Football wins again and nears end of season

By William Kennedy

Reflecting on Macalester football’s past four seasons, begs the question, why do a group of guys work for months only to go out and lose almost every Saturday? And more often than not, lose badly?
Part of the answer emerged last week, during Mac’s 34-21 senior-day victory over Crown College: when you do win, there’s not much sweeter.

Entering last Saturday’s game, Mac’s four-year-seniors had a college record of 3-32. Despite unseasonably beautiful weather and opening day festivities held in their honor, the chance of a fourth career victory for the class 2007’s was not particularly good at halftime. Having squandered some early chances, the Scots trailed a comparably sized and skilled Crown team 6-7 headed into the locker room.

However, Mac’s prospects improved after returning to the field, as the Scots broke several big plays early in the third quarter, giving themselves a sizable lead. Crown chipped away until the final minutes, but never really cast doubt on the outcome. As time ran out, an elated Scots team ran off the field, to the home crowd. Soon after the Mac football victory bell, rung after every home win, could be heard across campus for the second time in 3 years.
“I’ve learned through four years of football to enjoy every win,” offensive lineman George Robbins, ’07 said. “Even if it wasn’t senior day, [the win] would have made it special.”

For any number of reasons, the win was huge for Mac football. Admittedly Crown College, 3-6 and playing in a weak conference, may not be the biggest, baddest kid on the block, but they’re still a kid on the block and at the end of the day, the Scots beat them, and handily at that.
Moreover, Head coach Glen Caruso said, the victory had important symbolic significance for the team. “It solidified the team’s second best record in over a decade he said. “And it gave the seniors this [season] as many wins as they’ve had in their entire career.”
That in of itself, according to Caruso, is pretty strong confirmation that the program is headed in the right direction. The victory, at the very least gave credence to the theory. A single victory might be a fluke, but two means you may be seeing the beginning of a trend.

Yet, even in a season which by most accounts has been a success, wins are still few and far between for the Scots. Indeed, during the previous two seasons, there were none to be had at all and, until the arrival of a new coach at the end of last season, no real prospect for improvement.
And difficulty hasn’t just come from the poor record. “The hardest part hasn’t been the losing,” Robbins said. “It’s been the disrespect around campus.” Viewed by many on campus as an athletic blemish, even for an avowedly non-jock school, football has received plenty of public scrutiny and criticism over the years. With a host of things working against them, the question therefore persists: why go out to play Mac football every year?
Mac’s seniors who entered their second to last home game Saturday, flanked by their parents, Coach Caruso, and a bagpipe retinue, can shed light on that question better than any one.
For the players the answer is a simple but earnest one.
“As a team, we’ve stuck together through the bad and the good,” fullback Jakob Koziol ’07 said. “It’s such a team sport, you build a great camaraderie.
Robbins unhesitatingly echoed these sentiments. “Once you get into the team, they’re your guys.”

The value of football or any sport where the goal isn’t money, or fame, or even a shot at the MIAC championship becomes apparent in these words. While it is now a sports cliché to talk about team chemistry, its meaning is far less banal in a college setting where the pressures of school make the sacrifice so great and the tangible rewards, especially on a losing team, so little.
Whatever you call it, camaraderie or chemistry, it’s hard not to admire the bond that has held Mac football together, more than anything else, through its long though, mostly, far from illustrious history.

Tight end Matt Eddy ’07 puts it most succinctly. “It’s a lot more fun if we win, but if we had gone winless [every year], I’d still be playing.”
Mac’s football seniors will have their last chance to win Saturday at 1:00 p.m., at home against Menlo College of California.