Marc Mariani is one of the greatest Montana Grizzlies of all time.
The Havre native was a legend playing receiver on the University of Montana football team before he was a Pro Bowl player for the Tennessee Titans.
Over his last two seasons with the Grizzlies (2008 and 2009), Mariani caught 149 passes for 2,787 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Somehow, every one of those 149 grabs seemed to come at a clutch moment, too.
Unfortunately, Mariani’s NFL career was cut short. After two years with the Titans, he overcame a horrible broken leg to play parts of two seasons for the Chicago Bears.
In 2015, Mariani became one of Jay Cutler’s favorite receivers, and he caught 22 passes for 300 yards. After another season for Titans in 2016, Mariani called it a career.
Through it all, Mariani was always a gutsy receiver and returner who was impossible to dislike.
That is why I nearly cried when I saw Mariani tweet the words “Brawl of the Wild” in reference to the football game between Montana and Montana State, which is Nov. 20 in Missoula.
Say it ain’t so, Marc. Say it ain’t so.
The great receiver was tweeting as part of the campaign to get ESPN’s College GameDay to go to Missoula for that special Saturday.
The show has been a fixture of Saturday mornings since 1987, and it travels around the country to the site of big games each week. It has never been in Montana.
Grizzly fans want to stand behind the television set, waive at their mothers and scream at Lee Corso to put on the Grizzly mascot head as he predicts the winner.
The problem is that the social media campaign keeps referring to the game as the “Brawl of the Wild.”
That name is the New Coke of rivalry nicknames. It is lamer than the NFL’s new taunting rule. It is as uncool as, uh, well, something that is really uncool.
The term “Brawl of the Wild” is just very, very bad.
When you look at the origins of the name, it is even worse.
The very first mention of the name “Brawl of the Wild” for the game between the Bobcats and Grizzlies came in 1997. That was after the football teams from the schools had already met 96 times.
Ninety. Six. Times.
Any person, place, thing or rivalry that makes it to 96 never needs a new nickname. It especially does not need a new moniker given to it by Lee Enterprises.
Yes, that is where the name “Brawl of the Wild” came from. The company that has a long track record of getting rid of writers, editors and photographers once they turn 60 is responsible for it.
A writer for the Lee-owed Missoulian coined the phrase, and the paper ran with it because it was looking to sell ads for its new Gameday tab.
You can look it up.
There was no need to change the name “Cat-Griz game.” Sure, some people in Missoula try to call it “Griz-Cat,” and they just sound silly.
That is like eating Jerry & Ben’s Ice Cream or hunting with your Wesson & Smith rifle. It just doesn’t sound right, but it is at least a comfort to know their heart is in the right place.
In 1996, the Montana Power Company actually bought the name of the game, and the words “Montana Power Fall Classic” and a company logo plastered the grass at Washington-Grizzly Stadium from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line.
Even after Bob Gannon and they boys blundered away the once-great company, “Montana Power Fall Classic” is a better name for the game than “Brawl of the Wild.”
For one thing, what does that name even mean? Is it because both school mascots are named after wild animals?
Yeah, well so are a ton of other school and professional teams.
Should we call the Bears-Bengals game from Week 2 of the NFL season the “Brawl of the Wild?”
What about this week’s Panthers-Cardinals game? Or the Jaguars-Colts game? Or the Eagles-Broncs game?
The late Pat Kearny wrote a book about the rivalry and tried to call the game the “Divide War.” That name makes sense because the Continental Divide passes between the two rivals, but it was not better than what we already called it.
Kearney’s name never stuck because he did not have a chain of newspapers pushing it for him.
“Cat-Griz” was already a great name. It was already one of the best rivalries in college football — at least on the lower level. aIt did not need a fresh marketing campaign like it was a politician falling in the polls.
The 1997 Cat-Griz game in Bozeman was sold out long before the Missoulian put out its tab.
Even if we all would accept the newspaper advertising name “Brawl of the Wild,” and some of us never will, this year will not be the “120th Brawl of the Wild,” as they claim.
We should all agree that we cannot retroactively give a game a stupid name. This is Year 25 of the worst name ever proposed for a rivalry.
I have socks older than that.
Mariani and his generation gets a pass because he is so young. He was only 10 years old when “Brawl of the Wild” was first mentioned.
By the time the Griz came calling for the multi-sport star of the Havre Blue Ponies, Mariani probably figured that is what they always called the rivalry.
He must have figured someone had a really bad idea in 1897.
J.K. Simmons is another story. The famous actor should know better.
Simmons is a 1978 graduate of the University of Montana. While a lot of people probably know him as Professor Nathaniel Burk of the University of Farmers in commercials for Farmers Insurance Group, he really is a big-time celebrity.
Since he moved to Missoula with his family when he was 18 in 1973, Simmons might call the game “Griz-Cat,” and that, while very silly, is acceptable.
What would never be acceptable is if he bought into this “Brawl of the Wild” nonsense.
Simmons is a really good actor who has been in a lot of good movies, including “Patriots Day.” He played the dad in “Juno” and the Detroit Tigers manager in “For Love of the Game,” a Kevin Costner chick flick that masquerades as a “baseball movie.”
He played newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson in “Spider-Man,” and stole the show with every scene.
Other than Carroll O’Connor, who played the best TV character of all time, Simmons is the most popular actor the University of Montana has turned out. He’s more famous than Benny the Bull.
Simmons is a name the GameDay crew will certainly recognize, and he is an actor who is impossible to dislike.
So, Simmons has been recruited to do his part to convince ESPN to bring its show to Missoula. Like a good Grizzly, Simmons went along and recorded a video for the cause.
Spoiler alert, Simmons unveils that he is wearing a Grizzly hoodie at the end of the clip. Montana Grizzly Football and Mariani tweeted it.
So did 90 percent of “Griz Nation.”
I was so excited to see J.K. come through for our alma mater. His video was on the mark and funny.
Well, it was great for the first 5 seconds, anyway. Then, Simmons called our great “Cat-Griz game” the “Brawl of the Wild.”
It was like a sucker punch from Hollywood, and it made me want to cry.
Say it ain’t so, J.K. Say it ain’t so.