Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mailbag part deux

A few more of your questions...

Question: Did Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon once serve as an assistant coach on the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League? Have you seen the similarities between the two? It’s eerie.
-- Vinny, East Haven

CM: I assume you mean the coach whose only two lines in the movie were, "Look at this (expletive) guy." during the scene where players were arriving at spring training for the first time and "This guy's dead." while looking over the training camp invitees (to which the owner of the Indians replied "Well cross him off, then.") I don't know if they are the same person, but Maddon definitely borrowed Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn's dark-framed glasses. He looks like he should be working for NASA. By the way, congratulations on making so many friends on the blog so fast, Vinny.

Question: Around the league, it sounds like most of the media is favoring West Virginia to run the table this year. But if Louisville beats Miami, does that maybe put them in the driver's spot? Also I have a feeling Pitt has great dark horse potential this year. They have both WV and Louisville at home in the last two games of the year. If their season is going well at that point, who knows... What do you make of their chances?
-- Kenneth Buck

CM: If West Virginia doesn't run the table, I'd be shocked. The Mountaineers schedule is way too easy...Louisville has a good chance to beat Miami, especially since the game is at Papa John Stadium. But no team will be in the driver's seat until Nov. 2, when the Cardinals play host to West Virginia in what will easily be the game of the year in the Big East. If West Virginia wins, they'll be in position for national championship game consideration (though I don't think they'll be invited. See easy schedule). I agree Pitt will be strong. Palko is a gamer and H.B. Blades is as good a linebacker there is. But beating both Louisville and West Virginia this season? Won't happen.

Question: During the 1A transition period, UConn invested some resources in "traditions" for the team. They visited 1A schools such as Penn State and observed gameday traditions firsthand. What's your take on the UConn gameday experience thus far? Do we need to be force-fed new "created" traditions? Should we wait for things to develop? Keep up the good work.
-- Eric, Waltham, MA

CM: Here's the thing with traditions. If they aren't your own, they won't work. I get a kick out of the handful of students at various schools who paint themselves school colors, put on a multi-colored wig and try to imitate Duke's Cameron Crazies. They usually wind up trying to get the other 10,000 people to join them, with no success, and making fools of themselves. You can't duplicate certain things. Traditions are born unto themselves. A UConn football game will never be like it is at Penn State or Auburn. And it shouldn't be. The Rentschler experience should be whatever it evolves into over time.

I covered Yale football for the Register for a few years, and the great thing about that was the totally unique atmosphere around the Ivy League. From the pristine, brick campuses to the older alumni dressed in sports coats and khakis tailgating with wine and cheese or sipping on hot apple cider to the students waving giant flags embroidered with their residential college crests. You knew you were experiencing an Ivy League football game.

To me, there is nothing wrong with the UConn game day experience. Of course, I don't tailgate and I watch the game from the seclusion of the press box. But fans looking to start traditions or create an atmosphere should make it unique to New England...how great would it be to walk through the parking lot to the wafting aroma of steamed clams on barbacue grills at the tailgates or hot clam chowder on a brisk October afternoon (anyone else in the mood for clams? Just me? OK.) The point is, visiting fans should leave the Runway feeling like I did driving home from a game at Yale or Dartmouth. They should feel like they just watched a football game in Connecticut. That's the only real tradition a school can ask for. That's something to be proud of.

Stay tuned for part three of the mailbag...

5 Comments:

Anonymous Jared Vernon/Storrs said...

As far as traditions go, we really need to play up the bell. It's rung for every point scored but I'm not really sure if anyone outside of the Band and Student Section really notice it (microphoned poorly, if at all). It's one of if not the only thing that came to The Rent from Memorial Stadium and I think it needs more respect than being wheeled around on a weird looking blue cart.

August 23, 2006 12:34 PM 
Blogger ThePrideOfConnecticut said...

Three things to jumpstart gameday traditions:

1) Mic the Bell so that everybody hears it.

2) Train a camera on 'Big Red' (or another willing party) leading the U-C-O-N-N cheer over the Jumbotron after every score or big play.

3) At the end of the game, mic the band's singing of the Alma Mater in four-part harmony for all to hear. It's extremely moving.

IMO, doing these would be a great start. Then, let the other chips fall where they may...

August 23, 2006 9:14 PM 
Blogger Vinny From East Haven said...

Chip, good point about traditions. I especially like the example of the students at basketball games who try to act like they're in Cameron Indoor. I see this at all sorts of college games. Traditions certainly can't be forced, they need to grow over time. For example, theprideofconnecticut mentions Big Red - his antics certainly weren't meticulously planned by the athletic department, but they get probably the biggest response at basketball games. I like the "First Down!" cheer at the football games (although it's really an Ohio State thing), but a lot of other things seem forced and way too planned out (not only at The Rent, but also at hoops games). Let's just keep showing up in force at the games, and let things develop naturally.
Part of the problem is that UConn's athletics, while they have a tremendous history, do not have a huge history of fan support - It wasn't really until Jim Calhoun came to town that people started supporting the basketball team, and that has certainly driven the rest of the the fan support for other sports. Football is such an emotional game - I'd say let's turn off the Jumbo-tron promptings and let things come naturally. Believe me, the students will definitely come up with some unique stuff on their own.

August 23, 2006 11:32 PM 
Anonymous Jared Vernon/Storrs said...

Oh I forgot one thing that Vinny brought back into my head, We need something other than "welcome to the jungle" played on third down. Its gotten to the point that if I hear it on the radio I start yelling about third down. I think one major step in getting a bit more organic growth of traditions is to stop having madison square garden managing the stadium.

August 24, 2006 10:10 AM 
Anonymous Alex in Woodville said...

Traditions are always more meaningful when they emerge on their own. But the stadium experience can definitely be improved upon.

I can't stand hearing "Welcome to the Jungle" on third down. The "Another UConn, First Down!" thing gets really old fast. I would much rather hear the band indicate that it's third down or the band play something catchy when the team makes a meaningful first down. The Band is just so much better than artificial piped in garbage.

Bands are part of what makes college football so great, and we have a great band that I would like to hear more of. The Rent/Runway feels almost like an NFL-lite stadium at times, and that is not a good thing in my opinion.

August 24, 2006 11:59 AM 

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