When I was in the Army, attending the Infantry School in Fort Benning, Ga., I hung around with a guy from Indiana University. He played football for the Hoosiers, but I always told him he was miscast.
You should have heard his spiel once he got rolling about the life and times playing football in the Big Ten. He'd start out by telling his listening audience his team wasn't good, which we knew because we had come from Eastern or Midwestern schools.
Then he'd shift into second gear: "But we must have been pretty good; we usually finished third or fourth in attendance in the league. And every other week, on the road, we'd play to a packed house. Maybe I should mention here it was the other school's homecoming.
"I think one year, besides our homecoming, we were scheduled into five homecomings on the road. Sure, we lost a lot of games, but playing before crowds of 85,000 and 100,000 was a lot of fun. Besides, we got to look at the best-looking girls in a half-dozen states. I often wondered why we weren't on the homecoming queen selection committee."
He went on and on, causing most of us to suggest he skip Airborne or Ranger training and get to work on additional standup comedy routines.
I got to thinking about my friend while checking out the football schedules of colleges throughout the land in the paper the other day. First off, checking out the Maryland schedule as the excitement builds about the Terps going forth into the fray that is the Big Ten conference, the immediate impression fairly screamed:
OK, local fans, you people who have been crowing about Maryland's move out of the Atlantic Coast Conference and into the Big Ten, be advised to lower the volume of your entry into the unknown.
The early part of the slate is typical Maryland, taking on James Madison and South Florida. It toughens up quickly against West Virginia and at Syracuse before the Terps are welcomed into the Big Ten with a trip to Indiana. No, they are not a homecoming opponent.
Now, friends, take a break. Maybe take a trip somewhere, spend a couple of weeks doing something you promised yourself or others you'd accomplish. Because starting Oct. 4, Ohio State will come to town and, in sort of a prediction of what might happen against the rugged Buckeyes, the Terps will get a week off before taking on Iowa homecoming weekend.
Homecomings are usually staged against a conference weak sister, a team that gives the home forces a huge chance at victory to satisfy the returning alumni, particularly those carrying a checkbook contemplating an upcoming loyalty fund touch.
Wait a minute. Iowa is somebody's idea of a soft touch?
In view of what is to follow, road games at Wisconsin and Penn State (the Terps beat the Nittany Lions once back when Gary Collins was catching passes in College Park) before hosting Michigan State. Then it'll be on to the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. If that doesn't read like a six-game losing streak, what does?
A home game against Rutgers to complete Thanksgiving weekend should ease the pain somewhat, while thinking about bowl game invitations and Terp glory days -- back in the time of Chet "the Jet" Hanulak (from Hackensack, N.J.).
While on the subject of homecomings, Michigan State is the only one among 14 Big Ten schools that will not play a conference foe at its homecoming, preferring to pick on Wyoming. No school scheduled Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State as a homecoming foe (for obvious reasons). Meanwhile, those three will oppose Rutgers, Indiana and Northwestern for their homecoming dates (again, for obvious reasons).
Indiana and Iowa are the only teams with two road homecoming games, which probably means Maryland and Rutgers aren't on speed dial at several schools yet.
Talk about a name from the past. The Baltimore Banners were mentioned in a recent "Remember When" piece in The Baltimore Sun. The World Team Tennis club lost to the New York Sets in mid-June 1974, and it was explained that the team had won only eight of 21 matches because top-gun Jimmy Connors hadn't appeared for many matches.
Word was this was OK with team management because Connors was being paid $3,000 per appearance, and crowds were hard to come by at the Civic Center. Betty Stove was the best female player on the team, and fans used to chorus ''800,000g'' when she scored a point.
It's no secret that international soccer has problems, with games being fixed. With the sport front and center as the World Cup nears its conclusion, "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" did a scathing report of just how bad it is. Literally hundreds of games have been fixed, and the men blowing the whistle on the sport are the men and players doing the fixing.