A Sports Fan’s Travel Dilemma

When we planned this trip to France and England, I wasn’t focused on college football — although I hoped that the Ohio State Buckeyes would run the table, win every game to earn the Big Ten crown, and then play in the National Championship Game. Alas, the Michigan State Spartans foiled that dream.

So tonight, the Buckeyes play the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. Unfortunately for me, the game is being played in the evening, in the Eastern time zone, and I’m in London, five hours ahead. Here is England, the game won’t begin until about 1:30 a.m., and probably won’t end until 4:30 or so.

Even worse, there is no where to watch the game, even if I could stay up to do so. The fact is, American college football doesn’t make even a tiny dent in the British sporting scene. The big sports stories in England this week have been the fate of a Formula One driver who was injured in a skiing accident and the poor performance of England in some cricket match.

A few days ago Russell and I visited one of the casinos on Leicester Square that advertised a sports bar, just to see what they were showing and whether the Ohio State basketball game against Purdue might be on one of the TVs. Hah! Most of the screens were showing a tennis match — that’s right, tennis! — and the others featured soccer and a rugby match. Can you imagine any red-blooded American sports bar these days showing a tennis match?

So tonight, I’ll try to sleep while the Buckeyes play their bowl game, and I’ll probably toss and turn wondering how they are doing. When I wake up tomorrow the game will be over and I’ll see whether my team has righted the ship or ended the season on a two-game skid. One seeming positive in all of this is that I’ve set things up so that the game is being recorded at home, and therefore I will have the luxury of watching a known victory — or erasing, unobserved, a painful defeat, and watching a cricket test match instead.

Big Ten, Big Wins

With Iowa’s win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, the Big Ten ended its bowl season — and a pleasantly successful bowl season it was, for a change.  The wins by the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Hawkeyes meant that the Big Ten was undefeated in BCS bowls, and Penn State and Wisconsin also had marquee wins over LSU and Miami, respectively.

It would have been nice if Northwestern, Minnesota, and Michigan State had pulled out wins in their games, too, but I’ll take a 4-3 bowl record for now.  After all of the criticism of the Big Ten as “overrated,” “slow,” “unimaginative,” “boring,” and so forth, it was nice to see Big Ten teams step up in games against top-ranked teams and show what they could do.  I think the bowl games demonstrated that this year’s Big Ten had many strong teams with excellent athletes and coaches.  It should quiet the naysayers for a while, at least.

In my view, one of the reasons the Big Ten gets dissed is that key Big Ten games tend to be low scoring.  Pundits seem to focus on offense; this year they were excited about Cincinnati, for example, because the Bearcats scored a lot of points.  It didn’t seem to make a difference to them that, in many of its games, Cincinnati also gave up a lot of points.  Big Ten games often are low scoring because Big Ten teams usually emphasize defense.  The Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl, where Ohio State and Iowa were able to dampen high-flying offenses, shows that defensive capabilities shouldn’t be overlooked.