Tag Archives: college football

What makes a Rotten.com bowl game?

Some of my close friends (those who will not feel their souls seared by even casual sports talk) know what I mean by the above usage. For the rest of you, I have to explain.

US college football’s Division I-A (they changed the name to something stupid a few years back, which I refuse to acknowledge; you all should realize that the privilege of naming is a sort of subtle tyranny to dictate how people will think, a principle well understood by marketing departments and news channels) is the top level of collegiate football play. It has upwards of 125 teams. For the past century or so, season’s end and the Christmas holidays have meant a number of additional games, called bowls. Some bowls have a century of tradition and history by now. Others have none, nothing.

Each year, as bowls happen or cease to happen or change names, the pecking order shifts. For example, suppose that in the BigMarketingSalezzzzzzzz.com Bowl, the bowl sponsors and NCAA have agreed that the 7th place team in the Big Ten Conference (which calls itself the B1G–see what they did there?–and has fourteen teams) will receive an invitation to the BigMarketingSalezzzzzzzz.com Bowl, held December 22 in a warm-weather city with a suitable stadium and seeking to clamor for national attention. Nearly no spectators will actually attend the game, a fact that the TV cameras will do their best to conceal. After a lackluster matchup between a 6-6 Big Ten team and a less prestigious conference’s #3 (again for example), attended by approximately seven people, BigMarketingSalezzzzzzz.com decides not to blow wads of cash sponsoring a bowl next year, and another Rotten.com bowl has come and gone unlamented.

How did I pick 6-6 as a record? Because the crony system made a rule: can’t be bowl-eligible with a losing record. What the crony system failed to do is to stop the proliferation of Rotten.com bowls. Now there are eighty, with just over 125 potential teams in I-A. Not enough are bowl-eligible. Some 5-7 teams will get invitations. Some will be fool enough to refuse them.

Rotten.com is by now just a bad memory. In its dubious heyday, it was the website where you’d find some of the ugliest stuff on the Internet. Beheading videos? They were the ghoul’s first draft choice. I wasn’t an enthusiast, but I knew what it was and how to avoid finding it. Well, comes the dot-com era, and the year 2000 or so, and numerous companies arise whose names are web domains. The first may have been the scrofulous Insight.com Bowl, but soon there were more, such as the unbearable GalleryFurniture.com Bowl. As that trend developed, I decided that the lowest of the bowl low would probably have to be a Rotten.com Bowl, presumably played someplace repulsive. Since there’s no evidence that Rotten.com was ever an actual business name, that’s why it was satire.

Where does the money come from, since hardly anyone attends most of the games? Even the bowls with proper names (Rose, Sugar, Cotton, etc.) have taken on sponsorships. I remember the first time I heard about a “Federal Express Orange Bowl,” and the difficulty with which I contained the sudden quease. The sponsors weren’t fundamentally bad; what was/is bad was the media’s fellation. Print, online, and broadcast media, with absolutely nothing to gain, were and are glad to help out a corporate buddy by including the sponsor name in all instances of coverage. Evidently a few did not play ball, which is why some companies who sponsored Rotten.com bowls just named the whole bowl after themselves. If it has no other name than the Enron Bowl, the media have nothing else to call it.

To this end, I propose the Rotten.comness Rating System (RcRS). Its goal is to rank the bowls from useless to useful. The more points a bowl game accumulates, the worse it is, the champion receiving the dubious honor of the Rotten.com name prefixed to its official title in full, just as if Rotten.com still fully existed, were a company, and had ever sponsored bowls at all (it didn’t, but if it had, it would have to receive some special consideration). Thus, you might have the “Rotten.com GoEvilStepMommy.com Bowl.”

