“Ladies and gentlemen… I implore you!”
My friend was screaming at a raucous audience of Nittany-flavored psychos amidst a driving rain storm, the only one adorned in Temple gear. Nearby, I quietly contracted pneumonia. Temple had started the game by picking off Penn State’s very first pass, letting hope for an upset inch into my thoughts. They immediately fumbled on the next play.
The night before, we were drinking riot punch off an ice block in the basement of a frat house, so “human health” wasn’t really at the forefront of our priorities. There was also a castle made out of 12-packs of Natty Ice. It was during this social engagement that we were convinced to watch Temple football the next morning. Few states outside of “horrific intoxication” would have allowed one to do so.
Who went to Temple football games when there wasn’t a Natty Ice fortress involved? Freshman. First-year Owls under the assumption that the college football scene would be as romanticized and iconic of the suburban American experience as the high school one they had just come from.
So then whoever held the reins to the disastrous Temple football chariot had gotten sick of watching the wheels fall off. Onward came the Golden Age.
Yeah, maybe they picked him because the marketing campaign was completed in 15 minutes. A change was coming, and it could literally only be good. At worst, the stagnant pool would remain unrippled and no one would care. But maybe, this push would be enough to crawl out of the punchlines and lost memories into a place where there existed a feasible conclusion to a contest that wasn’t “…a heartbreaking and/or lopsided defeat.”
Too late. The billboards were up, the promos were filmed, and if it was all going to be worth it, Temple would have to do what seemed most impossible: Win a college football game.
The Owls hadn’t had a winning season in 15 years when Al Golden stepped in and the “Golden Era,” pretty much writing itself, began. The Big East had not been kind to them since they’d joined in 1991, and, much like the many species of owls populating the endangered species list, Temple was habitually lined up and systematically slaughtered by more powerful human beings (They went 14-80 against conference foes) (That’s really, really bad). Temple pleaded they had neither the tools nor the cash to field a competitive team in the conference, but the aforementioned humans did not give a hoot.
They didn’t win any games in 2004. To show their appreciation for how badly the Owls sucked, the Big East conference kindly kicked them the fuck out.
This was the mess Al Golden was neck-deep in when 2005 started. Progress was slow.
Temple celebrated their new coach’s arrival by shocking the school, their families, and themselves by winning a game that year, going 1-11 for the season. The next year, they won four games. The next, five. Finally, in 2009, the Temple Owls football team went 9-4, even getting to play in the Eaglebank Bowl, whatever the fuck that is. They had not been this successful since the first Star Trek movie came out.
Al Golden reached into the gutters of North Philadelphia and scooped the Owls out, bringing pride and splendor to an arena in which both qualities were considered unspeakable terms for a decade and a half. And I’ve seen those gutters. They’re full of street juices and feces and used needles and used feces. He even turned down coaching jobs with UCLA and University of Cincinnati just to usher the Owls through their bright new infancy. Undoubtedly, Golden could claim most of the credit for exterminating the toxic, lose-first, refuse-to-ask-questions-later routine established by previous eras.
Anyways. He’s totally gone.
Al Golden left Temple two days ago for Miami, because apparently they have some sort of highly esteemed football program (or “…the most recognizable brand in college football,” as Al put it, taking one final stomp on the throat of Temple football) and why should we have anything nice.
Like Jayson Werth, sometimes, you just have to accept that the success a guy achieves in your colors is going to garner him the amorous advances of a more historically superior enterprise. Wait, that’s not like Jayson Werth at all.
Al Golden made it a little more purposeful for guys like my friend and I to go to a Temple football game in another team’s stadium. What stings more than loss is irrelevance, and the coach brought the program back from the brink after an entire conference brutalized them and tossed them to the curb. His legacy will remain intact, regardless of whatever power conference he chooses to employ himself.
The Golden Era is over, and historically, that means “Silver” is next. I have no idea what that means. But at least we’ll get to scream about it.