My name is Justin Cripe, and I am one of the new contributors to The Walk-On Redshirts.
In order to best explain my college football fandom, I will say that it started with a love hate relationship with three schools.
Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State.
My first vivid memory of college football involved the classic “Catholics vs. Convicts” games of the late 80s between Notre Dame and Miami. Being neither a Catholic nor a convict, I didn’t really have a dog in the fight. However, I grew up about 25 miles away from South Bend, so Notre Dame was ALWAYS on my cableless television. The contrast between the two teams was recognizable, even to a preteen such as myself. I was definitely more enamored with the team that ran out onto the field through a cloud of smoke than I was the team who didn’t even have cool logos in their end zones. But again, I was like 7.
During the same era, Miami was playing Florida State annually. The Seminoles had the same eye-catching appeal that Miami did. One team ran out onto the field through smoke (the aforementioned Hurricanes). The other had a cool-looking Indian on horseback carrying a flaming spear! And they hated each other! I was hooked.
The first game I remember between the two was 1991 and it ended with a missed field goal by Florida State (forever known as Wide Right). The following year, I remember being excited for the rematch, a year older but no more mature enough to not get excited by a team running through smoke and another with a badass Indian chief on horseback with a flaming spear. The game ended the exact same way the previous year’s did (forever known as Wide Right II).
For whatever reason, I sympathized with Florida State and found myself rooting for them against Miami. Maybe it was because they were the underdog against Miami. Maybe it was the flashy uniforms. I was 10 and easily influenced by that sort of thing. Either way, that became my team.
Which leads me to 1993.
I was 12 and Florida State was visiting Notre Dame in a “Game of the Century”. #1 vs. #2. Everyone I knew was rooting for Notre Dame. Family, friends, everyone. Except me. As any college football historian knows, Notre Dame won that game, and I heard about it from all by fellow 6th grade friends, my Grandpa, anyone who had been brainwashed by the blue and gold.
Then next week happened.
Notre Dame lost the following week to Boston College on a last second field goal. My immature 12 year old ass couldn’t help but to make fun of everyone who just a week prior did the same thing to me. Fast forward a couple months and Florida State won the National Championship that year. As far as I was concerned, I had lost the battle (a football game against Notre Dame) but won the war (a National Championship). From there, that was it. Florida State was my team, and, after a visit to the recently opened College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend where I was able to buy enough pennants to cover my bedroom wall, college football was my sport.
All throughout high school and college, I continued to follow the sport (including but not limited to, my Seminoles). And my first job after graduating Manchester College, a small D-III school in Indiana which did not have the pageantry attached to it that most midwestern schools do, offered me the opportunity to write and shoot sports for my hometown newspaper. And, as previously mentioned, I was close enough to Notre Dame that I have been lucky enough to shoot several football games along the sidelines and cover more than a couple games in the press box. Yes, I’ve actually sat in on a Jim Harbaugh press conference. Yes it goes exactly how you would imagine.
To be clear, I am still not a Notre Dame fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love the campus, I appreciate Touchdown Jesus, the Golden Dome and everything else that you associate with Notre Dame football. I just wish they would join a conference and stop thinking that they are above the ACC and Big 10.
In the midst of a global pandemic, I decided to leave Northern Indiana and move briefly to Mississippi after getting married last July. I married a Mississippi State alum, making much easier the possibility of crossing “go to an SEC tailgate” off my Bucket List. We moved to just outside Washington DC in May, where I work in technical writing. Being about 5 miles away from College Park, Maryland puts me back in Big 10 Country. Technically.
Even though it’s harder to do now, I am still a Florida State fan while also following my home state Indiana Hoosiers. (When it comes to college basketball, my allegiances are flipped, I love Indiana basketball and casually support Florida State.) While I don’t pray to an alter of Jameis Winston, I am an apologist. I also do have every one of the mini helmets for all the FBS and FCS schools. (Thanks ebay!)
I look forward to writing for The Walk-On Redshirts. There’s obviously not a shortage of topics in college football to talk about, whether it is NIL, playoff expansion or the inevitable formation of super conferences. I definitely have some opinions on those and many other topics. Who’s overrated? (Iowa St. and Wisconsin.) Who’s underrated? (Boston College and SMU.) What team should I bet on? I got you fam. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to reach out on here or on my social media (@justincripe on Twitter) and let’s have some fun this fall.