Two years ago, an eternity in Internet time, Lane Kiffin went and got himself name-dropped in a Lil Wayne song. For all its numbers and tall buildings, Knoxville’s a semantically small town, and my genteelly barbaric alma mater nearly blew itself down in a huff-puffing snit. This was two or three jobs back for me, and while I was trying to come up with a polite way of explaining to a hostile audience how Rocky Top could use a good shot in the arm of devil-may-care bravado, a lone internet commenter did my work for me:
can’t you guys just sit back and laugh about this? kiffin brought some ish with him to Tenn. i think it is hilarious. [...] dont be so hard up you old grumpy men. laugh about things, and stop wishing you won state when you were 30 years younger.
Kiffin, you might have heard, has since moved on to browner pastures, but the lesson remains: Laugh about things, and stop wishing you won state when you were 30 years younger. It’s in this spirit of glee and abandon that we present Campus Union. The parallels between our beautiful game and the gladiator sport of ancient times are there for grasping by the handful, but for our purposes, consider NCAA football instead as a microcosm of late-stage American imperialism: by turns glossy and gritty, riddled with corruption, corroded entirely through in places, still unspeakably beautiful and here for our entertainment. College football, at its spiritual core, is one of our greatest art forms, equally capable of inspiring tears of rage, orgasmic joy and spontaneous fits of ill-advised dancing. I’m here to take you through a season that’s already fraught with high drama 10 days out, and to see what divine comedy we can spot along the way. From the Oregon Ducks to the Idaho Vandals, all the way down to the South Alabama Jaguars and Allegheny Gators, we’ll get our kicks where we can find them.
DISCLOSURE OF BIAS: We’ve all got them. So we all know who we’re dealing with, here are mine: I’m a 2005 Tennessee grad with two Tennessee grads for parents and an inherited secondary familial allegiance to West Virginia. After college, I fled the Parallelogram State for sunny Los Angeles and worked in video post-production for several years before returning to the South just in time for the 2009 season. I live on the Georgiabama border in a probably-haunted house with my UGA diehard beau, two Boston terriers and two kittens. My time out West gave me a soft spot in the shiny black pit where my heart should be for the Pac-12 as well as the Ess Eee Cee; I think it’s practically criminal that more schools besides Tennessee and Washington don’t have the necessary geography for proper boat tailgating, and I hold Tuscaloosa in revered esteem as the finest road trip destination in all sport. And please don’t think for a second that my triple-dipped Tennessee legacy will save the Vawls from ridicule when it’s called for. It will not. (The exception is Derek Dooley’s hair, which is flawless and above reproach at all times. Malign it in my presence and we will fight.)
I spent four years as the incomparable Spencer Hall’s sidekick at Every Day Should Be Saturday, two seasons backing up Matt Hinton at Yahoo(!) Sports’ Dr. Saturday and one year as college football editor for the genius-laden nerd herd at SB Nation, before being scooped up Toy Story-style by the master claw of SI. I’ve been called every name imaginable and unprintable, but if you’d like to try a few more, here’s my brand-new Twitter account.
Here endeth the lesson for this morning: You’ll likely as not find a pesky vein throbbing in your forehead at some point over the next four months, and you’ll owe it all to your favorite team. Just remember: Laugh about things, and stop wishing you won state when you were 30 years younger. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And it’ll be over before we know it, so make this season count.