Friday, March 10, 2017

Ben Bernie and All the Lads – "You Gotta Be a Football Hero" (1933)

You gotta be a touchdown getter, you bet
If you wanna get
A baby to pet

I’m sure I speak for all of my fellow baby boomers when I say that the world was a better place when we were young.

That is particularly true when it comes to college athletic conferences.

When I turned 21, there were six major football conferences in the United States: the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Southeastern Conference (SEC), Big Ten, Big Eight, Southwest Conference, and Pacific-8.

R.I.P., Southwest Conference
The membership of those conferences was stable and geographically coherent.  For example, the Pacific-8 consisted of eight universities located in California, Oregon, and Washington – contiguous states that all bordered the Pacific Ocean.  

And the Atlantic Coast Conference’s eight original members were located in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland – contiguous states that all bordered the Atlantic Ocean.  

The Big Ten had ten member schools, while the Big Eight had eight, WHICH JUST STANDS TO REASON!

The Big Ten once had ten members
Most of these conferences had eight member schools, which was perfect for football and basketball.  All the members of eight-team conferences could play each other in football, and still have room on the schedule for a few nonconference games.  And each member of such a conference could play home-and-home basketball series with each other conference member.  This made sense: it fostered team rivalries and meant that no school had an easier (or harder) schedule than any other school.

The whole setup was so perfect that it was almost as if God had created the six major conferences in six days, then rested on the seventh.

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But over the last few years, everything has gone straight to hell.

Just look at the old Big Eight, which is now known as the Big 12 – EVEN THOUGH IT HAS ONLY TEN MEMBER SCHOOLS.  

It went from eight to twelve members in 1996, when it grabbed four Texas schools from the suddenly defunct Southwest Conference.  But then Nebraska left for the Big Ten, Colorado joined the Pac-12 (the successor to the Pacific-8), and Texas A&M and Missouri departed for the greener pastures of the Southeastern Conference.  (I think the worst single thing about the morphing of the Big 8 into the Big 12 was the end of the ancient rivalry between Missouri and Kansas, whose football teams first met in 1891 and battled each other on the gridiron a total of 120 times before Missouri departed for the greener pastures of the SEC.)

Those were the days
The Big 12 then added TCU and West Virginia – which is only about a million miles from any other Big 12 school – which got it back to ten schools.  But there was already a Big Ten, so it chose to stick with the Big 12 moniker.  (The Big Ten, by the way, now has 14 member universities.)

The mother of all the geographic absurdities in college sports is West Virginia’s being a member of the Big 12.  To get from West Virginia to another Big 12 campus, you have to pass through at least two or three non-Big 12 states.  And to get from the West Virginia campus to Texas Tech — the most distant Big 12 school – you’d have to drive 1465 miles . . . meaning that you Red Raider football fans who want to see your team take on the Mountaineers on a Saturday afternoon need to hop in your cars at the crack of dawn and drive all day Thursday and Friday.

The Big 12
That’s not the only example of geographical absurdity in the current conference setup.  

I could handle it when the Pacific-8 added two schools located in Arizona, even though Arizona doesn’t border the Pacific Ocean.  After all, it does border California, so it’s only one state away.  But Utah and especially Colorado are nowhere near the Pacific.  So why are they in the Pac 12?

Likewise, Indiana and Kentucky are hundreds of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, but Notre Dame and Louisville are now members of the Atlantic Coast Conference – which has an unwieldy 15 member colleges and universities located in ten different states.

Having 15 schools means that the ACC regular-season basketball schedule is a hot mess.  In the regular ACC basketball season, each team plays each of two assigned “partner” schools twice (once at home and once away) every year.  It plays two other schools (which change from year to year) home and away, and plays the other ten conference members only once each year. 

The ACC postseason tournament schedule is an even more FUBAR.  The first day of that tournament, the six bottom seeds match up in three first-round games.  The winners of those games are pitted against the #5, #6, and #7 seeds on the second day – when the #8 and #9 seeds face each other.  The top four seeds don’t play until the third day of the tournament.  (In other words, a high seed can win the conference tournament by winning only three games, while a low seed would have to win five games in five days – a truly formidable task.)

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I'm not sure why I care about any of this.  Big-time college athletics is a scandal

To call Division I football and basketball players “student-athletes” is absurd.  

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“You Gotta Be a Football Hero (To Get Along With The Beautiful Girls)” was co-written by Al Sherman, Buddy Fields, and Al Lewis in 1933 and recorded the same year by Ben Bernie and All the Lads.

I’m most familiar with Olive Oyl’s rendition of the song in a Popeye cartoon:

Ben Bernie (who was born Bernard Anzelevitz, or perhaps Benjamin Anzelevitz) co-composed “Sweet Georgia Brown” and hosted a wildly popular radio show in the 1930s.  Back in the day, everyone was familiar with his “Yowsah, yowsah, yowsah” catchphrase.  

Here’s the Ben Bernie and All the Lads version of “You Gotta Be a Football Hero”:

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