by Clark Groome
Of course it’s disappointing. It would have been a better outcome if the Associated Press’ 21st ranked Temple football team had beaten 9th ranked Notre Dame rather than succumbing 24-20 at a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field Saturday evening.
But don’t despair, there’s plenty that’s positive to take away from what experts, both local and national, called “the most important college football game in Philadelphia history.” Whether that’s true or not – there have been some Army-Navy classics and, in the Chuck Bednarik era in the late 1940s, some doozies involving Penn – it gave the city a boost.
Not since the Flyers improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 has a local sporting event generated as much attention and excitement as the Temple-Notre Dame game.
For years, the Owls were something of a laughing stock in the ranks of NCAA Division I football. Over the last decade, however, the team made a concerted effort to become more competitive and more respectable, While there was no question that current coach Matt Rhule was building on the groundwork laid by predecessors Al Golden (2006-2010) and Steve Addazio (2011-2012), no one was predicting the team would turn in the performances that began with an opening game 27-10 victory over visiting Penn State and continued with six more victories, a record that led to their national ranking and all the excitement surrounding the Notre Dame game.
The game had become an important college football game, so important, in fact, that it became ABC’s college football game of the week and lured ESPN’s highly popular College GameDay to Independence Mall.
According to several people in attendance at the 76ers home opener on Friday, most of the talk around the arena was not about basketball but about Temple and Notre Dame.
The suspect Philadelphia Eagles had last weekend as a bye so the main bird in town was the Owl.
What a hoot (sorry!) this all was.
The city was aglow. The country was hearing about a sporting event that didn’t include snowballs and Santa Claus. The reporters from around the country were talking about what a fine representative for our passionate blue-collar sports town this team and its university are.
It was all great fun and all a wonderful antidote to the disappointing Eagles, depressing Sixers and inconsistent Flyers.
And then they lost in a nail-biter that went down to the final two minutes before Notre Dame scored the winning touchdown.
Almost before the clock reached 00:00, the sports talk radio callers took their Dickens meds and started griping about the team, the coverage, the expectations and the outcome. It was like the city, a place of joy and excitement not seconds before, had become filled with Scrooges who only could see that “this was the worst of times.”
I wish they’d all put a sock in it.
For more than a week, Temple football was a source of great pride for its school and its city. This good football team has four important games left in its regular season and, if it wins the American Athletic Conference title, still has a very good shot at a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day bowl game.
As thrilling as a win over the Irish would have been, losing to them – as most people expected – in no way diminishes what this team has accomplished and what it has brought to its city.
So back to Dickens: Temple football really is experiencing the best of times. To my eye, it’s more fun to be along for the ride than to be one of those Scrooges who likely would have found something to gripe about had the Owls won on Saturday.