Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Green With Envy

I visited ESPN’s The Weekend this past Friday as Disney World’s MGM Studios. The overall event wasn’t much – I got to watch the filming of “NFL Live” for a while – but the crowd there was something to behold. Essentially, you had a colorful if somewhat flabby multitude of “sports guys” with a fair mixture of “sports gals” and, in some cases, their “sports offspring”. Most every one of these individuals was wearing a dizzying array of paraphernalia of their team of choice, with the Boston Red Sox seemingly very well represented.

There were also a fair number of college fans. As I walked the faux movie lots of MGM surrounded by sock and sandal clad sports aficionados, I made mental notice of the various team affiliations – USC here, Texas there, and quite a few maize and blue Michigan fans to boot. However, there were none more numerous than Gator fans in their impossibly new orange and blue gear. Which, given recent history and the location, was not surprising.

It was towards the front gates I spotted them – 4 wanna-be young “gangstas” all wearing the same T-shirt – the very T-shirt that was the subject of a post some time ago. With unlaced shoes and gold chains, this group moved in a hunched, looping pattern, arms at hip level with two fingers on each hand splayed outward in hip-hop fashion. It took but a moment to realize their purpose – they were there to taunt Gator fans.

And so they did – as Gator fans of all ages and gender walked by, these fine examples of culture and learning would point at them, issue some expletive, pull their T-Shirts out to demonstrate their “point”, and then giggle like adolescents. The joke, such that it was, was lost on virtually every passing Gator fan, as they had neither the time nor likely the inclination to read the commentary that constitutes the T-Shirt’s somewhat misguided barb (more on the misguidedness later).

In my case, having seen the shirt before, I was at least aware of what they were doing. I watched for awhile, mildly fascinated. I was trying to think what would make 4 young men, seemingly unaware of the lack of fashion sense in wearing 4 identical T-Shirts, spend what appeared to be the better part of an otherwise fine afternoon taunting the fans of another school.

Then it hit me – the reason they were engaged in their juvenile prank was pure jealousy.

To reiterate the point of the T-Shirt, Miami claims that their “nine” championships (five in football, four in baseball) are vastly superior to Florida’s “three” and Florida State’s “two”. The selectivity of the sports involved – football and baseball for UM, football and basketball for Florida, and only football for FSU – makes the point rather dubious, as were we to include other sports that Florida had NCAA championships in, the total would be 20 rather than 3 (I will leave it to you FSU fans to tell me your total).

However, it is fascinating that, with Florida winning the actual 2006 NCAA title in basketball, and the mythical one in football, Miami feels the need not only to memorialize their “superiority” by way of print to cotton, but also by way of action, at least in the case of these 4 young Miami fans (and in the case of many a Miami sports blog at that).

I, for one, don’t care much about Florida’s other 17 national titles. If in winning a “national title” the streets of your university’s town are not filled with frenzied fans partying all night long (as they most assuredly were not for UM’s baseball titles), then the importance of said title is beneath my radar screen (see here and here for examples of how it is done).

As for the pure jealousy so vividly on display at Disney’s MGM, when one considers Florida’s accomplishments of 2006, how couldn’t they be? Florida, long considered a second rate athletic achiever in the sports “that mattered” in the state, suddenly accomplishes what no school has ever done in the history of college athletics – hold the title simultaneously in the two most prominent college sports.

Now, Miami’s 5 “national championships” in football, mythical or not, are certainly an accomplishment. In the history of college football, only the following teams claim as many or more (team with number of claimed or “recognized” national titles per College Football Data Warehouse) –

Princeton (NJ) 24

Yale (CT) 19

Notre Dame (IN) 12

Alabama 11

Harvard (MA) 10

Southern California 10

Michigan 7

Oklahoma 7

Minnesota 6

Pittsburgh (PA) 6

Miami (FL) 5

Nebraska 5

Ohio St. 5

But holding the basketball and football title simultaneously is an achievement of such rarity, with no team ever holding both such titles closer than 8 years apart before, that it alone dwarfs virtually any number of titles compiled over a number of years. In a baseball analogy, it is the no hitter to the perfect game– they will remember you for throwing a no hitter (there have been 250), but for the much rarer perfect game (of which there have been but 17) you will be a household name.

Or, put another way, it is an achievement of such exclusivity that it is unlikely that it will ever happen again in any of our lifetimes.

So, with Miami’s titles growing stale with the passage of time, a bit of showy if somewhat immature jealously on their part is to be forgiven. So, whether it is “Got Nine?”, “Got Five?” or whatever, in the area of true rarified achievement – “Got Two Simultaneously”, for now Florida stands alone.

Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting for those Princeton “Got 24?” shirts to be making their appearance any day now.


Anonymous said...

talk about achievements, did ya catch Dateline NBC last night? a Gator fan was flashing his new orange and blue FLORIDA sweater on the pier at Flagers Beach everybody was havin fun until members of Perverted Justice showed up, turns out the Gator dude was there to meet a thirteen year old...another Internet Preditor exposed. Geeezz

Anonymous said...

Man, my response is still the one I had to the original post, "who counts Baseball titles?" I mean I would say its a by product of the area's high % of Latin and Carribean immigrants (especially Cuban) but, that doesn't seem to be reflected in the support recieved by the area's professional equivalent (my beloved Marlins-- hey when a team comes to your state when your 9 it has an effect, see my love with the Jags coming to my birthplace), which may be a socioeconomic thing, but c'mon how much local support does the Canes College baseball team have?

Henry Gomez said...

They reason they count baseball is simply because they have been historically good at it. And to be fair, the baseball team has built up quite a bit of good will in the community. Ron Fraser's name is Godlike and Jim Morris has even outperformed him. Their games are well attended in comparison to other college baseball teams.

As for the Marlins, don't kid yourself. They have a loot more fans than you think. They don't all go to a lot of games but they are fans. When the new domed stadium gets built we'll see improvements in attendance. You can't compare a market with 15 years of MLB to other markets that have been playing the game for 100 years or more.