I once heard a story about a hiker who had gotten lost in the thick mountain forests of Southern Colorado. He was at least 3 miles from his base camp when he had gone off the trail. He cut his way to and fro among the dense woods, but could not find his way back until he finally found a trail sign that would lead back to civilization. The problem was he was starting to feel weak, and had not eaten in hours. He stumbled upon a picnic area where someone had left a box full of baked cupcakes. At first, his inclination was to not eat them. Surely there had to be something healthier and better. He was a fit and trim athlete, after all, but he was starving. Then he thought, “what about if someone sees me pigging out on these cupcakes?” as his stomach growled all the more and he could feel himself getting weaker. Then, he realized that he was in a situation that was not his fault, and he needed something to eat so he could get back to his camp, and if he did not eat anything, he could be in trouble. So, he ate the cupcakes. A little while longer, he felt better and satisfied with no hunger, and made his way back to his cabin. When he returned that evening he was having beers with his buddies when they were talking about the adventures of the day, he was asked what he had discovered that day. He replied “sometimes, you just eat the cupcakes and move on.”
Our latest game preview was Russ previewing our match-up with Middle Georgia State, a team that fields its Football program independent of the NAIA that the rest of it’s athletic department is affiliated with and that is technically a “club team.” As soon as this was found out, the rumblings about how we always are feasting on “cupcakes” during the season found its way back to the front page of the Wire fan response, and while they are correct, there are some things to think about.
Our football program was in the same situation that the man lost in the mountains was. He had two choices, eat the cupcakes and move on, or be picky and lose out on the benefits that few think of. Over the past few years, we have played some very weak teams like University of Faith-Florida and Seleccion Nuevo Leon, but we needed to play those games. Yes, needed. Let’s take a look at why.
First off, last season’s game against SNL brought in 7,400 fans. Most of them are like me. We drive from the immediate DFW area, or like Russell, who drives from Houston, or Billy who drives from rural North Texas. A lot of us do things after those games that stimulate the local economy, like Russ grabbing his pregame cup of coffee at Mugs Coffee Shop in Downtown Commerce or Me grabbing a plate of Tex-Mex at Los Mochis behind campus before I make the trek back to Denton County. We also support the athletic department and therefore our university by having this game. It means money in the forms of ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, and sponsorships by area businesses. It means money. It means cash, and that is what paid for the brand new things we have had the pleasure of having as of late.
For the football team, it means a chance for the first stringers and major contributors to get to work out some kinks like a mini practice before the next game. It also gives younger players the chance to develop and see playing time. For example, we know Miklo Smalls is our man at Quarterback this year, but his back-up, a very reliable Preston Wheeler, has graduated. What happens if Miklo goes down, or takes a nasty head to head hit and has to leave the game? We need a QB ready to go, and not just that position, but EVERY position. It is a game to see what we have from a development standpoint, and better yet, it is a chance for some guys who may never see the field to get to contribute.
So yes, we have cupcakes, but sometimes we have to eat the cupcakes. Do you know who else has cupcakes? Alabama (Western Carolina and New Mexico State), Ohio State (Florida Atlantic and Miami of Ohio), Oklahoma (South Dakota), Clemson (Charlotte and Wofford), and all the Texas Big 12 schools. Do you know why? It is because they are powers in either money or status, and many of the middle flight schools or even top dogs in other conferences do not want to schedule those teams to open the season as that one loss could doom their chances at making a major bowl. The same thing happens in Division II, teams do not want to play us, because we are top 10 Division II program now and it looks like we will be for a while. The teams that get scheduled for homecoming games are the ones nobody respects, but just ask the 1988 and 2013 teams how many homecoming games they ruined because they had horrible seasons the year before and then resurrected shortly thereafter. We have such a hard time getting people to play us because they do not want to risk playing a game they will likely lose. We should take that as a compliment. Welcome to being a national power.
Playing Middle Georgia State may not count for NCAA Division II standings, but it means something if you are a Lion backer and certainly if you are a Lion football player. It means tailgating, a boost to Commerce’s economy, a great Saturday spent with fellow Lions, and a way for coaches and players to get unique opportunities they may not have had.
Like the moral of the story goes, sometimes, you just have to eat the cupcakes.
Because sometimes, they can taste pretty good.