One of my favorite sports movies to quote out of context on an almost daily basis is the 1989 comedic masterpiece “Major League.”

Everybody’s favorite .200 lifetime hitter, Bob Uecker, stars as Harry Doyle, the increasingly intoxicated, FCC-boundary-pushing radio announcer for the Cleveland Indians.

His list of zingers in the film is a mile long, but near the top of the rotation is a moment in which he trolls disloyal members of the fan base.

“In case you haven’t noticed — and judging by the attendance, you haven’t — the Indians have managed to win a few ball games, and are threatening to climb out of the cellar.”

At the risk of mixing metaphors and selling short a much more significant accomplishment, allow me to paraphrase.

I don’t know if you received the memo, but based on too much empty space surrounding Morse Field at Alfond Stadium, you didn’t: The University of Maine football team is in the FCS national quarterfinals.


Maine, which won an outright conference title in arguably the deepest league at its level, absolutely boat-raced Jacksonville State 55-27 Saturday before a modest gathering of 6,145 spectators.

Let’s talk culture for a second. By comparison, I covered a high school state championship game Saturday night that drew 6,820, even though it started at 9:09 p.m. with the threat of severe thunderstorms on every side of the stadium.

Yes, it’s cold in Maine this time of year. Yes, making the four-hour trip from Lewiston-Auburn to Orono and back is no fun at a time of year when it’s dark under the table at 4 o’clock. And yes, the south is a different animal in terms of football specific and sports general.

All those things and the ticket price considered, I still fail to understand the lack of pride that produces anything but an overflow crowd for such an event.

Heck, I cut my ties three years ago, never looked back, yet was ready to refill my stein every time the Black Bears piled on another touchdown. A piece of my heart will forever race every time that program experiences national notoriety.

That’s because I know all the obstacles it overcomes. Location. Facilities. Crazy opposition within the Colonial Athletic Association. And last but not least, overall apathy from a populace that’s more engaged with the hockey and basketball teams, even when they’re mired in the second division of Hockey/America East.


This isn’t a new concept, either. Overall interest was lacking even when Lewiston’s Jared Turcotte was on the fast track to a pro career before injuries got in the way. And the previous playoff game a few years back against rival New Hampshire didn’t fare substantially better at the turnstiles.

I just don’t get it. Is it because most of the players are from New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, not homegrown? Are we that parochial?

Or maybe you sat home and watched the game on ESPN Plus because it was “free” with your cable bill, or monitored your Twitter feed while rearranging your sock drawer or something.

Consider yourself shamed to get out there and support your flagship university when a once-every-four-years opportunity such as this presents itself. Every face in the crowd, every voice rising above the din, is part of a bigger picture.

We complain when Maine’s best and brightest take their athletic talents to neighboring states and spurn Black Bear scholarship offers. But even if I were a basketball or baseball player with a mild interest in the state university, watching such a lukewarm reception for a football program at the mountaintop would give me pause.

Maine is an economically strained, aging, geographically isolated place. I get that, and I know that’s part of the reason it’s hard to commit your disposable income and a full Saturday to a football game.


It’s a double-sided coin, though. Those challenges are all the more reason to embrace such a sweet rallying point when it’s right in front of your face.

There is no earthly reason for Maine to beat any college team from Alabama, or that the Black Bears ever should have been competitive in the past with the likes of Appalachian State, Georgia Southern or Northern Iowa.

If you haven’t noticed, or if you have noticed but haven’t felt inspired to get decked out in blue and clap your hands until your frostbitten fingers turn the same color, do better.

Your Maine Black Bears deserve it. In a Major League way.

Kalle Oakes spent 27 years in the Sun Journal sports department. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Keep in touch with him by email at or on Twitter @oaksie72.

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