I grew up in Auburn, Mass., a suburb of Worcester in the center of Massachusetts. There were two early-elementary schools (kindergarten through second grade) that fed respective later-elementary schools (third through fifth) before the two streams converged for middle and high school. I never went to any of these schools, instead attending a private school in Worcester where my dad worked. This little difference made Sunday school, Little League, CYO basketball and Pop Warner hard on me because while all of the other kids hung out at recess and in class, I spent my days in a world apart.
The UMass Minutemen find themselves in a similar position now. While UMass spends its day in the Atlantic 10, all of the other MAC schools hang out at recess, pass notes in class and figure out ways to make fun of UMass when it shows up at football practice not knowing how epic the lunch-time game of knockout was.
While Central and Western Michigan have inside jokes and Miami lives down the street from Ohio, UMass has friends that go to other schools and even though it does have a girlfriend, nobody in the MAC knows her and won't believe the Minutemen when they talk about her. Its awkward, its lonely, and until UMass proves its worthy of being in on all of the jokes, it will continue.
Year One in the MAC was a struggle for the Minutemen, winning just one game and mostly getting beat up by the rest of the league. If their impressive showing against Ohio gained them any momentum, it was quickly taken away when Western Michigan took them behind the wood shed a week later. That's the plight of the UMass Minutemen: every step forward is accompanied by two or three steps back.
Year Two presents opportunities for growth, however. UMass turned in the No. 3 recruiting class in the conference, according to 247sports. Everyone in the MAC is more familiar with the Minutemen and, therefore, more comfortable sharing some—but not all—of the jokes with the new guys. Rob Blanchflower and Colter Johnson were included in our Top 68 MAC Football Players countdown, lending credibility to the product on the field.
UMass will never totally fit in with the rest of the MAC. We will always be that kid who lives in town but goes to another school. But that's OK because we don't need to be your best friend —we have those up here in the Northeast.
All we want is to be in on some of the inside jokes, invited to some of the birthday parties and to be a part of the group.
And we promise we won't say "wicked" too much.