This does not need to be complicated. Do note that the full result cannot be determined until the end of bowl season, since attendance figures are required. Award one point for each of the following that is true:

  • Has no history under the current name
  • Has three or less years’ history under the current name
  • Has ten or less years’ history under the current name
  • Has twenty or less years’ history under the current name
  • Name is also the name of a corporation
  • Name is a corporate name that sounds like a word but isn’t (e.g., Taligent, Verizon, Ensighten, Disadvantis)
  • Name is a corporate name that in no way indicates what the hell they do
  • Name is a web domain
  • Name is so blazingly stupid it beggars all common sense (limit one per year, otherwise this would be overused)
  • Invites no nationally ranked teams (top 25 in either major poll)
  • Invites a team with a losing record in conference play (count independents’ overall record as a conference record)
  • Invites a team with a losing record overall
  • Invites two teams with losing records (unlikely, but we’re getting there one of these years)
  • Invites only teams with losing records (the logical conclusion to this farce)
  • Invites the University of Idaho Vandals (whom I like, but they are a longtime punching bag whose very arrival in a bowl game would raise its Rotten.comness)
  • Halftime show includes Celine Dion or Justin Bieber
  • Halftime show includes Kardashians (one point per Kardashian)
  • Bowl is played on or before December 20th
  • Bowl is played on or before December 23rd
  • Bowl has actual attendance less than 10,000
  • Bowl has actual attendance less than 20,000

Subtract one point for each of the following that is true:

  • Bowl is named Cotton, Orange, Sugar, or Rose
  • Bowl has an amusing wardrobe malfunction at halftime show
  • Halftime show includes the Stanford or Rice marching band
  • Halftime show’s outrageous gag results in the marching band being banned from a venue
  • Bowl name is amusing (imagine a Post Cereals Bowl, or a Tide Bowl, or a High Times Bowl)
  • Invites a top ten team in either major poll
  • Invites Army or Navy (because these were powerhouses in days of yore, thus an invitation represents tradition)
  • Has no corporate sponsor’s branding (dream on)
  • Sponsor’s executives are under indictment during bowl season
  • Sponsor declares bankruptcy during bowl season

Some of the conditions may go unmet each year, but we must think both ahead and positive.

And there you go. If there is sufficient interest, I may even take time to compile the preliminary rankings once all the lineups are set, which should be a few days away.

I think I’m about done attending actual college football games

It’s my favorite sport to watch; in fact, it’s the only sport I watch on a consistent basis. But I think I’ll be doing it from my recliner for the rest of my life. I just don’t much like going to the games.

Reasons, in no particular order:

Stadium: long march and/or climb to uncomfortable seat–and I’m not even counting the weather as a negative, since I’m pretty hardy. Recliner: short walk into living room with dedicated, comfortable chair.

Stadium: bathrooms force me to miss action or join enormous scrum in foul-smelling wait. Recliner: bathroom is down hall, can pause DVR so no action is missed, and is as clean as I choose to make it.

Stadium: drunk, noisy assholes who believe they bought a daylong asshole license. Recliner: no one even gets in the house without my will to unlock the door, and no one who would become drunk and abusive is getting in at all.

Stadium: can’t see the action too well. Recliner: can see all the action, as many times as I might wish.

Stadium: subjected to garish, paid-for displays of ostentatious patriotism. Recliner: can choose my own level of patriotism, from total fast-forward to standing up and singing along with the anthem, without peer pressure.

Stadium: total cost of attendance exceeds $100 per person at the very least, at least for major college action. Recliner: total cost of attendance involves paying my satellite bill of about $64 per month.

Stadium: food is either great but leaves me feeling like a mooch (tailgating) or meh and hugely overpriced after a long hike and a longer wait (concessions). Recliner: food is whatever I decided it should be, prepared and obtained when and how it suits me, priced reasonably.

Stadium: either take a bus, or hike from an adjoining state, or park in a nightmare scrum at high cost. Recliner: walk from office to living room, for free, without becoming annoyed at anyone.

Stadium: pretty much stuck watching halftime show, as there’s nothing else to do. Recliner: either build up footage and fast forward through halftime show, or watch instead updates and commentary on the day’s action.

Stadium: for the introvert, four hours of hard work trying to forget that one is surrounded by a crowd of random people. Recliner: for the introvert, four hours of relaxation surrounded only by people one wants around.

Stadium: analysis provided by random clods sitting in vicinity. Recliner: analysis provided by professionals experienced in the game, and sometimes even able to convey insight and/or humor.

Stadium: phone calls mostly happen to other people nearby, who then must yell into the phone so we can all hear. Recliner: if phone rings, pause DVR and answer it in civilized voice

Stadium: swearing frowned upon. Recliner: swear at will without penalty, and without harming the sensibilities of any elderly people or destroying the fragile innocence of youth.

