Famous Author Guy: “You know what tomorrow is don’t ya?”
Me: “Oh yeah, undefeated St. John’s against undefeated St. Thomas… 6th ranked Johnnies vs. 15th ranked Tommies!”
Famous Author Guy: (laughing) “alright, you’re all over it!”
We were roughly 1,000 miles away from Collegeville, MN where the game would be played the following day and we were there for a pretty cool event, but that was the first thing he said to me when he saw me– “You know what tomorrow is, don’t ya?”
Of course I knew. Famous Author Guy and I had played football together at St. Thomas back in the 80’s and though my interest in Tommie football has waned over the years of mediocrity, my interest has been piqued again by this year’s undefeated squad. A new coach seems to have St. Thomas back to the winning ways of my era. The matchups with the Johnnies from my time at St. Thomas were always epic and our coach at the time, Mark Dienhart, had come as close to pulling even with St. John’s legend John Gagliardi as anyone ever had.
My sophomore year we had them seemingly dead to rights, we had the ball and a 15-13 lead with about a minute to play– some high school friends of mine had actually left the stadium (along with a lot of others), thinking the game was all but over. Whoops. We screwed up and somebody went out of bounds when he shouldn’t have, stopping the clock before we had to punt the ball away. Two fast completions later and the Johnnies kicked a winning field goal as time expired. That was my baptism into the famed “Tommie/Johnnie” rivalry.
The following season was my first trip to St. John’s and I was bowled over by the beautiful campus and football stadium. I was hurt for the season so I was able to take in the rivalry in a way I never could have playing. We entered the game ranked 3rd in the country, but of course the Johnnies were ranked 2nd (always just a little bit better than us). After two three-and-outs, one by each team, our QB fired a 65-yard touchdown bomb and standing on the sidelines I was shocked to hear what I thought was a gun shot. Then another. I turned to look into the St. Thomas crowd to see about 20 more bottles of champagne uncorked and sprayed over a delirious crowd. Six touchdowns later and we had given Gagliardi his worst loss ever at St. John’s, 56-21.
And that’s about it for my pleasant memories from this rivalry.
We’d lost 11 straight going into this year’s game, but at 5-0 I had a good feeling they might pull off the upset. Seeing a former teammate hold a crowd of about 1,200 in the palm of his hand the night before had to be a good sign, didn’t it?
So I’m at work today–watching college football all day, but of course not the one game I really cared about. Around 3pm MST time I figure the game in Collegeville has to be over, so I log on to a site that live-streams the scoring for Division III games. It tells me that the score is 14-7 in favor of the Johnnies, but that St. Thomas has a first and goal at the St. John’s 2-yard line. We have to punch it in from there and tie it up, right?
I flex an inordinate amount of patience and wait 5 minutes to hit refresh. I look away for good luck and gird myself before looking back at the screen.
St. Thomas ball on the St. John’s 2-yard line, first and goal. What the hell?!? This has to be the longest time-out ever!
My patience is gone, so I hit “refresh” 10 times over the next 10 minutes. It won’t refresh. Ever. According to this site, the two teams will be locked at the Johnnie two-yard line for all of eternity.
I calmly bash my computer repeatedly about the head and neck, mumbling, “what the frig happened? what the FRIG HAPPENED? WHAT THE FRIGGEN FRUG HAPPENED?!?!?!
Turns out the teams hadn’t frozen in time, it was just that website. The Tommies had indeed punched it in, but alas, had gone on to lose in overtime, 20-17. Twelve straight losses to the Johnnies.
But it was fun thinking about it. It was fun reading that 12,903 people had watched a Division III football game in an absolutely gorgeous stadium that holds 7,482 people. That’s over 5,000 people strewn about the grassy hills that surround the field. That’s awesome.
It was really fun to see a former teammate the night before the big game where he was on stage as Famous Author Guy. His book tour has him in another city today and I’m sure at some point he logged on and was just as disappointed in the outcome as I was– you never get so rich and famous that you stop caring about things like that– and if you do, there’s nothing that fame and fortune can do for you, you’re a lost cause.
We’ll get ’em next year.