Despite how much I love living here, there are lots of weird things about Montana. Many of those things are a by-product of the population of the entire state being about 950,000 people. Most of those things have to do with sports. Here we go…
1. Montana has no professional sports teams. What’s the old joke? Why doesn’t Montana have a professional baseball team? Because then Washington would want one. Ouch. Man that joke is actually funny when Minnesota is not the punchline. Not having teams sucks because everyone likes someone different…but not that much…and it’s typically not the Twins. The Mariners are popular, but not that popular. They like the Seahawks and the Broncos, and there are a surprising amount of Vikings fans, but none of them care enought o actually know anything about them other than the fact they “are doing pretty good” or “suck this year”. They are not from Minnesota, but like the Vikes…weird.
I try my hardest to have a legit conversation about pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, the WBC, or the excitement about the young Twins pitching staff, but it usually turns into someone saying something like “baseball is so slow/boring” or “me like football better” or “Dude, Ichiro is so freaking good”…ew.
2. The college sports scene. Because of number 1, number 2 is BIG. There are two Division 1AA/FCS schools in Montana. The University of Montana (Grizzlies), and Montana State (Bobcats). If you have lived here for two or more years, you have likely picked a side…if you haven’t picked sides you have nothing to cheer for and people act like it is the end of the world. Griz/Cat games are IT. They are a BFHD: Big fat hairy deal, not Beukes Familial Hip Dysplasia. Despite the Uof M’s recent football success, these schools are still not big time college sports, no matter what my neighbors tell you. You would think they wre playing in the Super Bowl with their food, flags and jerseys and…beer. Yeah, it’s cool that they are doing well, but not that cool. On another note, Montana State almost made it to the tourney…but didn’t. Check out this dunk though:
There are also a bunch of small NAIA colleges that people think are a big deal. There is Tech, Western, Northern, RMC, Carroll, and UGF. now I’m not totally bashing these schools, because there are some good athletes that play there, but kids who “sign” with these schools…you would think that they had just signed their letter on ESPN to go play at football at LSU or to play hockey for the Gophers. When I first got here some kid was all like, “I signed at Tech” and I was all like “OK…”. I didn’t have the slightest idea what he was talking about. Virginia Tech? Texas Tech? Georgia Tech? Almost anyone who wants to play football in college could sign at one of these NAIA schools. once they get there it’s different, because the competition at most of them is pretty good. Carroll has a great tradition of excellence, and I know some good players who played at Western. It’s just different.
3. Montana High School Sports. Because of number 1 and number 2, number 3 is HUGE. It’s like the 50’s all over again. Hoosiers reincarnate. Not really, but kind of. I love it, but it is weird. Why is it weird? There are les than 200 high schools in the entire state. Minnesota has about 500. Other places have a lot more. There are 4 classes in Montana: C, B, A, and AA. There are 14 teams in AA. 14. Yes, I said 14. That is because most towns are tiny. Most schools consist of an entire county of kids. For basketball, since the state is so rediculously huge, they are split up into divisions…East and West. 7 in each. 7. Sometimes you still have to drive like 6 hours to a game. Imagine it as a conference of sorts. That is who you play your regular season schedule against. Based on your end of season ranking you then play one playoff game, unless you are in first place, then you get a buy. The winners of those 3 games go to state. One game decides who goes to state. One. So let’s say the 7th ranked team beats the 2nd ranked team…they go to state. Potentially the 2nd best team in the state would not go. OK. So then there are 8 teams (4 East and 4 West) in the state tourney. Here is the bracket. Weird.
I miss talking about the Twins. I love Alright Hamilton! because it allows me to “talk” Twins with people who know what they are talking about. Just a glimpse of Montana life. On another note, I got promoted to Varsity Offensive Line coach for Glacier High School, so next fall you might hear more about the Montana High School Sports scene. I’m sure you can hardly wait.