San Diego State opens fall camp today, and the stakes have truly never been higher.
Hey! Stop making that wanking motion, this is a family blog*!
OK, I’ll admit it. I rolled my eyes a little while writing that opening sentence, so I won’t blame if you if you did the same while reading it. In fact, I feel like I’ve written something approaching that level of hyperbole every single August that I’ve blogged about this team.
In case you haven’t been following the arc of my very important blogging career, those seasons include:
- A middling 8-5 season capped by a humiliating loss to a Sun Belt team (2011)
- The Aztecs’ most glorious season in four decades (2016)
The sky did not fall when SDSU limped along to its illegal stemming-aided zesty Cajun demise. Nor did we ascend to Valhalla eight months ago after D.J. Pumphrey ran over Houston and into NCAA immortality.
Things are … mostly the same. Being an Aztecs fan is admittedly a lot more fun than it was a decade ago but, by and large, it’s still just us chickens on the bandwagon.
And yet, the stakes have changed. This season really does feel different.
We all know why.
With the Chargers now off fighting for Redondo/Bellflower/Sherman Oaks, San Diego State football now has the (mostly) undivided attention of local football fans and San Diego sports media.
What will happen if they seize it?
What will happen if they don’t?
The stars seem to be in alignment for a special season. The Aztecs ride the momentum of two straight league titles, feature a home schedule with marquee games (Stanford and Boise State) and boast a buzzworthy star running back in Rashaad Penny.
With a fun, exciting fall (we’ll get to what would make for a successful season in a later post), SDSU could make inroads with the entire community and start to extend its fanbase beyond just the usual 25,000 or so devoted alumni and students who show up now so long as it’s not drizzling. It could actually start to forge the kind of fan base a Power Five conference might actually find intriguing the next time realignment winter comes to Footbaw Westeros.
There are many in this community who doubt that will ever happen.
These folks view the Aztecs (SDSU football at least) as a minor league sideshow whose popularity will always bump of against a glass ceiling in a city that, despite all evidence to the contrary, fancies itself too big time to care about its local Group of Five football team.
In normal circumstances, that narrative would be annoying. But with SDSU now engaged in a cage match for control of the Qualcomm Stadium site with a group of soccer investors, that narrative is dangerous. It’s a weapon that has been wielded deftly by the investment group and allied media to bludgeon the university over the head.
If the Aztecs roll to a third-straight Mountain West title amid record attendance and strong local television ratings, SDSU will have a powerful rebuttal to that narrative. It would also have increased political capital amid lease extension negotiations with Mayor Kevin Faulconer ahead of 2018, when the fate of Mission Valley will – probably – be decided by the voters.
If San Diego State stumbles out of the gate in 2017 and Qualcomm becomes a depressing ghost town late in conference play, the chances of SDSU buying half of a cute little soccer stadium it doesn’t want – or playing the 2020 season in a hastily-constructed erector set venue at some local community college – go up considerably.
So the onus is on the Aztecs to win some games, turn some heads and make San Diego’s college football agnostics buy in.
And the onus is on us to get off our couches and bring the Concrete Tombstone to life seven times this fall – not just against name opponents or when there’s the promise of fireworks set to Styx and Dio.
We all need to treat this season like it’s make or break. Because this time, it actually might be.
You may now resume your wanking motion.
*this is not a family blog. – ed.