Stadium: many people whom it would be morally okay to punch. Recliner: no one it would be morally okay to punch, because people who need to be punched aren’t welcome.

Stadium: potential for ejection if one objects to abuse, especially as a visitor. Recliner: no abuse, no potential for ejection.

Stadium: people may stand up and want past me at any time, including during a play, to get more brats or nachos with plastic cheese. Recliner: if someone needs to go in front of me, I pause the DVR.

Stadium: garbage thrown at random, leaving entire place looking like a slum by the fourth quarter. Recliner: garbage thrown in suitable receptacles.

Stadium: decent seats usually cost one kidney, and student seats are usually crappy. Great seats require enormous wealth. Recliner: all seats are great, and are the same price, and I’m welcome to invite students to partake as equals.

Stadium: pouring money into the increasingly corporate college football machine no matter how expensive they make it. Recliner: only money pour is by having premium TV to begin with, and whatever sponsored fan gear I felt inspired to buy.

Stadium: all marketing, all the time. Recliner: fast forward through all marketing I find annoying, which is substantially all of it.

Stadium: when everyone else stands up, I must as well or miss the action, and I were very short, it might do no good. Recliner: when I stand up, it’s because I have a reason, and it never relates to ability to see what’s happening on the field.

Stadium: watch one game. Recliner: watch for up to fifteen hours if I want, taking in up to five full games.

Stadium: searched at gate like common criminal, Dayquil taken away from sick person attending game two thousand miles from home, foldable stadium cushions taken away from persons who drove twelve hours and spent hundreds of dollars to be there. Recliner: bring anything I want, including a blanket fort over my chair if I so desire, or my heroin and syringes, or Scotch, or a cigar, or cold medicine; no one cares who is in a position to object.

Let’s be fair. The stadium does have advantages:

Home crowd energy can be good, and some venues treat visiting fans quite acceptably.

One will not have to miss part of the game because the Pac-12 Netbucks, Faux Sports 1 or 2, or the Eternal SEC Pimpage Network did a bad job of scheduling coverage.

Lots of calories burnt walking, climbing, hiking, and enduring weather.

Some stadiums have gorgeous views.

Direct experience of traditions: the Stanford band, Jump Around, calling the Hogs, singing the fight song, snickering at people with odd objects on their heads.

To people for whom it matters, they get to claim they were present.

Some halftime events which one might want to see, one will not be denied in favor of listening to Lou Holtz give his opinions.

Petros Papadakis is not doing the analysis.

The compensations exist, but are not worth what is asked of one.

Book review: The David Kopay Story

(This review was originally submitted to Epinions. I am reclaiming my work in edited and updated form.)

So Michael Sam, a linebacker from Missouri with legitimate hopes of being taken in the NFL draft, has come out as gay. He did so knowing that this might impact his opportunity to play at the sport’s highest level. Evidently he had already come out to his college teammates, who respected his confidence and continued to treat him as a teammate.

This takes guts. You know how, when a windshield cracks, it can be repaired provided the crack doesn’t reach the edge? This may be the blow that cracks the glass barrier of discrimination to its edge. While those of us who advocate an end to homophobic discrimination are cheering on Michael Sam, I’d like to remind the world of the man who first struck at the barrier. I have more in common with him than some might realize.

David Kopay was a tough college running back who made it to the professional football ranks through sheer determination and obstinacy, staying there for a decade as a backup and special teams hand. A craggily handsome fellow who ‘came out’ in the mid-1970s while writing The David Kopay Story with Perry Deane Young. And a University of Washington Husky.

David and I, therefore, have walked the same collegiate paths. I’m proud of my alma mater; while no university is perfect, UW (we usually say ‘U-Dub,’ often without the definite article) combines a square mile of carefully landscaped lakeside campus with some of the finest educational tools that exist. As far as I know, it is still the very finest nursing school in the land, and maybe the world. For those with the self-discipline to till them, UW can offer impressively fertile grounds for learning in a rich variety of studies.

