Saturday, November 30, 2013

Blocks and Chips

This afternoon the best football team - professional or collegiate - in the New York metropolitan area will look to continue its historical 2013 season.  At 1:00 PM in the Bronx, the Fordham University Rams will host the Sacred Heart University Pioneers in a first-round FCS (f/k/a "Division I-AA") playoff game.  The Rams, who play their games in the Patriot League, are 11-1.  Their eleven victories this season is the most-ever in school history.  Their opponents - making the trip from Fairfield Connecticut - have had a hell of a fine season too.  The Pioneers belong to the NEC and finished their regular season 10-2.  

Once upon a lifetime or two ago, Fordham University was a national power in college football.  Google "Seven Blocks of Granite" if you need to tamp down your skepticism on that point.  And in answer to your question, "Yes".  The Vince Lombardi who starred at Fordham as one of aforementioned Blocks is THE Vince Lombardi. 

"Seven Blocks of Granite"
Vince Lombardi is 3rd Block from the left

It would be an understatement to say that the football program was in a down cycle when current coach Joe Moorhead (Class of '96) returned to Rose Hill to take the reins of the program in December 2011.  The 2011 Rams had finished 1-11.  In Coach Moorhead's first season - 2012 - the team's record improved to 6-5.  This year, in the second year of the Moorhead Era, their 11-1 record has earned them a national ranking and in the Patriot League a clean sweep of Player of the Year honors - Quarterback Mike Nebrich (offensive) and Linebacker Stephen Hodge (defensive) - and the Coach of the Year award as well.  

When I was a child, I was unaware that my father was a Fordham Ram.  Dad was what is known as a "Subway Alumni" by those who support the University of Notre Dame.  He never attended Notre Dame - and to my knowledge died without ever setting foot on the campus in South Bend - but he so fervently supported the Irish that I mistakenly assumed that Notre Dame was where he had attended college.  It was not until we had the first conversation that I recall ever having had with him regarding Digger Phelps.  When I was a kid Phelps was the head basketball coach at Notre Dame - having left his job as Fordham's head coach to take the position.  Dad shared with me the fact that Phelps had left his Alma mater to take the Notre Dame job.  Had I not been a college hoops fan as a boy, I wonder whether my father would have gone to his grave with me thinking that he was a Notre Dame alum.  

In Vince Lombardi's day, in William Kenny, Sr.'s day and in Jim Monaghan's day Fordham University was a top-flight academic institution.  It still is.  Fordham was, is, and likely shall forever be a great university.  But it is not very often that this oasis of higher learning is as well-regarded for its gridiron prowess as it is for its academic prowess.  2013 has been such a season. 

Whether the Rams have a twelfth win in them today I cannot pretend to know.  I know simply that I shall be rooting for them to get it.


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