25 Years and Counting. Memories of the best pre-game show on TV.

Written Ramblings by DJ

The best pre-game show ever.

It is 7:30 AM on a Saturday morning; my cell phone alarm goes off. I try to turn it off.  There is a decent chance that I went to sleep around 2ish the night before.   I can usually still taste the pizza (or some random food) that I ate right before passing out.  I look at my phone again; it is 7:45.  I frantically wake up, do my thing and get in front of the TV.  While most people might think it is blasphemy to wake up that early on a weekend; I am where I need to be … time for College Gameday.

College Gameday turns 25 this year.  It has been a part of my life for about 11 years now.  My roommate freshman year hated me for waking up that early (and  in general I think) so I would just roll into one of my buddies’ dorm rooms next door to turn on the show around 930.  All of us were still half asleep but woke up as soon as Illinois and rest of the Big Ten was mentioned during the show.  It was fine as long as Herbstreit/Corso picked Illinois to win otherwise we just yelled at them for not knowing their crap about the game (they didn’t pick Illini much, can’t blame them).   Over the years, Gameday has become a staple of my weekends even after I left College.   Just like many parts of our lives that are routine, we tend to forget the show’s contribution to the world of college sports, not just football (see Gameday for basketball).

Gameday is the best in studio pre-game show for any sport on the major networks.  They have an ex-player in Herbstreit who tries to be objective for the most part despite his Big Ten background but the hardcore college football fan values his opinion.  Erin Andrews is not your basic sideline reporter who lets the audience know about injuries and drop the usual sports cliché once in a while.  Most sideline reporters come and go once their fifteen minutes are done (see Jill Arrington of CBS or any NFL sideline reporter) but she has managed to stick around.  It is a matter of time before she moves into the studio and it has already begun with her own segment of Gameday leading into Fowler’s time slot.  Chris Fowler is what sets this show apart for me from others. Stewart Mandel of SI compared Gameday to TNT’s “Inside the NBA” as the best pre-game show.  Both Fowler and Ernie Johnson know as much about their respective sport as any other analyst.  Fowler could move into the analyst chair and the show would not skip a beat.  He comes from the same tree as the old school anchors from the 90s such as Bob Costas or Dan Patrick.  Costas’ knowledge about baseball can match up with most of the established writers of the sport.  Dan Patrick is just a genuine fan and then a sports anchor.  These guys don’t just rely on their notes and teleprompters to talk about the sport; they can “wing” it b/c they follow the sport as a fan.  Fowler buys into everything that CFB represents and this naturally translates to the flow of the show.  Desmond Howard is still in the transition phase but is a solid ex-player picked to be on the show.  Then there is Lee Corso.

Several fans might say Corso’s picks are never surprising and he sticks with the traditional powers most of the time.  Another analyst he can be compared to is Dick Vitale of college hoops.  Sure, he might not give the football superfans something that they don’t already know but the guy is over 70 years old.  If I ever get to 70, I’d be happy to be half as excited about college sports as Corso.  I’ll be satisfied at that age if I can match the energy of the thousands of rowdy fans behind the set who camp out for hours before the show begins.  Corso isn’t there to break down the Xs and Os.  He is there to “bring it” to every show and he never fails to deliver.

What does all of this mean to me?  Why am I writing about a pre-game show?  Because the show represents the intangibles of the sport.  Football Saturdays was a way for me to bond with my buddies over the years and it started in college.  Waking up early and getting ready for the kickoff is a ritual for most kids in school.  It wasn’t just about watching a TV show and going to the games.  It was about hanging out and forming friendships for life.    Certain phases in life or events (sporting/movies/concerts) stick with us.  I still say Terminator 2 was the most intense movie theater experience of my life.  I was 10 years old and I snuck into an R rated movie with my friends!  Most of the folks around my age who grew up watching cartoons in the late 80s or early 90s could still recite the words to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song (I might be the only one actually).  Watching Gameday is no different than waking up on weekends to watch cartoons as the parents try to get chores down around the house.  You don’t forget these experiences and your friends from certain phases in life.  Gameday brings the “inner child” out of most of the fans.  This is true about College Sports.  The energy of the sport is contagious whether you are around the campus for a game or in a bar with other alumni or just in front of the TV with your buddies.

The time I spend with the games and the show has gone down over the years due to basic space time continuum (copyright Dr. Emmett Brown).  I tried to resist it over the last couple years but I am at peace with that now mainly because I am content with my time so far.  I have had the luxury of watching this show and going through a decade of college football.  I formed great relationships over the years that will not be forgotten.  I was even fortunate to see Herbie and the guys last year when Gameday came to Wrigley.  I was glad to check that off the bucket list.  I’ll take any Saturday I can get to watch  this crew and appreciate what I have in life … peaceful/relaxing day after an honest week of work where I can kick it with the people close to me and college football.  I am even more fortunate b/c my wife digs the show and tries to wake up by 10:30 in the morning to catch the last ½ hour just in time to see Corso’s headgear antics.  So I’ll be heading over to my buddy’s place on Saturday to watch these guys and celebrate the start of the new season with a few beverages.

Happy Birthday College Gameday!

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