• Jeff Rich

Do We Really Like Mid-Week MACtion?

Do you really love the MACtion or are you just saying it because you watched it?

It was fun for a while. Really, it was actually entertaining to watch some of these smaller schools go at it in what was famously dubbed MACtion. Since nothing lasts forever, I'm left to wonder if everyone is still enjoying the Tuesday and Wednesday evening College Football undercards.

Traditionally, we watch the smaller schools in the land of the Big 10 play sacrificial lamb in September, forget about them in October, and then check back in on them during commercial breaks on Jeopardy! in November. If you aren't a complete College Football junkie (or degenerate gambler), aren't from the Midwest, and didn't attend (or know someone who attended) one of the prestigious member schools in the MAC, you might just watch those commercials.

MACtion was never for everyone, but earned itself a bit of a cult following about ten years ago. They have the internet to thank for that. Ironically, the guy largely credited for giving these mid-week games a viral MACtion title ran a site called Every Day Should Be Saturday. Then again, perhaps there's a lack of irony in replicating a Saturday afternoon atmosphere at 8:00 Central Time on a Tuesday in November.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm going to tell you I don't love how the College Football experience in Middle America robs the student-athletes, and supporting student-body alike, of Saturdays in the Fall. How are you supposed to get faced in the tailgate lot before kickoff and still show up for your early-morning Wednesday curriculum 8 or 9 hours later? Maybe the game being on ESPNU on a Tuesday beats having to watch it on a website in a traditional Saturday time slot, but that's debatable.

That's the answer right there, getting eyes on your football games with little to no competition in the genre is key. There's too much cartel football to air on the weekend, and the MAC Game of the Week will rarely move the needle enough to bump any clash of Big Ten bottom-feeders, like Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, or Michigan.

So, the calendar turns to November, and there we are with the entire Mid-American Conference playing critical games, but you don't actually have to watch. You could get in on the craze that is The Bachelor or something on CBS called The Unicorn. You won't lose your sports fan card for not watching. Of course, something to consider is, what if it's good?

The thing is, it was good. I think I first noticed that they would have a red team play a blue team on Election Day in 2008. On back-to-back Tuesdays in 2011, the Toledo Rockets played in consecutive games that saw the losing team put up 60 points. Northern Illinois turned a 30-6 third quarter deficit into an overtime thriller against Central Michigan in 2008. In 2007, a couple of the directional Michigan schools combined for a 48-point fourth quarter in Kalamazoo. For a while there, the NIU-Toledo game was appointment viewing--for me, maybe not for you.

It hasn't been like that for a while now, with any MAC game. There was a thriller between Toledo and Western Michigan, this week, that saw the directional Michigan school overcome a 10-point deficit in the last minute of play to win by 3. I wasn't watching until a friend from Toledo sent a text about how nuts the game was. In the days of MACtion's hey day, it might have been appointment viewing, instead of the game opposite of another directional Michigan curb-stomping directional Illinois.

I don't like saying this, but I think it's possible MACtion has jumped the shark. Thanks largely in part to what happens next. Save an occasional win over Purdue or Iowa in September and some level of success in the bowl games in Boise and Detroit, games a lot the players families don't bother attending, it never seems to amount to anything. Northern Illinois played in the Sugar Bowl and PJ Fleck took Western Michigan to the Cotton Bowl, where MACtion just doesn't fly.

On the subject of Fleck, Dave Doeren, Turner Gill, and a slew of other one-time MAC head coaches, success is not rewarded with long-term program stability, but more of a recurring "see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya" sentiment as that cartel money comes a calling and they're out the door faster than you can say Orange Bowl. For those guys, the Mid-American Conference is forever a pit stop, and never the destination, on the pursuit of happiness.

If we treat the mid-week MACtion as such, like a mid-day snack, we can all enjoy the meat & potatoes that Saturdays will bring. I mean, a lot of us like the Tiger King, but we probably didn't go into it thinking it would unseat Seinfeld or Cheers in the pantheon of great television, and you certainly can't think it in hindsight.

The MAC's weeknight past was nice, but I believe the phenomenon has passed us by.