If you have just a passing interest in FCIAC football — and even if you don’t — you are well aware that in a season we have been starved for important games, and even more so for important games that live up to the hype, there is indeed important football on Saturday afternoon.
Brien McMahon travels to St. Joseph. If it wins, it will clinch a berth in the conference championship for the first time in 19 years. If not, Darien will earn the berth. All of this assumes, of course, that New Canaan defeats Trinity Catholic.
There is little else to rehash. What is interesting is several times this week I have been asked the same question: “Who do you want to win?”
Sportswriters get asked this periodically, and I respond with the same answer we all use: I root for the best story.
Which begets another question that is worth exploring: in the big picture, as far as McMahon or Darien playing in the final — is there anyone not assuming a New Canaan win over Trinity Catholic, outside the people of Crusaderville? — what is the best story?
There are no villains to root against. The respective coaches, Darien’s Rob Trifone and McMahon’s A.J. Albano, are both very likable. The same goes for their players.
The answer to this question is one both of perception and tradition. With the former, there is no doubt that people consider New Canaan and Darien the two best teams in the league and the more attractive game.
While no one will admit it, revenue stream is an important consideration for the FCIAC. The Thanksgiving game in 2010 drew an estimated 10,000 people to Boyle Stadium. There is no reason to doubt a similar sized crowd.
A McMahon-New Canaan game a week from Saturday at noon will not have the same juice. Fairly or not, the general perception is that the Senators are not in the same class.
But there are a number of people who like the idea of a team outside the power programs getting a chance to play for the title, attracted by the David vs. Goliath angle.
There is a mitigating factor here: no matter what happens this weekend, Darien and New Canaan are still going to play each other. There may be no title on the line, outside of a possible mythical one should McMahon win Saturday and then lose to the Rams in the final.
So, why not get both games? That storyline probably doesn’t play very well in Darien.
Forgotten in all of this is the plight of St. Joseph, which has been treated like an unnecessary appendage in the discourse. The Cadets need a win to remain on solid footing in earning a state playoff berth. After losing to Darien and New Canaan, the first after squandering a 17-0 lead late in the third quarter, the second by blowout, a victory over the Senators would look good on the transcript.
There has been so much talk about the FCIAC playoffs this week, the state tournament has been put off to the side. Right now New Canaan has clinched a spot, and Darien, McMahon, St. Joseph, Danbury and perhaps even Greenwich are still in the hunt. In a year when there are going to be 28 state champions — OK, just eight, it only seems like more — the FCIAC would like to claim as many spots as possible.
But among all the many narratives, the focus for the next 48 hours will remain on Darien and McMahon. Tradition or the new guard?
Which is the best story? I like the idea of getting to see both schools play New Canaan. I also think it would be a shame if an aberration causes the No. 3 team in the state to be denied the chance to play for its league title.