Wednesday, August 5, 2020

On my 2019 College Football Bar Crawl

Last year, I wrote about my experience visiting different college football bars in San Diego throughout the fall. TLDR: In 2018, I was inspired by the Athlon Sports Cover 2 podcast's annual college football in which they map out their dream road trip: pick one game to see every week, under the constraint that you can't see the same game twice. That fall I decided to visit a local watch party for a different college football team every week, and I had so much fun with the project that I decided to do it again the following year. Here's how it went down in 2019.

Week 0: Tidewater Tavern (Miami)
I was really excited for this one, and not just because college football was back a week early. Last year I wrote about how over time I couldn't help but gravitate towards USC fandom, and in an alternate universe I'm sure I might've become a diehard Hurricane. These two schools are mirror images of each other in so many ways:
  • Small private school in a big, glitzy city
  • Rivalry with Notre Dame
  • Administrators want the school to be known as an academic powerhouse, not an athletic one
  • The competition to for local attention is cutthroat; if you aren't competing for championships the fans will find 100 other other sports to watch and things to do.
  • Historically have gone above and beyond to play anyone, any time, anywhere
  • At their best when their teams reflect the personality and swagger of their cities
  • Biggest obstacle: lack of money and modernized facilities (compared to other blue bloods)
  • Biggest strength: access to local talent - lock down the recruits in your zip code and it's game over for the rest of the country
The bottom line is that I want USC to be USC again, and I want Miami to be Miami again. The sport is better when those two are fully operational.

A lot of the local alumni associations in San Diego organize to have two game day locations: one in San Diego, and one in North County, the conglomerate of affluent suburbs to the north of San Diego. The Miami alumni only had a North County meetup, so I made the trek up to Solana Beach for their week 0 showdown against Florida. I spent most of the game sitting next to and old man who had been following Miami football since the 1960s. He attended every one of their national championship games, and actually met Howard Schnellenberger. I asked him approximately 10 million questions, and would've asked him triple that if I could have done so without annoying him. If Miami had made it to their conference championship game I have no doubt I would have come back here for it.


Week 1: Sandbar (Boise State)
One of the non-negotiable aspects of this project is to be there for Boise State's annual marquee out of conference test. This year, it wasn't even clear if the game was going to happen due to the hurricane warnings. Eventually it was moved from a sterile neutral site game to Doak Campbell stadium (which is how it should have been in the first place), but at 9am San Diego time. I wasn't sure what the turnout would be like, but I went anyways, knowing that a trip to Sandbar would be worth it for the menu alone.

As it turned out, the Boise State fans rallied for an impressive turnout. I recognized most of the faces from the previous year, and they recognized me, which immediately ingratiated me into the crowd (and made feel validated in continuing this project). It also helped that I was wearing a Kellen Moore t-shirt in place of my usual USC raglan.

The food and drink was every bit as good as I remembered, and the game was a total roller coaster. When Florida State connected on all their early deep shots, most of us resigned to settling in for a relaxing brunch and waiting for Boise's next shot to "prove it" against one of the big boys. But Boise stuck to their gameplan, and their experienced offensive line eventually pounded Florida State's horrible run defense into submission. If you didn't know better, you would've thought that Boise State was the team that practiced in humidity 365 days per year.

But the real revelation was Hank Bachmeier (aka Bach to the Future); he took shot after shot after shot in the first half, and every time he manage to get back on his feet and keep throwing dimes. Going forward I think Bachmeier is really underrated, and he should be discussed in the same breath other freshman phenoms like Kedon Slovis, Jayden Daniels, and Sam Howell.

Week 2: Elbowroom (LSU)
For this week I was deciding between going out for Clemson/Texas A&M and LSU/Texas. I also had to account for my plans to meet up with my girlfriend and some of her friends from high school that were visiting for the weekend. I told her that if she and her friends wanted to go out in North Park (my neighborhood), then I would go out to the A&M bar in the afternoon and be back home for dinner in the evening. On the other hand, if they were planning to go out in Convoy (her neighborhood), I would go to the LSU bar down the street from her apartment.

