Sunday, December 15, 2013

Three Thoughts on College Football

Because there was only one game on the schedule Saturday, and yet all sorts of action that  allowed a look behind the curtain. Here's a few thoughts on the big stories of the day.

1-Mack Brown was never going to come back as the coach at Texas.
Once your bosses demonstrate - in the least classy way possible, by holding secret negotiations with your possible successor - that they no longer want you around, then you are in what the HR folks politely call "an untenable situation". Nick Saban, for his part, was never going to go to Texas. His agent invented the "talk to another school to jack money out of your current one" maneuver, and it worked to transparent perfection. But regardless, the fact that someone in the Texas administration was furtively doing the equivalent of sexting another coach while still married to Brown said everything that needs be said about that marriage.

The last couple of years, Brown's teams didn't quite live up to expectations, leading to frustration on the part of fans and, more importantly, big dollar boosters. Of course, conveniently lost in that analysis is the fact that those expectations were deader than the defenders of the Alamo until Brown sailed into town. John Mackovic, anyone? David McWilliams?

But such is the nature of the beast. Feed it success, and it grows and gets hungrier than ever for more. As for Brown, he'll probably wind up somewhere else where the fan base and alumni will be deliriously happy to have a guy who won a national championship land. Maybe he'll have a happy ending, like Frank Solich at Ohio. Maybe it'll be a temporary stop before a big boy comes calling for one last hurrah. But one thing was clear: that last act was never going to be at Texas.

2-It's lovely that so many announcers and writers wax rhapsodic about how the Army-Navy game is all that is good and right in college football. Indeed, there is a great deal there that is admirable, from the respect shown by the opponents to one another to the fact that it is the lone football game held in Philadelphia every year without someone referencing snowballs being thrown at Santa Claus. But all for all of the lofty rhetoric and gushing praise, you could look at ESPN.com's home page yesterday afternoon - the day the game was being played, at the epicenter of modern American sports - and not see a single mention of it. Man City's six goal outburst, sure. Beefs between players and sportswriters. Heisman speculation. Mack Brown stuff. You name it. But glorious sentiments aside, a game between a 7-4 team headed to a minor bowl and a 3-8 team headed to a new coach doesn't crack the 

That absence, the feeling that the game was not worthy of even a small mention, says more about the esteem in which sportsmanship and service are held by the sporting public than any tribute montages.

3-By strict on-the-field criteria, Jameis Winston was the obvious choice for the Heisman trophy. Any voters who might have been hesitant to cast their lot for a guy who might be standing trial for sexual assault had their decisions made easy for them by the actions of local law enforcement, who announced that they were not pursuing charges against the Florida State QB during a press conference that was basically an audition for a 2 week run at Yakov Smirnoff's dinner theater in Branson. Be that as it may, Winston clearly had the best year of any player on the field. The results don't lie, and based strictly on football criteria, he was a deserving winner.

(Note: It is important to bear in mind that the gist of the press conference was that the DA's office did not think they'd be able to get a conviction, hardly a surprising conclusion after a year of ham-fisted investigation and obstruction. The conclusion was not that the victim's story was untrue.)

(Note on note: Never mind that the Heisman voting is irretrievably slanted toward certain positions and certain schools; ya dance with the one what brung ya.)

The fear, of course, is that the case against Winston will get re-opened, or that there will be another accuser coming forward, and the Downtown Athletic Club's nice shiny trophy will get tarnished again. That the reputation of the Heisman, and thus the brand of the Heinemann, will be dulled by another scandal to pile atop the one marked "Reggie Bush". That the voters, at some point, will be asked to explain themselves.

Except, of course, that it won't matter. Past Heisman winners are like past touring musicians for late-stage Jethro Tull - there have been an awful lot of them, and more than a few have faded into obscurity. Gino Toretta, anyone? Troy Smith? Mike Rozier? And once the ceremony is over and the TV lights have been turned off and that one shining moment is safely in the history books - once we the audience have seen the big reveal and no longer have to be invested in it - then what happens next barely matters at all. The moment has happened, and it's gone. God forbid, of course, that there is another incident, another voice raised, another victim. That's not the Heisman voters' problem now.

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