Is CU the “Ireland” of the Pac-12?

We Americans have a skewed view of history.

Winston Churchill put it this way, “History is written by the victors”. And, as Bill Murray so eloquently put it in Stripes, “We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re ten and one!”.

True enough, not all Americans see history, or our place in it, in the same way. There are some southerners who have different perspectives on the “War Between the States”, there are some New Yorkers who don’t know (and don’t care) about anything going west of the Hudson River, and there are the Texans, who – well – have a different perspective on just about everything.

Still, most Americans view history, and the world, from where the U.S. has been for the last century – atop the heap. What other nation has – or could even dream of – having military bases in Germany, Japan, Korea … even Cuba? The U.S. is the richest, most influential nation on earth, and almost all of us have grown up not knowing it any other way.

In the world of sports, fans of the New York Yankees are about the closest comparison. Yankee fans consider themselves the best, their team the best, and have little tolerance for those beneath them in the pecking order of baseball teams … which Yankee fans consider to be everyone.

The rest of the world, though, does not enjoy the benefit or the perspective of always being on top – and their viewpoints are quite different than ours. I learned this for the first time many years ago when our family hosted an exchange student from France. This young lady was convinced (and quite passionate) in her belief that France would have defeated Germany in World War II, even if the United States had not intervened. True, she conceded, it may have taken longer without the servicemen and armaments from the United States, but France can look after itself very well, thank you, and owes nothing to big brother on the other side of the Atlantic.

In our travels, my wife and I have visited a number of countries. Each nation has its own sources of historic pride; each has its own view of its place in the world.

Just like every sports team and its fans have their own sources of historic pride; their own view of their place in the pecking order of the sports world.

Which led me to the question …

Is CU the Ireland of the Pac-12?

Lee and I have spent the last week criss-crossing Ireland, checking out the sites, learning the history.

And what a grim history it is.

Ireland has been invaded – and conquered – by the Vikings, the Normans, the Danes, the English … pretty much anybody who ever got on a boat and decided to land somewhere in the Emerald Isle (Bill Murray might say of Ireland, “we’re one and ten!”). Before the potato famine of 1845-50, the population of Ireland was around eight million. After the potato famine, which saw millions starve to death and millions more emigrate, the population was down to four million. Even today, 160 years after the end of the famine, the population of Ireland is still only six million.

Not a lot to brag about.

And yet the Irish are a defiant lot. In America, we see it in the zealous followings of Notre Dame and the Boston Celtics. The Irish are often beaten, but remain a plucky and proud lot.

Is that similar to the history and mindset of the Buffs?


I see Washington State as being the Ireland of the Pac-12. The Cougars play in a region of the country that is hard to get to even if you want to, play before the smallest crowds in the conference, and are annually last in the Pac-12 – by a good margin – in the Learfield Cup standings.

And yet the Cougar fans are a proud, even defiant lot, and cling to memories of occasional fame (Ryan Leaf sounds like a good Irish name, doesn’t it?).

Before we find a country suitable for the Buffs, let’s look at some other countries, and how their view of the world suits the view of the world held by some Pac-12 teams (I’m only using countries I have visited. Feel free to post comments as to your own experiences):

Canada … No one hates Canada. Some might not like Canadians all that much, and periodically there are some competitive battles (like every four years in Olympic hockey). But really, who could hate Dudley Do-right? Canada just minds its own business, and is content to have its occasional successes on the world stage.

The team in the Pac-12 I would equate with Canada is the team closest to its borders … Washington. No one really hates the Huskies. There have been some moments where there is reason to dislike U-Dub (like when they stole Rick Neuheisel), but even those moments pass (like when the Huskies live to regret the Neuheisel hire). Mostly, fans can admire the view from their beautiful stadium, and even put up with the Huskies’ occasional successes.

France … The French look down on everyone … even when it is unwarranted to do so. The French are flashy, believe themselves to be trendy, and have an attitude that everyone does – or at least should – try to emulate them. This despite the fact that France has been overrun in the last two wars it has fought, and hasn’t been a major power since the 19th century.

The team in the Pac-12 I would equate with France would be … Oregon. The Ducks have more money than they can figure out how to spend, thanks to Phil Knight and Nike. The opulence has led to the creation of utopia for football players, and a flashy Uniform-of-the-Week which mocks football tradition. Oregon believes the college football world revolves around Eugene … despite the fact that the Ducks have never won a national championship, and have never produced a Heisman trophy winner.