No decisions were made earlier in the day, so I played it safe and went to the LSU bar so that it would be easy to meet up with her at a moment's notice. But her friends ended up wanting to go out in North Park at the last minute! I was mildly annoyed and extremely amused, because had I known this I would have gone to the A&M bar for logistical reasons. But ultimately I am actually really happy that I got to go to save the A&M bar for a different day - keep reading until the end.

I came to the bar wearing a t-shirt of Ben Simmons (my current favorite NBA player) in his LSU jersey. Not a single person there recognized my t-shirt. I probably should have predicted this, but it's still pretty funny.

I sat in the corner next to a father, his girlfriend, and his son. I talked with them a bit and soon learned that the son actually played football for San Diego High School; I was thrilled about this, because I had actually gone to one of SDHS's football games the previous fall. I later learned that he was being recruited to play for Michigan State. I asked his dad what he would do if his son ever had to play against LSU; he proudly declared he hoped that his son would have a good individual game but still lose by to LSU to 50.

The game was awesome, the atmosphere was awesome, and the Abida beer (imported from Louisiana) was awesome. After the game I stuck around to wait for my girlfriend and her friends to finish dinner and come back to Convoy. During this time I ran into a Boise State fan who lived down the street and remembered meeting me at Sandbar the previous year. She, her boyfriend, and I hung out for a bit to watch Kedon Slovis's coming out party against Stanford. And after going out in Convoy, I capped off the night by staying up until 3am to watch Washington and Cal finish their weather-delayed game. All in all, a pretty memorable day of football.

Week 3: Single Fin (West Virginia) followed by Cavu Brewery and Restaurant (USC)
I really wanted to visit a team bar that I hadn't been to yet. My girlfriend really wanted me to try an Italian restaurant that she insisted would blow my mind. We both really wanted to watch USC's game against BYU. So we made a plan: go out for brunch at the West Virginia bar in the morning, and then watch the BYU game at the USC bar, which is down the street from the Italian restaurant.

The West Virginia bar was located in Mission Beach, which is the grungier (and in my opinion, superior) cousin of the Pacific Beach neighborhood to the north. I only stayed here for about half of the game (which wasn't all that memorable). The fans that I met were optimistic for the Neal Brown era, not all that sad to see Dana Holgorson go, and still REALLY bitter over losing Rich Rodriguez to Michigan. One fan told me that he fully believes RichRod threw the infamous game against Pitt (and in all likelihood, a spot in the national championship) so that he would have an excuse to leave. I...don't remotely believe that, but I guess we'll never know for sure.

Later we headed north to watch USC's trip to Provo. I touched on this last year, but the older I have gotten the more I have embraced my inner USC fan. If this sounds like a lame excuse to bandwagon onto a blue blood, well, you're right - and I don't really know what to tell you. But my girlfriend being an honest Trojan makes me feel a lot less guilty about it.

After USC had demolished Stanford the previous week, I could not have been more excited for this game. In fact, this was the most excited I had been for a USC game since the Texas game in 2017. In retrospect, this should have sounded off screeching alarm bells in my head. In 2017, USC played a mediocre game against a G5 school in week 1, but appeared to assuage those concerns by dominating Stanford. This was while USC was in the middle of a 12 game winning streak that included beating playoff-bound Washington on the road and beating Penn State in the Rose bowl; I honestly thought USC had finally found the right coach and quarterback, and that the Texas game would be their chance to announce their return as a juggernaut. Instead they looked sloppy, complacent, and unprepared; they more or less announced "we're not back!" I was at that game, and I remember that neither fanbase was happy afterwards, because we all knew that Texas deserved to win,

Flash forward to 2019: USC played a mediocre week 1 game against a G5 school, and then turned around to dominate Stanford. By this time I knew that Clay Helton was in way over his head, but I talked myself into believing that USC had lucked into the right assistant coach (Graham Harrell) and quarterback (Kedon Slovis) to make the program play to its potential. Instead, USC looked - take a guess - sloppy, complacent, and unprepared in a loss that took all the air out of the season. Sadly, this game was a harsh reminder that players and assistant coaches can fix a lot of things, but not the culture.

On the bright side, I liked the beer menu a lot, I liked the alumni we met, and it was nice to watch this game as just fan (instead of explaining myself as stranger wandering into another team's bar for some anthropological side project). Also the dinner at Catania afterwards did in fact blow my mind.


