While I’m still trying to calm my thigh muscles down from the text message explosion that happened in my pocket after Curry’s bomb, I’ve been thinking a lot about how great the College World Series is, something that I never could have initially realized without having a dog in the fight, but more importantly how great it has been for our program. From the screaming jail bait getting behind the Frogs in their living room, to the constant stream of articles talking about how CWS vendors can’t keep anything purple in stock, it’s pretty amazing to think that a small, private school in Fort Worth, Texas is absolutely setting the sports nation on fire in any sport, much less something other than football. And it’s infinitely more amazing when you think about how quickly it’s all happened.
Consider, the TCU football team has been reincarnated and rock solid for nearly 15 straight years now and, while we’re getting SOME love these days – if you can count the non BCS-BCS Bowl as love – you can’t honestly say that we have resounding national respect. Of course, this is mostly due to the BCS system and all its inherent flaws, but with Utah recently moving into the Pac 10 and Boise State beating us in Glendale and likely entering the season ranked higher, it’s safe to say that we’re no better than the third most respected non-BCS team in the country, and fourth if you want to count Notre Dame. Not to mention a select handful mediocre programs from the Pac 10 or Big 12 will always have more respect, no matter how many times we dispatch them. And don’t even get me started on the Big Ten and the annual sack riding of Iowa, Ohio State or Penn State by the media before they lose to Northwestern or Appy State. The fact that said slurping is almost contractually obligated by ESPN as they televise most of their games is beside the point. And, again, Notre Dame. How?! Why!?
And while I’m well past worrying about whether or not TCU will ever be respected as a top tier football team or not, no matter the on field performance, the realities of the past two weeks are certainly pretty jarring when you think about how quickly they’ve manifested:
TCU is the most popular team in college baseball. And it’s not even close.
How likely is that? If we’re drawing comparisons, you’d say that the Schloss regime coming in and enhancing the baseball team is exactly like the Fran/Patterson regime coming in and bringing back the football team from the dead. But, by coming in 2004, Schloss spotted the football program six years and an infinitely wider audience, yet is lapping the field when it comes to national respect and attention. How did he do it?
One reason, as mentioned, is the post-season formats of the two leagues. Obviously the College World Series, a culmination of two weeks of playoffs giving the teams ample opportunity to prove themselves against the best of the best, is far superior to College Football’s much maligned political Championship. This isn’t debatable, and it’s really the only instance where Liberal “give everyone a chance” viewpoints are far superior to Conservative’s “Cash is King”. You can knock the Mountain West’s Conference baseball schedule all you like, but there’s no denying that the Frogs deserve a shot in Omaha after winning two playoff rounds including knocking off a national number 2 seed on their home turf in a three game series. College baseball’s expansive non-conference scheduling which affords more opportunities for a team to prove themselves against ranked competition doesn’t hurt matters either.
But in football, obviously Conference affiliation is the driving force no matter how badly you beat your opponents and no matter if you schedule the first, second, third and fourth ranked teams in the country in non-conference. If you play in the WAC or the MWC, you’re going to get bent over and Deliverance’d when it comes to the post season.
But there’s an even more important factor in TCU Baseball's meteoric rise, one that I was discussing with a few folks earlier that I think is the biggest contributing factor to TCU’s perception as “not good enough for a national seed’ to “your mom’s favorite baseball team.” I’m talking about something that, even though it may not always be at the forefront of the collective minds of college sports fans, can certainly make a difference when relevant. A factor that, more than anything, makes me wish that the we were in the Big 12 more than ever. What am I talking about?
Why UT Hate, of course. Sweet, unflinching, unbridled, caustic, combustive and alliterative UT hate.
Obviously we didn’t come into the CWS as a favorite – how’d that work out, Sun Devils? Just because we knocked off a Texas team that was arguably supposed to win the whole thing, doesn’t change the facts that, even though the BCS doesn’t apply to baseball, we will always be viewed through a BCS veil and therefore an unbiased fan would likely gravitate towards us. But, given recent circumstances and the location of the World Series in Omaha, how can you ignore the UT hater role in all of this?
Nebraska has always hated Texas since they crashed their Big 8 party in 1996 and has been looking for a way out. When they finally getting the Big Ten bid they have so coveted a few weeks back, all of that hate really came out in statements from the athletic department, none more vocal than deified AD Tom Osborne. But in truth, Nebraska didn’t so much want to go to the Big Ten as much as they wanted to get the hell out of a conference with Texas. Obviously the Big Ten was the preferred choice, but I have a feeling if the Pac 10 came calling, sans Longhorns, the Huskers would’ve jumped. So the locals in Omaha were going to be predisposed to backing the team that knocked off UT. Had Clemson been matched up with Texas in the Austin regional and taken it to the Longhorns, they would’ve been the favorites this year, with the Frogs getting the underdog vote. And while the underdog card is strong, I think the UT hate card is stronger; Now that we get to play both cards, we're pretty much immortal.
From my reading up on the topic, the Featherston triple from Monday night was one of the loudest crowd roars anyone has ever heard from Rosenblatt. If that’s true, I can’t even begin to fathom what it sounded like after Curry’s HR last night; probably not unlike sleeping with an exploding jet engine for a pillow. But would any of this have happened without Texas? I still think we’d have the crowd, but would a roomful of 12 year old girls in Omaha be attacking their furniture if they weren’t driven by their hate of all things Burnt Orange? If you held up a Burnt Orange cape in front of a person in a red hat with an N on it, would they charge you like a bull in Pamplona? Is Burnt even a word?
And on the Conference Expansion front, is this karma’s way of repaying us? Is karma no longer a bitch? Think about it: The MWC gets absolutely bitch slapped in the conference realignment game. No arguments there – we fully expected to take 10 steps forwards and ended up never leaving our chair. And while we may never get a leg up in football, by dropping us into the most volatile anti-UT environment outside of WWHD’s apartment for our first World Series, several weeks after Nebraska bolted the Big 12, and a week after we knocked off Texas to get there has to be some kind of fate, right? This journey was definitely cosmically constructed by a higher power than Jim Scholossnagle, or at least appears that way after last night.
So is God a UT Hater? I think I heard a church nursery rhyme once that stated “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…except Longhorns.” Perhaps he learned that from his pops? It’s been said that the Dallas Cowboys are God’s team, but has Jehovah’s endearing hatred for Texas caused him to switch his allegiance across the Metroplex? No matter the root cause, the way things have been shaking out, it sure seems like… ok, I’ve gotta stop before I make an Angels in the Outfield reference.
Go Frogs. And F Texas.