This seems like a good time to offer my sincerest thanks to the Football Gods.
From now on, I have a nice, neat answer whenever anyone asks me why I'm not a bigger fan of college football. The next time someone presses me on the issue, I can point to one shining example of all that's wrong with the product:
The 2009-10 College Football Season (also known by its working title "What a F***ing Joke").
It's a shame, too.
As a college graduate from a school that sent its team to the 2000 Rose Bowl while I was a junior (with me in attendance), I'm well-aware of how exciting the real thing is. I'm intimately familiar with the rabid enthusiasm both on the field and in the stands. Furthermore, the kids taking/delivering the hits and carrying the ball may just represent the ideal in team sports.
Few athletic arenas embody the cooperative paradigm better than football. Baseball and basketball must thrive on individualism at times, but football almost never sees one man appropriately take center stage (can you hear me Chad Johnson? How about you Terrell Owens?).
Combine that with the idealism engendered by college campuses nationwide and the effect on the field can be powerful.
The college gridiron is the last and most luminous stop on the All-for-One-And-One-for-All Express before egotism bred by fame and fortune starts to wash away the romanticism.
Sadly, it's also become a little too much like professional boxing—the suits and powerbrokers have tainted the waters and they don't appear to have any interest in cleaning it up.
While the Bowl Championship Series, the NCAA, and whoever votes for nonsense like the polls or the Heisman Trophy haven't quite reached those irredeemable depths of Don King, Bob Arum, and other fine exemplars from the sweet science, they're getting dangerously close.
The proof is in the 2009-10 pudding.
The NCAA was up to its usual, hypocritical tricks—slamming the door on the Oklahoma State Cowboys' Dez Bryant for lying about a conversation that may not have ever taken place, but might have challenged the NCAA stranglehold on the sport if it did.
This before welcoming the Oregon Ducks' LeGarrette Blount back with open arms. That would be the tough guy who sucker-punched a fellow athlete on national television.
It would also be the Oregon Duck squad headed for Pasadena.
Like every year, the NCAA did it all behind a tax-free curtain, courtesy of its commitment to the academic development of its charges. A commitment manifested by embarrassingly putrid graduation rates posted by the biggest cash cows where the educational standards of big-money student-athletes are virtually nil.
Nope, nothing fishy there.
Meanwhile, Nick Saban—that glowing beacon of integrity—is the toast of the town again.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are in the National Championship game, which means it's officially time to pretend he's a helluva guy. You know, not the bald-face liar who duplicitously skinned his way out of his Miami Dolphin contract with his tail between his legs.
It's a good thing "Saint" Nick is off the hook because we need the room for the new Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach, Brian Kelly.
That would be the guy whose gift of gab is apparently good enough (and used with enough irresponsible indiscretion) to convince his former and undefeated Cincinnati Bearcat team he was happy there .
Which would be cool except now he's effusively selling everyone on Notre Dame being his "dream job" and that "nobody, nobody does it like Notre Dame. " I'm sure that sits well with the youngsters he abandoned before the biggest game in Cincinnati football history (at least recent history) and certainly those youngsters' lives.
The ones the Coach of the Year (irony anyone?) was telling he adored not so many weeks ago.
Of course, these are merely two isolated cases.
The bigger problem—the one with the potential to sour the whole endeavor—is the system they're using that allows storied programs like Notre Dame to potentially rob a big moment from programs struggling on the come-up.
Sure, the rudderless ship needs a captain as soon as possible to start rebuilding. Why do they get to do fill that need at the expense of a little guy about to make it big?
Why does the failure with the game stacked in its favor get to ransack the underdog tasting success against the odds?
Incidentally, best of luck with the Florida Gators, Cincy. That should be a simple thing without the coach that's been leading you all year.
How is anyone else supposed to write their own story when they get raided by the big boys the minute they've got a good arc going?
Nothing lays bare this favoritism lavished upon the money-makers like the BCS.
Forget conspiracy theories behind the one second officials put back on the clock in the Big XII Championship game. Forget the one beat that allowed the revenue-darling Texas Longhorns to eke into the so-called national title game.
I'm talking the convenient decision to pit the undefeated, BCS-outsider TCU Horned Frogs against the undefeated, BCS-outsider Boise State Broncos in the Fiesta Bowl.
It should be a fantastic, exciting game full of compelling storylines and it'll give both programs a chance to strut their wares on the national stage. If you believe anything I just typed is the real reason the two programs are matched against each other, stay away from emails about African royalty in need.
Nope, this was about safely tucking two BCS problem children away where they can do the least bit o' harm. Two potential BCS-killers will impotently thrash against each other AND one less non-BCS undefeated team will be left standing to complicate the picture.
I don't know how many birds the BCS is killing with one stone, but it's a minimum of two.
Let's not even discuss the fundamental idea behind the BCS.
The one that requires lesser known quantities like the Utah Utes, TCUs, Cincinnatis, and Boise States of the universe to win every game and THEN get insanely lucky before they earn the right to elbow into the championship picture.
The BCS [shaking my head], what a bunch of chumps. I'd sooner associate with Goldman Sachs yet this is the body entrusted with choosing a champion. Fantastic.
And now the Heisman voters have tossed their dunce caps in the ring.
Look, I don't think it's right, but I can accept the general mania that drives infatuation with the quarterback. It's the glamour position and he gets most of the praise/most of the blame so, fine, the most popular one will win most of the big awards.
It ain't right, but it is what it is and it has been for a long time. Consequently, I resigned myself to the injustice of Texas Longhorns' Colt McCoy taking the trophy over my man Toby Gerhart of the Stanford Cardinal.
I was prepared.
Right until they handed the award to Alabama's running back, Mark Ingram.
Wait a tick, let me get this right—they play the same position, Gerhart had almost 200 more rushing yards, more yards from scrimmage, eight more touchdowns (11 more rushing), did it against arguably the nation's deepest conference, carried the Stanford Cardinal back to relevance (with a major assist from the offensive line), and is a senior.
Anything else...oh yeah, Gerhart did his damage in 12 games compared to the 13 contests in which 'Bama's back played.
Yet Mark Ingram—a sophomore on an undefeated squad that boasts a polished, superstar-in-the-making quarterback and a suffocating defense—gets the hardware?
Don't give me the yards after contact argument. Ask around the linebacking corps of the Pac-10—Toby Gerhart is a rampaging beast who routinely carries defenders for an extra two or three yards.
The stud doesn't even feel contact unless it's of the multi-tackler variety.
Gerhart was obviously the better statistical player and was obviously more valuable to his team than Ingram. Plus, it was almost certainly his only shot at the Stiff Arm (he has another year of eligibility, but this was the perfect Stanford football storm—only an even bigger miracle gets Gerhart back to Palo Alto and then New York next year).
So, naturally, the SEC rep should get the Heisman.
This is the reward for an entire campaign's worth of attention and devotion? Hallowed awards and title shots leveraged as part of the ultimate effort to feed off the biggest booster clubs and television audiences?
Instead of what happens on the field?
The only place it makes sense is in the world of college football.
Which is why I don't spend a lot of time here.
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