Why do you follow the Mid-American Conference? Are you a fan because you are a current student or an alumnus? Do you live or did you grow up in a MAC town/area? Or do you just wholeheartedly love "Non-Automatic Qualifier" or "Mid-Major" schools?
(Read more after the jump. Never understood what that was before, that feels really cool to type.)
I ask this question because I answered yes to all three. I'm currently an Accounting Major at The University of Akron, set to graduate next Spring ( you may not think accountants can write, and after reading this you may be right). I'm a MAC fan because I feel the conference truly represents the fan base: blue-collar, hard-working people who don't attend the Dukes, USCs or Princetons of the country. Just look at the cities MAC schools are located in: Athens, Ohio; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Muncie, Indiana. Not Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis or Chicago. See any glamorousness there? But that gives the MAC its identity. And I think to some point, the players represent that as well.
When you go to a MAC school, you really feel on par with the athletes. There are no "celebrities" walking around MAC campuses, a la Terrelle Pryor at Ohio State or Denard Robinson at Michigan. They're just college students like us. They still have to do homework and study for tests. Yeah, they wear football sweats every day, but really they're no different from you or me. I would never text a friend and say "Hey I just walked past Zeke Marshall!" or "I sat at the table next to Patrick Nicely at lunch!" I can sit in class with Darlington Nagbe and Teal Bunbury and not get star-struck or feel like I'm in the shadow of greatness. But, it's cool to watch guys like Darlington and Teal on ESPN and say, "Yeah I had class with them, they were cool guys." That's the advantage of going to a small school. I love that I can stand right behind the basket and call Mike Porrini his brother's name all game until he yells at me before an inbound, "I am Mike!" You can't do that in the Big East.
Us MAC fans, we're all one in the same. We've all dealt with the ups and downs of our favorite schools. Most of us hate the Big Ten or Big East school in our state because they get all the attention and have more fans. We get a kick out of seeing Northern Illinois take down Minnesota or Toledo beat up on Purdue. I don't know if I'm generalizing too much, but that's just how I feel. We may not always get the consideration we think we deserve, but we still pack smallish stadiums in college towns and root for our favorite teams. There are hardly any have or have-nots in this league, and that's the beauty of it. Akron is living proof. Anybody remember the Charlie Frye for Heisman campaign in 2005? The Zips won the MAC Championship in a barnburner that year and now are coming off of a one-win season. On the flip side, look at Miami this past year. From 1-11 to a conference championship? Only in the MAC. That's what I love (aside from all of those fragments I just typed). An overused saying in college sports is, "any team can beat another any given day." In the MAC, though, that's truer than ever. I saw the Akron basketball team last year lose at Northern Illinois (in front of 43 people) and then go on to beat Kent State in that glorious Championship game. In any sport, you can say you really don't know what's going to happen next season (except the Zips winning the MAC Men's Soccer title, booyah!). How do we know that Buffalo and Eastern Michigan are or are not going to a bowl this year? It realistically could happen, and that's awesome in my opinion.
We all love this silly little conference for our own reasons. We'll sometimes gain some teams (Temple, UMass) and lose some teams (Marshall, UCF), but the heart of the MAC will always be there. The 12 all-sports member school have supportive fan bases who are proud of where they came from. I know I'll be an Akron Zip for life, a MAC fan for life, and certainly not a bandwagon Buckeyes fan (watch out September 3rd OSU fans).
Let me know what you think in the comments or Tweet at me @hickeybuns33