Week 4: Little Italy's Loading Dock (Georgia)
Going into the season, Notre Dame's visit to Georgia was by far the game I was most excited to watch. This matchup represented everything I love about college football. Unlike the NFL, College football has a lot of mismatched games that are doomed from the start - but those games make it that much better when we get to see titans clash. The intersectional aspect of this game takes it to another level; Midwestern boys carrying their flags into the Dixie to lay regional pride on the line.

For the game I was debating between going to the Notre Dame or Georgia bar. I settled on Georgia for two reasons: 1. I figured the Georgia fans would be more welcoming of USC fans 2. Going to Little Italy would give us a chance to cross some items off my girlfriend's San Diego bucket list. Once Saturday rolled around, we planned out an evening in Little Italy: visit an ice cream parlor followed by a brewery, with the Georgia game sandwiched in between (insert joke about Italian sub).  We got there early to make sure we had seating (my girlfriend said she heard a couple of fans complaining that two of the seats were being gobbled up by non-UGA fans). When we walked in we were greeted by an inflatable UGGA, and the event organizer gave us a complimentary set of beads, sticker, and lip balm. The setup of the bar was pretty unique: it honestly reminded me of kind of lounge that you might see in the student center of a university. We got front row couches, right next to a couple that we ended up talking with all night. The husband actually went to UGA when Herschel Walker was there. When the wife saw our USC gear, she asked us how we felt about USC's (completely flukey) victory over Utah the previous night. I was pretty impressed to learn that she actually followed USC fairly closely, and fully understood just how pyrrhic the victory could (and eventually, would) be if it helped Clay Helton keep his job. It also turned out that we had been sitting in a similar part of the stadium during the Georgia/Oklahoma Rose Bowl. We have actually stayed in touch since the game.

The game itself was a little bit of a let down, for me at least. Notre Dame's offense was pretty obviously overmatched, and Georgia utilized a comically conservative game plan (although in retrospect I think the coaching staff knew more than outsiders did about Jake Fromm's ability to carry a pass-first offense). But meeting the couple next to us more than made up for the game; my most anticipated week of the season did not disappoint.

Week 5: East Village Tavern and Bowl (Nebraska)
Coming into the season, I really wanted to make it to a Nebraska game, but their meetup spot wasn't the most accessible for me. However, I learned later that they were establishing a new meetup in a much more accessible location. This game was one that I had circled early on as a potential signature upset, so I ended up slotting in Nebraska for week 5.

But I didn't wait until Saturday to start watching football that weekend. Going into the Fall, I had been wanting to see the Bishop's School of La Jolla play a game. Bishop's junior quarterback, Tyler Buchner, was rated as a 4-star prospect and firmly committed to Notre Dame; I thought it would be cool to take advantage of my location to see him play before he became famous. That Friday night, my girlfriend and I made plans to go to downtown La Jolla to watch the Bishop play, and then celebrate Oktoberfest by trying out a La Jolla brewery on our bucket list. Initially my girlfriend wasn't all that thrilled about sitting through a high school game; that attitude turned around as quickly as one of Buchner's spin moves. From the first snap he completely dazzled us with both his arm and his legs. In a redux of the time I showed her Reggie Bush's college highlights, my girlfriend impulsively yelped out "what the heck?!?!!!!" at one of his 50 yard runs in the first quarter. The whole performance looked completely effortless, to the point that you almost had to feel bad for the other team. The craziest part is that Buchner was still recovering from tearing his ACL the previous season. We both left the game with an elevated level of respect for what it takes to become a blue chip recruit. As USC fans, we weren't thrilled about him going to our biggest rival; but as football fans, we were thrilled to see him Buchner play.

On Saturday, I decided to visit the Nebraska bar. Going into the season I had their game against Ohio State circled on my calendar - I thought this had all the makings of one of those season-defining upsets. Instead, Nebraska looked totally overwhelmed. That said, the outing was worth for at least two reasons: 1) Nebraska's flirtation with a rally powered by a return to the triple option and 2) meeting an alumni who lived in the same building as Tom Osborne.

I ended up leaving at halftime. True to their reputation as the most polite fans in college football, the the alumni thanked me for stopping by and told me they couldn't possibly blame me for leaving.

