Monday, September 11, 2006

Onward to Glory, One Fake Punt at a Time

Good to be back in town, clones, particularly after an impressive and decisive victory. I have a lot to go through, and while I have a lot to say about the home opener, time is a precious thing during the season and I'm afraid I'll have to hit you with most of my opening weekend observations in quick-hitting list form. I'll review the game itself with another episode of "Good, Bad, and Ugly" and my good friends Dink & Dunk will swing by shortly to wrap up the rest of the college football world, but for now I'd like to focus on the opening day atmosphere in South Bend.

  • I was pleasantly surprised by the traffic on the Dan Ryan, as I was able to escape the construction warzone and get out of Illinois in about 20 minutes before hitting the wide open throughfare of the Skyway at around 2PM on Friday. Irish fans from suburban Chicago were not as fortunate, as some sort of disaster on I-294 doubled the trip time.

    With South Bend now observing daylight savings time and with awful construction, Chicago has effectively moved about 200 miles further away from South Bend.

  • The pep rally was... well, it was a pep rally. The attendence was pretty impressive (although nothing quite like last year's USC pep rally), and the atmosphere was pretty cool. Some of my favorite approximate quotes:
    Weis: Our next speaker thinks he's a pretty good boxer after last summer, but, come on. I probably could have knocked out the guy he fought.

    Zbikowski: I may not have Brady's style or Travis [Thomas]'s flash, but I do have... [pause]
    Lone Voice in Crowd: A mohawk!
    Zbikowski: Yes, a mohawk. Parents, don't worry if your kids shave their hair. It grows back.
    Plus some other stuff I can't remember and, of course, some roof-raising.

  • The book signing went pretty well. At 9AM on gameday, the crowd is a little bit different. Most of the die-hards are still sleeping off last night at Corby's, so it's a more sedate and easygoing group that we were interacting with. It was solid to start off the day pressing some palms with Scott Eden (author of Touchdown Jesus) and Jim Walsh, our fearless editor. Jim was an absolute hero by gutting it out and signing autographs despite having his entire arm in a sling from fracturing his humerous after falling out of the bathtub while throwing a curve ball in an adult baseball league.

  • How freaking cool is this? I actually ran into somebody wearing a t-shirt purchased from The House Rock Built's official store! Cha-ching! Word is, it was fairly well-received by Penn State fans, who apparently have a pretty good sense of humor in regards to all things zombie-related (hell, Zombie Nation is apparently an unofficial fight song at their home games), so that's good to know. I would have felt slightly guilty if he had been beaten within an inch of his life while I scored a two dollar commission, but I probably would have gotten over that pretty quickly.

  • The tailgating scene was very impressive, and the always-annoying harrassment from the local Keystone Kops seemed a bit more subdued than previous years. With the fun police in check, there was ample liquor-swigging, football-tossing, and dancing, dancing, dancing. Actually, I mercifully did not see any portable dance floors or break-dancing, which supports my theory that those were vestiges of the Willingham era directly caused by horrible coaching.

  • My own tailgating was derailed by a stomach virus which knocked me down for intermittent periods of the morning. However, I fought through it and did my best to quell my nausea with beers and Johnny Walker Blue shots (to mixed results). While tailgating with Jim Walsh and observing my illness and his sling which was rapidly filling with sweat on a sweltering day, we both shrugged and laughed about the old axiom: "You have to suffer for your passions." No complaints here.

  • Having gone down without a ticket, I was expecting to watch the game at a local tavern and hold out for the possibility of a ticket miraculously appearing. Near kickoff, I wandered over to test the market for a ticket, and observed that it had effectively collapsed. Supply outweighed demand by about 500 to one. The entire south half of the stadium was littered with fans hoisting fingers aloft, and even the scalpers were asking people if they could buy tickets, rather than sell them. The market had effectively crashed, and understanding the simple economics of what one can reasonably earn by selling the last product that thousands of people want, I decided to take in the game with our friends at NBC.

  • After Zbikowski housed the fumble return to put the game up 27-0 a few minutes after halftime, the House Rock Built's official consiegliere Captain Eclectic fired off the comment of the day:
    Captain Eclectic: We have to leave now. We have to leave right now
    Me: Why?
    Captain Eclectic: Because the bus back to Chicago leaves 30 minutes after the game is over. And this game is over.

    Funny guy. I wish he was as good at getting DUI convictions overturned as he is at making football wisecracks, but I guess that's too much to ask.

  • When I was interviewed by Black Shoe Diaries, I told them that by the end of the game, they will know the name Travis Thomas. I bet there isn't a Penn State fan in the world who doesn't know who Travis Thomas is today. [pats self on back for awesome act of punditry]
Well, that's my rundown from gameday. More stuff coming... when I find a spare moment.

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