I love fans of all types, but have a special place in my heart for those who drink so much of their team’s Kool-Aid that they are constantly buzzing about how they are the greatest program on earth, even if they haven’t won a conference championship in two decades.
They are the fan who brings up an undefeated team from 50 years ago to try and prove a point, they are the kind of individual who grades referees based on two certain numbers on the scoreboard.
You can find these fans most everywhere (if you don’t count Ford Field on an NFL game day) and as I am finding out, Hillsdale is no exception.
Just because the college is full of quick-witted, perceptive people doesn’t mean they are immune to some of the common effects of being fans who talk with the hearts instead of their minds.
In fact, it is such a tight-knit community with steadfast views and biases that it’s almost harder to find the casual fan amongst the several hundred current diehards and thousands of alums who drool at the mention of anything Hillsdale.
For the most recent exhibit of this irrational, scatterbrained behavior I should thank the contingent of GLIAC football coaches.
Within hours of a press release coming out announcing the Chargers had been picked as the sixth best team in the conference I saw several examples of foolhardy fandom.
Andy Losik, a former Charger who has a Rudy-like story to tell, has a blog at Chargerblue.com, a place that has become known as a place for Hillsdale College faithful to gather.
He couldn’t help but go crazy about a middle-of-the-pack pick for his old team.
He posted a story titled “Different year, same crappy pick by the GLIAC coaches” which begins with this: “Once again I post what I consider one of the most useless pieces of annual information, the GLIAC Pre-Season coaches’ poll.”
Wait a second? So worthless that you found it newsworthy, took the time to rant about it and are trying to convince me it’s wrong?
If it means nothing then show me so with careful analysis from previous preseason polls and the final standings that says so. If it means nothing than explain to me why the Chargers lost to four of the five teams ahead of them last season.
The ex-player turned blogger is not alone though.
Just an hour after I saw that post I ran into someone who has worked at the college for more than a decade — and mind you, they don’t work in the athletic department.
I asked them what they thought about the team being picked sixth. Their response? A dropped jaw and vindictive eyes.
When I pointed out they lost to Ashland, Michigan Tech, Wayne State and Grand Valley the pundit explained that three of them were road losses and the only one that was decided prior to the final minutes was against the conference champs.
Ok, so what happens if they beat a few of those teams this year at home and lose to other teams away from home? Is every loss away from home and by less than 10 points not really a loss? Moral victories are fraudulent, just ask every coach who’s every lost his job.
Needless to say, that five minute conversation decided nothing, it only proved that true fans see the cup three-quarters full when it’s really half empty.
What I have decided in the past 24 hours though is that being picked sixth isn’t a slam, it isn’t something to burn your GLIAC media guides over. Sixth is where the Chargers finished last year, and the Chargers have only finished in the top five of the conference once since the turn of the century.
In four sentences that let the past have a voice and give the future a reason I can understand why conference coaches put the Chargers where they did.
Grand Valley and Ashland are ranked in the top 10 nationally — enough said.
Michigan Tech was picked third and returns 19 starters from an 8-3 team that nearly made the D-II playoffs and Wayne State was fourth and they return a veteran offensive line and senior running back Joique Bell, who owns the school career records for rushing yards (4,644), rushing touchdowns (59), points (384) and all-purpose yards (5,663).
Saginaw Valley State is one slot above the Chargers and could pull a few surprises after finishing last season by winning five of its last six games and they return D-II’s leading tackler (John Jacobs) and an experienced QB who threw for over 2,000 yards.
Thus, the Chargers, who lost their two most devastating weapons, Tom Korte and Aaron Waldie, and have a starting quarterback who is known to be a bit fragile, are put right below a handful of exceptional teams, nothing to get too worked up about.
I have my opinions about the coaches poll as well, but I will not write off the wisdom of the guys calling the shots and game-planning against the teams they voted for.
The truth is we will all know if the coaches were right or wrong by Oct. 10 after the Chargers host Grand Valley. Then they will have played Michigan Tech, Ashland and the Lakers and the results will speak for themselves.
Then I will consider listening to what blue-and-white crazies have to say, but for now I’ll wait for official practices to begin, I’ll see what the conference standings look like and I won’t put too much stock into what I hear, only what I see.
I enjoy a good debate, but I don’t like it when people cry over spilt milk whenever they haven’t even been served.