silenced. And the silence has been more and more, as you lock things down. You find other ways to have an outlet for your enjoyment because quitting perhaps isn’t the entire answer. You already aren’t accepted, and thus have no friends and almost as few acquaintances. You remain withdrawn.

And you hold those that are close to you, the very few there are because they share your blood, even closer. Perhaps they’ll understand. If not, that island you’re already on just got a lot smaller.

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