We also have good sports teams. But when I think of famous fellow Dawgs who inspire me, the first one that comes to mind is not Football Hall of Famer Hugh McIlhenny. Nor is it legendary quarterback Warren Moon. It is not statesman Warren Magnuson, flying ace and Medal of Honor winner ‘Pappy’ Boyington, activist and decorated veteran Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, newsman Chet Huntley, actors Richard Karn, Dawn Wells, Joel McHale or Patrick Duffy, or civil rights activist Gordon Hirabayashi–though I’d be honored to meet any of them.

No, when I think of fellow alumni whose hands I would like to shake, David Kopay is the first-stringer.

We must remember that this book was first published in 1977. Jimmy Carter was President. The nation was mired in a post-Vietnam funk. The economy was a hot mess. We had begun to make meaningful the civil rights gains of the 1960s. The Cold War was a reality. We were expecting the next war in Europe, possibly soon, and our military was the next thing to a broken force.

The ex-hippies were just starting to be promoted to lower management, but going home and listening to the Beatles and the Stones on vinyl at home, and clinging to their VW microbuses as tokens of a bygone time when ‘all you needed was love.’ We had partied the hearty party of post-WWII prosperity, we were about done throwing up the morning after, and we were mopping up the puke with a throbbing headache and drinking cranberry juice. And telling everyone to turn that damn music down.

The popular perception of male homosexuality in the 1970s was that it was a personal choice, like becoming a Jehovah’s Witness or a disk jockey. Many also saw it as a dangerous perversion, felonious in many states. Family and friends tended to treat it as a major disgrace. Society treated male homosexuality as a rare, contagious, emasculating disease.

In this timeframe, at the finish of a ten-year NFL career, David Kopay let it be public knowledge that he was homosexual. No one else had done this, especially not someone who had spent nearly a generation in men’s locker rooms where he might–omigawd–see other men naked. It sounds stupid now, but remember the times, and you’ll be able to imagine the reaction.

With Young’s able assistance, Kopay tells us the story of his path to ultimately living as an out gay man. The conflicting desires. The intoxicated sexual incidents with friends and fraternity brothers. How hard he tried to be heterosexual, and the ways in which that hurt women who truly cared for him. The cracks and comments from teammates who had no idea how correct they were, and the way Kopay enjoyed hitting them extra hard in practice. The format alternates between Kopay’s narrative and Young’s commenary, and flows well, with no sense of reading a tennis match. (Not that it’s really germane, but the two were never lovers. Of course, if you co-author a book with someone, you might as well be.)

Kopay’s book impacted popular perceptions of athletes similarly to Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. For many years, the public had practiced voluntary ignorance concerning professional athletes’ humanity. Bouton, another of my great heroes (although it should not be glossed over that Ball Four contains some crude homophobic references that I suspect Bouton regrets today), had made athletes look more human. By coming out, Kopay humanized them in yet another. If part of the population is gay, part of the athlete population will be gay. Kopay’s work destroyed that comfy ability to pretend that wasn’t so.

I find Kopay’s description of his upbringing to ring with truth, which is why I’d recommend it for anyone who wishes to better understand the experience of being gay. Of course he found his early desires and thoughts confusing; he was raised in a very religious home, and there was no manual available in any case to explain that some people happened to prefer same-sex partners. His only clue was that he knew, deep down, that he was more interested in males than females, try as he might to live otherwise. The candor of this self-discovery story, and his coming to terms with it, makes Kopay’s book relevant nearly two generations after its first publication.

By modern standards, his family’s reaction to his coming out would be considered very disappointing. For the 1970s, their reaction was commonplace and mainstream. Kopay lets us see the pain that caused him, the ‘we cannot truly accept you as you are’ hurt that continues to bleed long after. His African American teammates who knew or suspected he was gay were also the most understanding. While the book is explicit, it’s not pornographic. it is more about football than sex, and again, Kopay is straightforward. He was not a big star. He hung on in the pros by sheer force of will. He just wanted to play the game.

That explains another part of the kinship I feel with David Kopay. Armed with moderate athletic talent, he lowered his helmet and charged, pounding his way to a respectable ten-year professional football career. Unlike Kopay, I lacked athletic talent, yet I battled my way to two high school varsity baseball letters, a varsity football letter, and the slightly fear-tinged regard earned by someone lacking a commonsensical regard for his own safety. The only thing that got me any respect was the reckless use of the hardshell helmet against joints, soft parts, and so on. (I once hit a kid hard enough to break one of the steel bolts holding my face mask in place.)

