SANTA CLARA, Ca.—To quote Admiral James Stockdale: “Who am I? What am I doing here?”
That sentiment has pervaded this week’s College Football Championship “celebration” in soggy San Jose, where rain and indifference have produced empty streets and very lonely taco truck vendors.
It is nobody’s fault, really, but let’s just say the timing got messed up.
It was not wrong to want to spread the Champ Game to regionally diverse outposts. In fact, when the commissioners approved the four-team in 2014, the first 10 title games were designated for 10 different stadiums across the country.
My beef is that the Rose Bowl was not one of those 10 venues, but apparently I am never going to win that argument.
Levi’s Stadium is a perfectly fine, modern and sterile NFL stadium with plenty of suites and a spacious press box.
But pairing this city and edifice with Clemson and Alabama was an unfortunate decision—like wearing a plaid coat with a striped tie.
This is the fourth straight year Clemson and Alabama will be playing in the CFP playoff—the third time for the championship.
Fan bases from those schools have been asked to travel across the country, to an expensive place, that is not a hub of college football no matter how many times you say Pop Warner coached at Stanford in the 1920s.
It doesn’t help that Pac 12 football is at a low ebb. Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma would have been hot ticket in San Jose but that’s not what happened.
It rained all day Sunday and downtown San Jose was a ghost town with really good wireless service.
For Clemson this trip west is not much different than a time travel to the Wild West or a trek to outer space.
“Unbelievable,” Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said this week. “I literally just saw my first tumbleweed. I have not spent any time of my life in this area so this is pretty cool…To land and see all the mountains, just the beauty flying in, we got to see the snow-capped mountains, and then all of a sudden there was no snow. And then it was flat, and then it looked like Mars with moguls. And then it was farmland…just a fascinating country and world that we live in.”
This is the game and this is the city. Deal with it. The workers who put in thousands of hours in preparation are not to be blamed for this random convergence of indifference.
It isn’t great, to me, that NFL-type experiences have been sold to college football and that the leading benefactor of this game being held in San Jose is the San Francisco 49ers.
Yeah, ticket prices may drop to a buck and a quarter come kickoff, but the 49ers think they can use this as a lost leader for future promotion.
Isn’t that swell. Also, sometimes you have to go to a place to know you don't want to come back.
Don’t blame us, though, the West Coast, for any of this. The CFP title game at the new Los Angeles Stadium in a few years should be a jaw-dropper. Maybe a team West of the Mississippi will be in it.
Hey, though, the sun just came out at Levi’s Stadium and the field looks terrific. Clemson and Alabama, the two best teams in college football, are playing tonight.
At some point we may just have to quit whining and enjoy it.