Week 6: The Smoking Gun (Florida)
I had plans to meet a couple of friends at the Little Italy farmers market, so I thought it would make sense to sense to go to one of the downtown or east village bars. Florida's game against Auburn was appealing, their location was convenient, and I had been wanting to check out the new gator bar. It doesn't hurt that Florida was my favorite stop on the previous year's tour. So right after the farmers market I took the trolley to the East Village.

At the entrance I was greeted by giant inflatable gator, as well as a couple of Florida fans who hoped for USC's sake that they didn't hire Urban Meyer. When I went in I immediately recognized quite a few people from the previous year. I didn't have to explain why I was there - I slid into watching Gator football with the regulars.

Last year Florida met at a Hillcrest bar called Project Bar and Grill. When Project Bar and Grill went out of business, I was hoping the UF alumni group would pick a bar in North Park for 2019 hangouts; instead, they went with The Smoking Gun, an East Village bar that used 1950s TV dinner iconography for the menu and Blockbuster VHS boxes for giving guests their checks. Personally I liked Project Bar and Grill's coziness and menu a lot; but The Smoking Gun's space was probably better for game days. The best part is that the bar synced up their sound system to match the sounds on the field; it was as if the Florida marching band was camped out in the corner.

The funniest part of the game was when one patron had a bit too much to drink, and accidentally cheered for one of Auburn's big plays. I think he might be the mythical "Florida Man".

Overall this stop was nothing short of wonderful, as expected. The only disappointment is I didn't ever end up returning to the UF bar for any volunteering event.


Week 9: The Local Eatery and Drinking Hole (Wisconsin)
I didn't go out anywhere in week 7, and for week 8 I visited a USC bar called The Coliseum. My girlfriend's masters program reserved a spot on the McCarthy Quad and invited all current and former students to come tailgate. Furthermore, they held a raffle for tickets, as well as a chance to go onto the field before the game. And guess what? She won the raffle! The game was awful, but the trip was still worth it.

Week 9 coincided with Halloweekend, so I knew I couldn't make plans for the evening. Morning also seemed preferable to afternoon, so that I would have time to sober up before going out. Wisconsin/Ohio State was in the morning, and was the most interesting game of the week, which sealed the deal; the only decision to make was which team's bar to check out. Initially I was leaning Ohio State, because their downtown meetup was more accessible than Wisconsin's meetup in Pacific Beach. However, at the last minute I found out that Wisconsin actually had two locations - one in PB and one downtown. Moreover, the downtown location just so happened to be at The Local - one of my absolute favorite bars in all of San Diego. For my first four years in San Diego, The Local was my favorite sports bar in the whole city; there was no way I was passing up an excuse to go.

I got up early, went for a run, and made my way downtown. When I got to the bar it wasn't all that full - I think most of the Wisconsin fans went to PB. But I spent the game at a table with one couple, as well as all their friends that eventually trickled in. I listened to stories from attending games at Camp Randall and the Rose Bowl, while snacking on cheese curds from the bar's special game day menu. For me, it was the perfect pre-game for Halloween Saturday.

Week 11: Bootlegger (Alabama)
For week 10 I didn't go to a college bar; Instead, I went up to LA for the second time in two weeks. Oregon playing at USC, so I made the trip up to attend the game with a couple friends from college (including a Ducks fan). The game went about as badly as I feared, and that's all I'll say about that.

The following week I was eager to get the Oregon game out of my system. It was obvious by this point in the season that Tua vs. Burrow was going to be the game of the year. Going into the year my biggest priority was to make it back to the Alabama bar; moreover, I had already used up my LSU slot for the regular season. There wasn't much to decide on for this week.

My girlfriend had a bit of a roller coaster experience at the Alabama game the previous year, but she was more than game to go back. Once again we took advantage of this game to check off some bucket list items: donuts and tacos before the game, and pasta afterwards. When we got to the bar we made a beeline to greet the organizers that had been so nice to us last year. Also, this year I was not going to miss the chance to get a wingspan's worth of raffle tickets.

All the things I loved about the last experience - the sea of red, the standing room only, the sound system marching the marching band - were still there. My girlfriend and I also ran into a military guy that we had really enjoyed meeting the previous year. The game was obviously a let down for the die-hard Alabama fans, but it was everything I could've hoped it would be.

