Monday, September 12, 2016

(Checkered) flag route

So maybe you missed it the other night, but Tennessee and Virginia Tech played a college football game, and Kyle Busch started at quarterback for the Vols. Brad Keselowski, an angular, sneaky-fast wideout, caught two touchdown passes for Virginia Tech. And bulldozing fullback Martin Truex Jr. ran for 135 yards and a couple of scores for Tennessee, which won a big one for head coach Tony "Headbutt" Stewart.

OK. So not really.

You could have been forgiven for thinking so, though, on account of Tennessee and Virginia Tech did not play in a football stadium. They played at Bristol Motor Speedway, a venue far more familiar with Busch and Keselowski 'n' them.

Yeah, it was weird. Yeah, the football field, laid out in the infield inside the track, looked like a strip of green felt in the bottom of a punchbowl. The fans sat what looked to be miles away away; from there, the Vols and Hokies playing football must have resembled an ant farm on Red Bull.

The layout, frankly, reminded me a lot of the first event staged in the old Hoosier Dome, when the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team played an exhibition game. They plunked the court down right in the middle of the football field. From the press box (and from the stands), it looked like an aircraft carrier cruising through the Pacific.

But, hey. They drew a huge crowd, even if the air conditioning wasn't working real well and some of the bathrooms had ... well, let's just call it "a Niagara problem."

 Bristol had no such issues, and it enabled Tennessee-Virginia Tech to set an all-time NCAA football attendance record of 156,990. It also inspired flights of fancy from those particularly disposed to such aeronautics, including the guy driving this sentence.

I mean, if they can play college football at Bristol, why couldn't they play football at the most famous motorsports facility in the world?

I'm betting people would play good money to watch the Old Oaken Bucket Game in the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- or, if you wanted to stage an actual college football game there, perhaps Notre Dame-USC. Now that would be a Shamrock Classic: You put the field where the infield parking is on race days, you turn Gasoline Alley into a premium tailgating area, and you make the media park in Crawfordsville and cover the game via closed-circuit TV in a tent in turn three (a soon-to-become new Indy tradition, I'm betting).

And instead of the Shamrock Classic, you change the name to something more appropriate The Gentlemen Start Your Cover Twos Classic, perhaps. Or The Ray Harroun We'll Be Back After A Word From Our Sponsors Classic, considering Harroun's time in winning the first 500 (6 hours, 42 minutes) is roughly the same length as a Notre Dame football game these days.

And after Notre Dame wins 42-39 thanks to a late splash-and-go?

Well, then, USC head coach A.J. "Ball-Peen" Foyt gets up in the postgame, scowls his best A.J. scowl, and gripes that the Trojans would have won easy if "that damn Coogan" hadn't kept jumping offsides.

Or, you know, something like that.

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