As I was leaving Columbus, I debated turning on the radio. It was too early in the morning for music, and the last time I listened to local talk radio, they were discussing the right guard situation at Ohio State. In fact, the last several times I have listened that’s what the different shows were discussing. Apparently Urban Meyer said 7 people were in contention for the job during the B1G media day and that’s the “buzz”. I left the radio off.
Look, I love Ohio State football as much as anyone. I don’t much care to speculate on who the starter is going to be at right guard. The coaches will pick who they think is the best man for the job, and he’ll either do it, or he wont. I took a picture on my way out of town, and I felt it summed up best my thoughts. There was a giant line of traffic headed into the city and the sports fans were probably screaming at their radio who should be the starting right guard. I was headed to Canton and the MAC media day, blue sky and open lanes in front of me, happy to avoid the saturation of the major market teams. Sadly, I didn’t include the picture, because it didn’t turn out all that well. I was going 80 and my main focus was on the road.
As I entered the hallway to the conference room at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where the media day was held, and I noticed a few pillars. It was current NFL players from the MAC.
There were also a few display cases with memorabilia from MACters, some recent, some ancient.
I felt it set the mood perfectly. A subtle and interesting promotion of the product. The product, of course, is Mid-American Conference football. When I entered the actual room, the West Division teams were on the right, in alphabetical order, with Ball State up front. The East Division teams were on the left, in reverse alphabetical order, with Akron in the back. In one of the chairs at their table, they had the Wagon Wheel. I thought that was a nice touch.
The level of planning detail like the seating arrangement of teams was evident throughout, even though there was a lot of chaos. When it came time to take the group photo of the coaches, the East was on the bottom, and the West on top. As the press started clicking away as the coaches got into their places, coach Chuck Martin from Miami made a joke that they shouldn’t start taking pictures until the coaches were ready. I happened to catch him right as he said it.
After Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher’s speech, which I will go into more detail about in another article, it was time to interview the players and coaches. I was struck by two things. One, the optimism of the upcoming season was apparent on everyone’s faces, from the coaches, to the players, to the local guys covering their beat. The other thing I noticed was that there wasn’t much crossover coverage. The local guys mainly stuck with their local teams. Sure, the representatives of each team were periodically shuttled out for the national TV coverage, namely ESPN. I have a love/hate relationship with ESPN and their coverage. Dustin Fox was on the job, and even though I didn’t watch, I am sure he did his job well. However, I couldn’t help but wonder, as he was interviewing these players and coaches, was the right guard position at Ohio State floating around in the back of his head?
ESPN will cover the main stories like Western Michigan’s run last season. The local guys will discuss the minute details of the local teams. I am sure there is plenty of talk around Ypsilanti about their new starters on the offensive line. And that’s where Hustle Belt comes in. We are another set of eyes looking at the big picture. What does someone outside of Muncie think about Ball State’s chances in the West? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s probably better than even the local guys think.) Where do Logan Woodside, James Gilbert, and Joseph Davidson fit in the national picture of great players?
This week, I will do a quick overview of all the teams. In August, we will be breaking out in-depth season previews for all the teams, and a list of the top players, among other coverage of the conference we love the best. Happy football season, everyone, it’s almost here!