Week 12: Home and Away (Auburn)
I followed up watching one Iron Bowl participant by watching the other one a week later. I didn't have a strong inclination going into the weekend; but around an hour before the Auburn game I figured that I could make it to Old Town in time, and I knew I would like the people and the bar.

This went pretty much as I expected. I had a few drinks, and mingled with a few faces old and new. I met one guy whose uncle is former NBA player Chuck Person. I also ran into a couple USC fans who came here for non-football reasons, and didn't quite realize what they had wandered into.

After a two years at Home and Away, I can say that their cocktails are as good as any of the other bars that I've been to. Maybe next I come I will get around to trying their food.

Week 13: Offshore Tavern and Grill (Texas A&M)
Ok, so remember in week 2? When I would have gone to the A&M bar had I learned about my girlfriend's plans at not the last minute? Well, in retrospect I'm actually glad that things worked out the way she did. Because I didn't go to the A&M bar earlier, I was able to use them later in the season. My girlfriend was free on this day, so we made impromptu plans to go to Offshore to meet the A&M crowd, keep a peripheral view on the USC/UCLA rivalry game, and check off another coffee shop from her bucket list.

Little did we know that this would be the absolute best experience of the entire bar crawl. For both of us.

The Texas A&M fans were unbelievably nice and welcoming to us. I don't just mean "nice compared to the other fanbases". Like, they were the kind of people that are so nice that you end up feeling guilty for not being as nice. At halftime, before making announcements related to the alumni club, the organizer  made sure to give a special shoutout to the two USC fans who decided to be Aggies for a day. Later a few different people came up to us just to let us know how much they liked and appreciated the visit, and the bar crawl project. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it was almost like they were honored to have other fans show up in support.

One personal source of pride is that I know just as much (if not more) about the various teams as the actual fans/alumni that I meet; I could probably pass as a fan of most of the blue bloods. But on this day, I got to be a student of the sport again. One of the alumni taught me about the annual bonfire tradition, including the "Texas University" outhouse at the top. I knew about the 12th man, but I literally knew nothing about this ritual. This is the exact kind of thing I was hoping to find when I came up with the bar crawl idea in the first place.

I also learned about Wreaths Across America; every year, this ceremony takes place to commemorate fallen soldiers. This is not technically specific to Texas A&M, but the university's military ties definitely dovetail in with the ceremony. The event organizers gave us the chance to sponsor a wreath; I gladly obliged. Keep reading to learn more about my experience with Wreaths Across America.

The main organizer (the one who made an announcement about our visit) brought her boyfriend with her. Turns out her boyfriend is also a Trojan fan, so periodically we convened to watch and discuss the ongoing UCLA game. We also talked about the coaching rumors; without me mentioning anything, he declared that he (like me and my girlfriend) wanted absolutely nothing to do with Urban Meyer's slime. A man after our own hearts.

Last but not least, the food here was excellent. Up until this week I hadn't gotten a fried avocado taco yet; I made sure to remedy that at Offshore.

I am so beyond happy that I made it to the A&M bar, and I'm even happier that fate allowed my girlfriend to experience it too. My only regret is that I never visited Offshore the previous year. The San Diego chapter of the A&M alumni set the bar very very high for how fun this project can be. They'll be hard to top as I keep visiting team bars.

Week 14: Good Time Charli's (Ohio State)
For this weekend I was in Phoenix to visit my family for Thanksgiving. Phoenix is not like San Diego - it's bigger, and has a crazy amount of sprawl. Public transit is also much shoddier. As a result, a lot of the bars weren't really worth the effort. The only team bar that was easily accessible was the Ohio State bar, which is located in the exact same suburb where my parents live. Considering this was also arguably the biggest rivalry in the sport, it was a pretty easy call to come here.

This bar greeted me with not one, but two copies of Brutus! The place was completely packed; the only way I was able to find a seat was at on the back patio - right next to one of the burners. By halftime, the kitchen could have served me as a piece of toast.