After college, I took up amateur hockey and played it for six years, leaving memories of myself with many; I also played ten years of amateur baseball, making solid contributions to competitive teams (and, I daresay, leaving a few physical calling cards along the basepaths). I refused to accept lack of talent as a disqualifier. I wanted to win, and to do well, and I wanted it bad enough to give all of what little ability I did have. I’ve learned that it’s about 80% what you do with what you have and about 20% what you have to work with. The same ratio held true in college academics, as I learned by underachieving my way through my first two years of school, while others of comparable natural talent made me look rather dumb by comparison.

Kopay set forth to be a collegiate and professional athlete, not an activist. His career was not spectacular, but certainly successful (he was particularly tough on special teams). After that career ended, a challenge far greater than the Rose Bowl came his way. Kopay faced and met that challenge. His account doesn’t dwell on the courage that took; nor should it, because it speaks for itself. Sure, he was afraid; I also would have been. He felt the fear, and did it anyway.

I wish I’d had David Kopay on any or all of my teams. Skills, talents, sexual preference; all secondary considerations. Give me someone who’s honest; give me a comrade; give me someone who wants to win with all his or her heart; give me guts under fire; give me someone who never quits; give me someone who’ll angrily tell me I’m full of it; give me someone who will lead me if I falter, follow me if I lead, and avenge me if I fall.

Let me draft a team loaded with that mentality, and we will make a way.

In the first round of that draft, my team selects David Kopay.

Michael Sam’s step is of similar magnitude. I am glad that today, unlike Kopay’s day, he may look behind him and see not merely a few confidential well-wishers, but a great multitude in which straight allies outnumber those who are gay. This is one of those rare crowds where I feel comfortable. Good luck, Michael.

Our college football ritual

It’s not very writer-nerdy to love college football. Don’t care. My nerd card has far too many punches in life for any pencil-neck to criticize. I do care about graduation rates, education, safety, and conduct within the community, in addition to football. I care that football essentially pays the way for most other sports at most schools, which has made Title IX’s equality requirements financially doable.

The NFL, I don’t much care about. Wake me up if the Broncos make the AFC Championship, especially if it’s against a real team (read: not a newfangled Southern team named after some monstrous feline).

The great thing about college football is that one can have many likes and many hates. However, one’s undergraduate allegiance is nearly always one’s home program, one’s favorite, because you are one of them. They walk the same halls and pathways, fellow participants in history and tradition. So, I like Kansas because I’m from there and my father went there, and Colorado State because both my folks went there, and varying other schools for various reasons. But even though I’m not a Washingtonian, I went to Washington, and thus for me college football begins with purple and gold.

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

My wife’s varying undergrad schools did not offer football, though for many Alaskans, UW is a sort of default allegiance (and a dream academic destination), like people from Montana who root for the Denver Broncos. In any case, my enthusiasm has somewhat rubbed off on Deb. Husky football has become one of our fall rituals, something to do together. I doubt she’ll ever be a big student of the game, but sometimes this is the way for women: their psyches flex and adjust and adapt better than ours, probably one reason they live longer than we do. It has become one of our marital rituals, Husky football on TV, and she loves her I BARK FOR SARK t-shirt.

The way it works is through nachos. A lot of nachos. Pure nachismo. A whole pizza plate full of them. We make a massive plate of nachos, sit down and watch the game. I believe she likes it partly because I participate in the production (I normally am not much of a cook, though on request I will always take responsibility for providing food). I consider myself an advanced placer of tortilla chips, and am always willing to grate cheese, oil the pan, chop stuff up, whatever strong-back-weak-mind task I can do. This year (or this week, anyway), I am taking a greater role, because I’m making my version of her chorizo chile to put on the nachos. That covers the beans part, the hamburger part and the sauce part.

