December 13, 2017

Run Big

The Big Ten 10k challenges runners to don the colors of their favorite Big Ten school and run six miles along Chicago’s lakefront in the very early morning and rewards competitors with bananas, beer, bratwursts and at least a few jokes about Notre Dame.
Those jokes went something like this: “Sure I got into Notre Dame.  No you didn’t.”

As the thousands of runners stretched and chatted in the corrals before the race began they were encouraged by an energetic chap with a megaphone to shout their school spirit: “Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State!”  Joyous cheers erupted each time except for when some obnoxious sort shouted “Rutgers and Maryland” and was slapped with a wet sock.

If the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins have any fears about joining the Big Ten, which now has 14 schools, they would have been allayed by watching this collection of pasty kids traverse Chicago’s streets like farmers at a casino.

Big Ten fans run like Big Ten teams play.  They.  Plod.  Deliberately.  Intensely.  Constantly.  Watching Big Ten fans run is like listening to SEC fans read.  They’ll get there, but it’s painful.

Speaking of the SEC, the running times for the Big Ten 10k might have been a bit more impressive if the SEC 10K had been taking place directly behind it.  Alas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and, for that matter, Stanford, USC and the ghosts of the Rhein Fire don’t dwell in the Big Ten’s world.  They run their course and play their game in the faraway, magical and very, very fast and unforgiving land of Saban and Clowney.

The SEC is Jennifer Aniston. The Big Ten is Lisa Kudrow.

No, that’s not right.

The SEC is Bar Refaeli and the Big Ten is that fat kid who got to make out with her during that disturbingly tantalizing Super Bowl commercial.  Few people know that the super model and the fat geek had sex after that commercial and made a baby named “Arena.”

There was a time when Big Ten football teams were on par with, or maybe even superior to during a given season, schools from the Southeastern Conference.  There was also a time when the sun never set on the British Empire and Johnny Manziel went to church.

The SEC has won every football National Championship since the 2006 season and the smart money says an SEC school will light a cigar again this January while the rest of the college football world is consoled by its job placement and complete sets of teeth.

What can the Big Ten, Notre Dame, Texas, or the Arizona Cardinals do to end the SEC’s stranglehold on amateur football supremacy?  Do they need faster players?  Angrier coaches?  Better facilities?  Fatter boosters?  Slimmer cheerleaders?  Looser rules?

The answer was not found on a summer morning in Chicago.  There was sweat, shiny medals and charming Midwestern merriment but no ladders to climb the wall, no slingshot to topple the giant and no mustard for the bratwurst.

But it’s still only summer.



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