I spent the whole time talking with a Buckeye family. The game was pretty relaxed; once Harbaugh kicked a field goal down two scores in OSU territory, we all knew the game was over. I honestly thought Michigan would make Ohio State sweat this one out; they had showed some improvement the past few weeks, and I assumed that Don Brown would adjust his scheme to be less reckless. I was wrong.

I definitely will be back here if I'm in Phoenix again for Thanksgiving, and I'll try to convince my Buckeye family to come out with me.

Week 15: Elbowroom (LSU)
It was either Elbowroom or Loading Dock for the SEC championship. Since both were repeats, I ended up going with Elbowroom because it was so close to my girlfriend's apartment. I somehow misremembered the start time, so I ended up getting there about an hour early. This ended up being fortunate, as space filled up quickly. I grabbed a seat at one of the communal tables. I spent the whole game talking to one couple that grabbed a seat next to me. They loved my bar crawl idea, but they also warned me that I might have encountered some unpleasant resistance if I had tried to take up LSU space during the Alabama game.

The game itself was not that interesting; Georgia actually did pretty admirably to hold LSU to "just" 37, but their own offense was woefully overmatched.

Week 16: Pacific Beach Shore Club (Navy)
You made it! Let's circle back to Wreaths Across America. So here's how it works: every year, the ceremony takes place at various national cemeteries across the country. They have about an hour of speeches and acts to commemorate our fallen soldiers. Then everybody gets to go and lay a wreath on the grave of a fallen soldier. The people who are laying wreaths for family members get to go first.

I thought the perfect way to cap off the season would be to go to the ceremony, and then go out to the local Navy bar to watch the Army-Navy game. But I found a couple ways to make it even more perfect.

First, I successfully defended my PhD dissertation on the Tuesday of that week. I invited my UCSD grad school friends, as well as the USD undergraduates I was teaching at the time, to come out to celebrate with me.

Second, during office hours that week, I told one of my students (a veteran) about my plans for the weekend. He then told me that his father is actually buried at Miramar National Cemetery. We immediately made plans to attend the ceremony together and lay a wreath on his father's grave.

My student lived in the same neighborhood as I, so on the day of the ceremony we carpooled to the cemetery. As I hoped, I met two of the alumni from the Texas A&M game earlier in the year, and introduced my student to them. We looked up where his father was, and made sure we would be in the first group to lay wreaths. After the commemorative remarks, we went to the grave and made sure to get plenty of pictures. I won't use this space comment on the politics of military; all I'll say is that I'm certainly not a war hawk or a sycophant for our seemingly endless foreign excursions, but that doesn't preclude respect for the individuals who made such brave sacrifices. Regardless, it was a truly moving and sobering experience to remember all the lives lost, and to help my student pay tribute to his amazing father.

Afterwards, my student and I dropped my car back in North Park and took an Uber to PB Shore Club. Because we got up so early for the ceremony, we were really early for the game. Didn't matter; we still needed to wait in line for quite a bit to get in. This bar wasn't packed - it was PACKED. And this crowd was completely different from the other crowds - it was pretty much exclusively early/mid 20's fans. To be honest, it was kind of cool to be surrounded by other millennials for the first time in this project. I didn't even bother introducing myself and my bar crawl to strangers; this was simply not the time and place.

We got there and carved out a small part of a table. A couple of my other USD students showed up, as well as my roommate who had just finished serving in the Navy. Unfortunately nobody in the graduate program could be bothered to show up to celebrate, but to be honest I wasn't expecting a big grad student turnout; trekking outside of La Jolla can be a scary proposition. No matter; the day was pretty much perfect anyways.

National Championship: Elbowroom (LSU)
Before the title game, I actually made it out to the semifinal game between Clemson and Ohio State. My parents got me and my brother tickets as a Christmas gift - in other words, best parents ever. Going into the game I really thought Ohio State was the most complete team in the country. When they got up 10-0, I thought the Buckeyes had the game in the bag. But over time, it became clear that Fields and Dobbins simply weren't fully healthy. Clemson really play all that well to my eyes, but the Buckeyes never landed the kill shot. I doubt anybody saw that Trevor Lawrence run coming, but at this point it just fits with the pattern of Clemson knowing how to manufacture big plays when they really need them. After that, I went into the national title thinking LSU might be better on paper, but Clemson was going to find the right plays at the right time.