England … The English continue to fancy themselves a world power, even though that ship sailed over a century ago. England does retain a permanent seat on the Security Council at the United Nations, is a member of nuclear bomb club, and does have a royal family which everyone seems to find fascinating. And yet England does not have the economic power any longer to make or break world policy.

The school England reminds me of is … Nebraska. Okay, not a Pac-12 school, but the similarities are to hard to ignore. Nebraska still has a seat at the table amongst the elite of college football, but hardly anyone sees the Cornhuskers as a powerhouse program. Nebraska fans continue to believe that the sun never sets on the Husker Nation … despite the fact that Nebraska hasn’t won a conference title in the 21st century.

Germany … The Germans are a recovered power. It’s been almost 70 years since the end of World War II, and almost 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but only now is it cool again to be Germany. Fans at the World Cup waving German flags were not automatically branded as neo-Nazi nationalists, which hasn’t always been the case. It’s cool again to be German, and it is Germany, not England, which has become the most powerful nation in Europe.

The team in the Pac-12 I would equate with Germany would be … Stanford. Methodical, efficient to the point of being boring, the Cardinal are an effective and powerful team. All Stanford does is win – the Pac-12’s anti-Oregon (and the anti-France).

Scotland … The Scots are a unique bunch. The Scottish history is checkered with wins and losses, having conquered and having been conquered. All the while, the Scots have kept their distance from the English and the rest of the United Kingdom, proudly wearing their quirky kilts, comfortable in their place in history as the birthplace of golf.

The Pac-12 school Scotland most reminds me of is …. Colorado. The Buffs have had a checkered past of wins and losses. While presently living through its worst stretch in school history, it’s necessary to remind others every now and again of CU’s status as one of the top 25 programs in the history of the sport. And while Buff fans rarely wear kilts, there is no denying the uniqueness that is the Boulder experience.

And, quickly, some others …

United States … that would be USC. The Trojans have every advantage, have all the resources necessary to win – and are angry at the rest of the world when they don’t win.

Wales … No one is sure where Wales is exactly. No one knows why it’s there. And no one knows if it has contributed anything to the world. In the Pac-12, Wales would have to be … Utah.

Those are some of my thoughts – what do you think?

Is Colorado the Ireland of the Pac-12? The Scotland of the Pac-12?

Or some other country … ?

Happy travels!



5 Replies to “CU: The “Ireland” of the Pac-12?”

  1. Yo Stuart,

    Interesting write-up. Not sure the Irish take as the plucky little brothers who get defeated by everyone, especially considering the link to Notre Dame and the Boston Celtics. No one has more NBA titles than the Celtics and no one has more real national championships than Notre Dame (I don’t count Princeton and Yale and their annual three game rodeo in the very early years of football).

    My take on the “other country” analogy is the Netherlands (which the nincompoop English announcers during the world cup insisted on calling Holland (a province in the Netherlands). The Dutch citizens are the fittest (country-wise) in the world, just as Boulder is the fittest city in the US (and possibly the world). The Netherlands is a small country of less than 17 million competing on the athletic stage against much larger countries like Germany, France, England, Spain.

    Despite their small size, the compete well with much larger countries (In the World Cup, they finished 2nd in 2010 and 3rd in 2014). Their other passion besides Futbol is speed skating, and they pretty much smoked the world in the last two winter Olympics.

    Having lived there for a couple years, I can tell you that the Dutch are very similar to Boulderites. The are very well educated and also very open-minded. Like Colorado, they sell marijuana openly and legally. Washington does too, but we did it first. It’s the reason that Amsterdam is one of the great destination cities of Europe.

    Best of all, the Netherlands has none of the baggage associated with Germany, France, and England. So, all in all, I’ll take the Netherlands as the best country to represent what Colorado faces in the NCAA and Pac-12.


  2. The Netherlands…Amsterdam and Boulder might as well be sister cities due to the nature of their ‘air pollution’, the Netherlands was once a colonial powerhouse just like the Buffs used be from the late 80’s to the early aughts, and bikes are the primary mode of transport for the majority in both places(or at least it seems that way).

  3. Nice write up Stuart. Kinda thing you have to do before the season kicks off. The wife and I did Ireland and Scotland a couple of years ago. (England was left out cause seemed like it would be a little too urban.)
    Even though the highland distilleries were one of the high points of the trip I would have to go with Ireland as the “Buff Country”
    Because its always party time there and the hospitality was incredible. I was lucky there was a blue moon when I got my degree.

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