I do not believe in lame nachos. Nachos are the place to go all in. The only reason to stop putting stuff on top is if it will a) insulate the cheese from melting correctly, or b) cause problems in the oven by bumping against the burners or pouring off the pan. We all know that most cheese tastes better when heated/cooked. There must be no chip not coated in good things. I wouldn’t feed most sportsbar nachos to Deb’s dogs, which I don’t even like.

The general custom is to consume gallons of beer while watching football, but I don’t. It’s emotional for me, sometimes very disappointingly emotional (even depressingly, as in the Tyrone Willingham era), and for me, drinking and being unhappy don’t mix. After it’s over, of course, if I’m pleased with how things went, I’ll definitely have a few celebratory belts, but I don’t like to get really drunk even then.

We’d have people over more often (no way can we eat all that), but we have not really lived in places where there were a lot of Husky fans. Tri-Cities was hardcore Coug country, and the only reason for them to watch UW is to root against us (and even against Oregon, I don’t openly root against my host’s team…some things are best kept to oneself). Boise is hardcore Boise State country, and we haven’t yet met many other Dawgs here. So it’s not really a social tradition, more of a marital one. But it’s a good one, especially when attending games in person is now more cost- and time-prohibitive than ever. (Eight hours of driving, each way. At least one motel night, probably two. Meals. $150 for tickets. Total, maybe $700–which I read as 2/3 of a house payment. Not happening.

So Husky football returns. Go Dawgs.

Let me close with a bit of outspoken opinion on the changes in football, especially with regard to concussion prevention and increasingly stiff penalties for targeting and helmet-to-helmet hits. Yeah, I know this isn’t how we played football in high school, or when my father played in high school. However, please consider these salient realities:

  • Players are stronger, faster and bigger than before. Don’t believe me, look at the rosters then and now.
  • The impacts are harder, and have outstripped the ability of equipment to protect any part of the body completely. In any case, no protection will keep a brain from sloshing around in the braincase.
  • College is for education first and foremost. The goal is to educate young brains, not scramble them.
  • Look at the numbers in education. At some schools, enrollment approaches 60% female. It’s hard to avoid the strong suspicion that, when opportunity is equal and all is based purely on demonstrated academic merit, the women are smarter than we are. If we are on balance dumber than the women, does society need us to get even dumber through repeated head trauma?
  • Look at the later impact on families. We want our young men to grow into good men: good fathers, good husbands. Brain trauma can cause disastrous, erratic behavior, especially later in life. I’ve known of once-decent men who had head injuries and became brutal animals toward their families. With as much domestic violence as we already have, must we not do all we can to prevent more of it? Was my father’s violently abusive behavior partly a product of the three times he was kayoed playing high school football?
  • Football produces people we often admire, some of whom deserve it and some don’t. What about after football? Let me spell this out. Do you want your school’s greatest hero inducted into his school’s pantheon of standouts in a wheelchair, drooling, unable to stand up and thank alma mater and the community for the opportunity and affection? At forty?
  • We live in an era of fanatically overprotective parents. Many will not let their children play football at all. We’ll never know how great those kids might have been. Do you want to make that even worse? My father didn’t want me to play football. It went like this: “Dad, thinking of going out for football. What do you think?” “Lousy idea, son. You’ll wreck your knee, and limp around in pain for the rest of your life, like me.” This from a high school standout in a town where football was king, a lifelong fan of college football. I told him I was going to do it anyway, and he said he wouldn’t stop me, but I can only imagine what my parents were thinking when we’d kick off. I’d pick a target and ram that helmet in there. Broke the bolt holding my face mask in place one time. Hit people with it so hard that I could hear the collective feminine gasps of pained shock from the stands. May well have injured a reasonably gifted mind–for life. And that wasn’t even people hitting me. It was self-inflicted. I already have some memory issues. How much worse will they be as I age? Did I do this to myself? Will I one day find myself tending toward domestic violence I cannot control, and have no honorable alternative but to exit life on my own terms?
  • And last: it takes thirty years for us to know how bad it really is. We are only now learning how much brain damage was done to the sons of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the meantime, the hits got harder. We won’t find out until thirty years from now what it did to our current generation of young males, but we can expect it to get worse. It cannot begin to get better until we fix it, and wait our thirty years for the payoff. Those thirty years must begin now.

