INSIDE THE MONARCHY
To all the football naysayers, I have a long memory and know who you are
Throughout the short but unmatched history of Old Dominion University football, the cynics have been plentiful. As the guy who originally covered the team for The Virginian-Pilot, I can assure you the Monarchs were, and still are, a talking piece wherever I go.
And I have remembered every not-so-pretty conversation with the detractors.
I have come to refer to them as Neckbone and Rufus. Those are composites I have formed in my mind. Neckbone is definitely a glass-half-empty fellow while Rufus doesn’t even believe in using a glass, he just drinks out of the tap.
So let’s go back four years ago when the Monarchs were about to play their first football game. Neckbone caught me at a block party and asked, “So what do you think they’ll go, those Monarchs?”
I wasn’t about to say it then, but I had suspicions back then that Neckbone was trolling message boards and spewing junk about the Monarchs and how they couldn’t beat Phoebus High or Oscar Smith.
“Conservatively, I’m predicting a 6-5 record this first year, but I think they could win as many as nine games,” I told Neckbone. My prediction was running in the next week’s paper.
“Son, have you lost your mind?” Neckbone asked.
I’d lost my watch. I’d lost my car keys. I’d even lost my train of thought from time to time – and I may lose it during this blog – but I’d never lost my mind.
Honestly, it’s entertaining when people make absurd statements.
And so it went.
The Monarchs finished 9-2 that year and Rufus eventually spoke up at a New Year’s Eve party.
“Uh, Rich, could you pass me a beer out o’ that there cooler?”
I handed him a beer and there was a pregnant pause in conversation.
“They haven’t played anyone,” Rufus finally said.
So much for small talk.
“You are somewhat correct,” I said. “But mark my words: The quarterback they lost to at Fordham, John Skelton, will be drafted and will play in the NFL.”
“But they lost,” Rufus said.
“This is true, Rufus,” I said. “But please find me one team that has won them all. And I mean every game they have ever played. And although they lost that game at Fordham, they also almost won that game at Fordham.”
“I gotta see more,” Rufus said. “They haven’t played anyone. Could you pass me another beer?”
And so it went, on into the second season. And ODU kept winning. And the competition got a little tougher.
On the eve of ODU’s third season, Neckbone and Rufus were finishing each other’s sentences.
“The CAA,” Neckbone said.
“Is really tough,” Rufus concluded.
“They might not,” Neckbone said.
“Win a game in that league,” Rufus contended.
And so it’s gone for four years now, years in which the Monarchs have gone 9-2, 8-3, 10-3 and 11-2.
So here we are, four years after the start of this thing. That first recruiting class having graduated and ODU football now on its way to becoming a full-fledged Football Bowl Subdivision team. There is talk of a 30,000-seat stadium being built back near the water on Powhatan Avenue at 49th Street. Can you imagine, for a moment, a navy of vessels chugging their way up the Elizabeth River on game day, looking for a place to dock?
I can’t help but want to put my thumb to my nose and wiggle my fingers obnoxiously at Neckbone and Rufus, who are still up to their antics.
People, it’s time to recognize this football program is a shooting star. You can go to the websites and online newspapers that are silly enough to allow people to post under aliases and you can rant about how you are convinced the Monarchs are going to flop. Keep doing it, but recognize yourself for the fool you are if you have uttered at any point one of what I will now deem my Bottom 10, courtesy of Neckbone and Rufus, composites of all the naysayers.
10. They are going to go 0-11.
9. They couldn’t beat Phoebus High School, much less an actual college football team.
8. Thomas DeMarco is too short to play quarterback.
7. Taylor Heinicke is too short to play quarterback.
6. So they sold out the stadium. Wait until they start losing and they can’t give away tickets.
5. They will never win in the Colonial Athletic Association.
4. Playoffs? They’ll never make the playoffs!
3. Who’s this Bobby Wilder guy they hired? Why didn’t they hire someone people know?
2. James Madison is going to kick ODU’s butt.
And my favorite:
Football at ODU? It’ll never work.