Thursday, December 11, 2008

Go Dukes

When I got to college in the fall of 1995, I was pretty excited to be there. There was tons of stuff to do, new people to meet, college athletics to watch, and lots of free beer. James Madison at the time was a medium-sized state school, with about 9,000 undergrads. There were two buildings across the interstate, but most of the campus was located on the east side of I-81. I was assigned to Eagle Hall (tallest building in Harrisonburg, checking in at EIGHT stories), on the sixth floor or a building whose elevator was not the most reliable.

The only good thing about this building, and being on this floor, was the skybox view of the football field. Bridgeforth Stadium has come a long way. Thirteen years ago, it was a very basic stadium, with standard metal bleachers on either side, and was open at both ends. It was crappy astroturf. On gamedays, you would inevitably find it half full. We didn't have to go to the games, because we could sit in our rooms and watch Mike Cawley sling it all over the field, to other future NFL also-rans like Macey Brooks and Ed Perry. It was a fun brand of football to watch, though somewhat lacking in defensive intensity - there were many scores like 42-35. This is okay, because when you don't know the name of ANYONE playing in the game (not a lot of national notoriety for teams like New Hampshire or Richmond), you just want to see the scoreboard light up. They made the playoffs that year, if I remember it right, but they played on the road and lost in the first round. That was the last year that they were good for some time. My first year was also the second-to-last year of Lefty Driesell's time at Madison. The basketball team took a nosedive as well, after his departure to Georgia State.

Needless to say, my (more than four) years at Madison didn't make me a diehard JMU fan. I have pretty much stuck to my guns as a Michigan Wolverine fan, as my father raised me. They played games that mattered, were on TV regularly, and I could share the fun with my father. Even James Madison's National Championship football team in 2004 couldn't sway my allegiance.

Flash forward to last weekend. I am watching important football late in the season, but it ain't Michigan - oh no. They are 3-9, playing in the toilet bowl. This was James Madison in the playoffs yet again. It's a pretty big school - with a sprawling campus on both sides of I-81. There are 18,000 full time students now. A football powerhouse, they have been ranked #1 in 1-AA since upending the three-time defending champion Appalachian St team. I watched them last weekend, and came away not thinking "wow they are good for a 1-AA team", but rather, "wow, they are good". Also, I am pretty certain that if Michigan had Rodney Landers, who is a complete freak, that they would have gone 8-4 at worst this season. The guy is nasty. Make that Nasty with a capital N. Just watch #7 in these clips. Silly.

Tomorrow night, the Dukes will play in front of a packed house, in front of an increasingly cool and growing stadium, next to a giant parking deck that didn't used to be there, against Montana. On ESPN2. And they are going to win. And then they are going back to the championship. And I sure hope they win that one too. Anyway, the point of this post was that it's nice to actually be interested in your alma mater's sporting fortunes. Go Dukes!
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