2004 to 2017: Things are a little different, huh?
It’s ALWAYS a great day to be a Duke – always has been, always will be – but it’s hard not to feel particularly fortunate during a week like this one. Thought we’d do a little look at how different things are from the last time we made this trip to now so we can remind everyone how damned awesome everything is these days even if we all have our complaints and concerns about the sustainability of FCS (though we acknowledge the G5 is no better in this regard) and ANY conference at any level that has some schools with football and some schools without.
For those that weren’t around or don’t recall here’s a quick list of things that didn’t exist prior to 2004:
- Bridgeforth Stadium as the badass thing it is.
- Tailgating in any major capacity. Seriously, all that craziness we have now did NOT exist.
- Success, and a belief in success. JMU had good teams and some great players prior to 2004, but having lived through both runs, most of us “hoped” the Dukes would beat Lehigh and Furman, much less Montana. We’re all rolling to Texas this weekend fully expecting a Penguin beatdown!
- Failure that mattered. In the same way we didn’t have success, we also didn’t have quite the heartbreak that expectations produced. The NCAA screw job on the matchup and the world’s worst spot of the ball ever in ’06 at Youngstown St. comes to mind. So does the fumble at App. St. and the Rodney Landers injury in the ’08 semis. That shit hurts. And it produces…
- …A real fanbase. We had hardcore folks (I see you BSKB, Dukester, etc.) and parents. But we didn’t have “the mob” former CAA commish Yeager referred to, we didn’t bitch at coaching hires, AD decisions, or the off-field issues of the diving and field hockey teams. And we certainly didn’t have massive explosions of all things purple like Gameday or this weekend. The games at W&M and Chattanooga in ’04 were “well-attended” by a bunch of us twenty-somethings and the hardcores but they weren’t anything at all like the Homecoming-On-HGH we’re about to see both in Frisco and at viewing parties around the country (shoutout to Grey’s Tavern in Greensboro).
- The Hill. The hill may be filled with seats now for softball, but the massive success across the board in basically everything but Men’s hoops and baseball was NOT the norm. Again, JMU had good teams and great players, but the expectations for success were just not the same.
So as we convene our massive purple lovefests this weekend, let’s all give a HUGE tip of the cap to that ’04 team, their beloved coach Mickey Matthews (who by the way recruited almost all of the current team’s top stars and leaders), and even some of the admin folks along the way with the vision to support athletics even if things don’t always move at the pace some of us desire. When YSU shows up with their budget-ass 1400 fans, just know that was us once. And when we turn Frisco purple, maybe send a little thank you up that you’re a part of the greatest place on Earth.