There are certain matchups that stand the test of time — hard-fought battles that seep into the fabric of American culture and come to define the emotions of sport for generations of spectators.
In a few instances, a rivalry gains enough mass appeal that even Hollywood takes notice and puts it on the silver screen.
Today, we at the alligatorSports Brand Picks Column debate one of those rivalries: East Carolina-Marshall, which was immortalized in the film “We Are Marshall.”
OK, so the movie was actually made because of the tragic events following the game, when the Thundering Herd’s plane crashed on its return to West Virginia. But we had to get your attention somehow for this Conference USA slugfest.
We know at least two people who do actually care about this game, as our own Mike McCall and his brother, Corey, are making the drive to Greenville, N.C., to see their beloved Pirates play.
We let Mike and fellow columnist Tyler Jett battle it out to decide which team has the leg up.
The Pirates will plunder the (-13-point) booty because:
They can’t do this to me. I live and die with ECU’s every win and loss, and I’ve grown used to plenty of the latter in 22 years of support.
But I’m driving eight hours for this game, and the Pirates wouldn’t dare let me down.
This is a crucial game for ECU’s quest for a third straight conference title, and winning it would get me one step closer to my dream of seeing the Pirates beat the Gators in the Liberty Bowl at the end of this season.
I usually stay on the pessimistic side with ECU, but I like this matchup.
The Herd is 1-5 and led by former Florida assistant Doc Holliday, who last worked with the Gators as safeties coach in 2007. Remember that secondary? And remember Kyle Jackson?
ECU has the nation’s No. 8 passing offense, and Marshall is 96th in pass defense.
Get off me. The Herd is getting painted purple Saturday.
— MIKE McCALL
Marshall will invoke the ghost of Byron Leftwich and pull the upset because:
Mike can’t see straight through that Jimi Hendrix-purple haze. Few people are more irrational than life-or-death fans, and McCall falls in that category.
When asked to preview the 2007 Florida-Tennessee game on ESPN, Mike said the Gators held the edge simply because of their kicker, an ECU transfer. Go ahead, look it up on YouTube under the “kid with elongated/misshapen head and neck” title.
Point is, you can’t take advice about the Purple Pirates from Mike. When ECU was a 20-point underdog against Virginia Tech a month ago, he called all his friends advising them to bet on “free money” like that guy who wears the question-mark suit on infomercials.
It’s a given that the Pirates are going to put up points (36.8 per game), but Ruffin McNeill’s defense (surrendering 39.5 points per game) will weep like Don Draper’s old secretary (and Mike’s celebrity crush) Allison did when she got manhandled.
— TYLER JETT
Now on to the picks!
In first with a record of 36-32 is alligatorSports assistant editor Tyler “This is my mom’s phone” Jett, who had to borrow Malissa’s cell because his own died after calling 1-900 numbers all night. Now the whole sports staff finally has a reliable method for reaching Tyler. And, even better, his mom.
Sitting in second with a 35-33 record is Gatorbait.net’s Keith “In my day, we didn’t play any of these Mexican sports” Niebuhr, whose journalistic prowess was tossed out the window when he was asked to cover soccer last weekend. He wondered how UF coach Becky Burleigh could communicate with all them foreigners, only to be told that, yes, white people play soccer now.
Leading a three-way tie for third place with a record of 33-35 is alligatorSports writer Kyle “I’m at least the 15th-most famous kid from my high school” Maistri, who, in case you didn’t know, was a pretty big deal back in Wellington. And if you somehow didn’t know that, you will read all about Kyle’s adolescent popularity when he launches his own Wikipedia page.
Tied with Kyle is alligatorSports editor Anthony “Lil’ Havana” Chiang, who has been waking up from dreams of a fritas and boliches in cold sweats every night this week. Anthony can’t function for more than a month without traditional Cuban dishes, meaning Florida’s bye week could not have come at a better time.
Rounding out the menage a trois in third is The Gainesville Sun’s Edward “Rebel Black Bear” Aschoff, who became yet another casualty of down-home Southern hospitality when his mighty Ole Miss Rebels were renamed after an animal FROM LOUISIANA. The classic rebel was great, but the confederacy seems to be frowned on for some reason. Any idea why, Edward?
In sixth place with a 32-36 record is alligatorSports writer Mike “It’s not gay, it’s family” McCall, who will return to the scene of many high-school hookups tonight when he shares the trunk of his Jeep with a special someone: his brother. Sleeping without a blanket will be tough. But, lucky for Mike, Corey makes for a perfect little spoon.
Still in seventh place with a record of 31-37 is FightinGator.com’s Cody “Those 6-year-olds would have been eating my dust” Jones, who was selected to participate in a kiddie race at a UF sporting event. Cody would have been rolling deep with a $10 Papa Johns gift card, but he forgot his spandex shorts and didn’t have the 25 minutes he demands for proper stretching.
And in dead-ass last place with a piss-poor record of 30-38 is the Miami Herald’s Joe “There’s no better time to attack than when they can’t see you” Goodman, who, just one week after leaving Gainesville, ripped the Gators for hopping off the Cam Newton Express. This ninja-style reporting was undoubtedly inspired by Joe’s hero, Adam Silverstein of OnlyGators.com