When championship night arrived, I was initially leaning towards visiting the Clemson bar since I hadn't been there during the regular season. Eventually though I ended up going back to the LSU bar for the third time this season; this way it would be easy for my girlfriend to meet me there after work. I got to the game an hour early and it was already packed. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be standing all game; however, I ran into the same couple that I had been sitting with during the SEC championship game. They had a table, and invited me to grab a seat. Meeting new people is a good investment.

After grabbing a seat, I made sure to do a couple trips around to say hi to all the various people I had met in my previous two trips to Elbowroom. As usual, I took advantage of the opportunity to load up on Louisiana-brewed beer. But the focus was of course on what I thought would be a national championship for the ages. Early on it looked like Clemson might blow it open - but they simply couldn't take advantage of their comical field position advantage. The second LSU started getting some favorable fields, the tide turned in stunning fashion. There may be other offenses in CFB history that were statistically "better" than LSU, but the 2019 Tigers were definitely the most robust and, for lack of a better word, inevitable offense I've ever seen. It was simply impossible to keep them down for 60 minutes; the only solution was to hope your offense could keep pace. And on this night, Trevor Lawrence was not up for that.

My girlfriend got there a little after halftime; I introduced her to the table I was with, as well as a guy in a USC hat at the table next door. Once the game got out of hand, we said goodbye to both Elbowroom and the 2019 college football season.

Looking Ahead
You may have heard, but things have changed since January of 2020. I'm talking of course about my decision to move from San Diego to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, I did not land a full time teaching job at either UCSD or USD, and that's all I'll say about that. But when the University of Pittsburgh came through with a generous long-term offer, I felt like I couldn't pass it up. I signed on the dotted line, and committed to leaving California.

I am really going to miss San Diego - and not just for the weather and the food and the people. I always tell people that San Diego is the best sports city in America. It's not because San Diego's local teams are amazing; it's because there are so many transplants (in large part because of the Navy) that you will be able to meet fans of pretty much every single team in San Diego. That being said, Pittsburgh's reputation as an amazing sports town is pretty well documented. It obviously won't be as cosmopolitan as San Diego, but it the passion for the local teams will be pretty refreshing. Also, it helps that I grew up as a Steelers fan - this move may well re-ignite my ability to care about the NFL.

Pittsburgh represents a chance to start this project fresh. I can't wait to meet all of the new fans and alumni 2021. Even if the bars are open, I simply can't in good conscience carry out this bar crawl in the middle of a global pandemic. It still isn't clear how safe bars are, and it's clear that bars are definitely not safe if there's an elevated number of patrons. Hopefully by Labor Day 2021 we'll have beat this pandemic. Fingers crossed, and please please please wear your masks! In the meantime, if we get a football season I'll be enjoying it from home. At some point I also hope to write about all the shows I've binged through during quarantine.

At the time of this writing, the power 5 conferences have all made plans to play conference-only schedules. Personally I would prefer to attempt to play a normal season (and if that's not possible, a conference-only season) starting on New Year's Day 2021, and then push the 2021 season back a little bit. Alas this is what we have. If we are going to do a Fall/2020 season, I just hope we can do it safely, and in a way that is fair and responsible to the players who are taking on the majority of the risk. I am heartened to see players in the conferences recognize and flex the leverage that they secretly always had - just like Dorothy with her sapphire ruby slippers. This whole situation has exposed just what a farce it is that players aren't considered employees with labor and bargaining rights - but that's a discussion for another day.

Off the top of my head, some of the big names I haven't gone to games for are (in no particular order): Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida State, Penn State, Tennessee, and Michigan State.

Finally, I'll end with this: if covid hadn't happened, and if we were doing a normal season, here is what my Cover 2 podcast dream college football road trip would have been for 2020:
  1. USC vs. Alabama
  2. Penn St. @ Virginia Tech
  3. Florida State @ Boise State
  4. Utah @ Cal
  5. Washington @ Oregon
  6. Texas vs. Oklahoma
  7. Kansas St. @ TCU
  8. Texas A&M @ South Carolina
  9. Florida vs. Georgia
  10. Clemson @ Notre Dame
  11. Nebraska @ Iowa
  12. LSU @ Auburn
  13. Michigan @ Ohio State