Against all this, the only argument is ‘the pussification of football’ and grumpy old deprecatory stuff like ‘might as well just play flag football, why even bother?’ You tell me which argument makes more sense, that or mine. For my money, if those are your responses, maybe you yourself had a few too many concussions and they’re starting to show, because the weight of all measured reason argues for taking whatever steps necessary to quit turning kids’ brains to granola.

Let me close by mentioning that this is not the first time we’ve confronted this. Do you know why the NCAA was formed? It was because, by the turn of the century (when football still looked a lot like rugby or ‘soccer football,’ as it was called), there were over a dozen deaths on the field nationally in high school and college football. Many more were paralyzed for life. Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and said, paraphrased: “Your choice. You can fix this blood sport, or I will ban it.” Roosevelt was not known as a man who ran from fights, nor discouraged physical trials of strength and guts. In fact, he was a pretty macho president. Yet in this case, he took a stand for rules changes and protective gear. Pussification? You wouldn’t say that to T.R.’s face. He heard the same complaints, and came to the same conclusion I have: if it kills the kids, or ruins them for life, it’s got to be fixed or gotten rid of.

If that means ejecting and suspending anyone who spears, targets the head or whatever, I’m for it. The alternative is the potential decline of the sport.

I want to keep our ritual. I love Husky football enough to save it.

Coaches Hot Seat froth on the Pac-12 Networks

Yeah, I know that college football discussion is not in the wheelhouse of a good percentage of the readership here at the ‘Lancer, but maybe some of it will work out. Here’s a rather frothy rant from the guy at Coaches Hot Seat, who Uses A Lot Of Caps and Exclamation Points! (It’s also a way for me to test a Firefox WP add-in. But I’m going to let you watch Larry Scott get blistered, and that should be worth it. I hope.)

Coaches Hot Seat froth on the Pac-12 Networks

The CHS fellow and I disagree about the meaninglessness of bowl games. I would, however, agree that the proliferation of stuff like the Kraft Fight Hunger With Manufactured Junk Food Bowl, the Beef O’Brady Bunch Bowl, and the Idaho Potato Bowl (they repeat themselves, ahem) has made college football bowl season ridiculous. Most times, all it takes is a .500 record to be assured of a bowl in a major conference, or a winning record in a non-major. It feels like ‘every kid gets a trophy,’ even though it isn’t, quite. Though at the rate we are going, we might end up with enough bowls that everyone makes it. It would only take about 60, and we’re halfway there. Bowl games I think would be fun:

  • The Rotten.com Bowl (play it in East St. Louis)
  • The Experian Credit Wrecker Bowl
  • The Bank of America Nickel-and-Dime Bowl
  • The Onion Bowl (in reality, it would turn out to be a hoax)
  • The Bismarck Bowl (let’s see how well your team really travels: North Dakota in December!)
  • The Twilight Bowl (during Fairbanks, AK’s few hours of dusk that pass for daylight)
  • The Lentil Bowl (played at Pullman)
  • The Begging Bowl (hold it in whichever EU country, that refuses to tax its rich people or rein in spending, is in the worst shape and needs a boost…Greece would be the current frontrunner, though Spain is mounting a credible bid)
  • The Crock O’ Crap Bowl (where else but our nation’s capital?)
  • The Smoke-A-Bowl (alternating between Colorado and Washington; I think that’s fair)
  • The Tidy Bowl (Geneva, Switzerland, since you can basically eat off the streets in Switzerland)
  • The Sanction Bowl (best two teams on bowl probation; held in the yard at a maximum security prison)
  • The Facebook Bowl Sponsored by Everyone

What isn’t funny this year, as the CHS article mentions, is the colossal failure of the highly touted brand spankin’ new Pac-12 Networks. Here was the idea: imitate the Big 10 (which used to have twelve members, now the number keeps shifting, but only ten of them are even remotely big anyway) by starting the conference’s own network, getting nearly every Pac-12 football game on TV and also televising a lot of other sports that don’t get as much exposure. It was a good idea.

What we did not expect was that the Pac-12 would get so greedy. It had a year to reach agreements with the major premium TV providers. In the main, the conference failed at the basics of business: you need to get the sale. My understanding is that the Pac-12 had promised the member schools Big Moola, forgetting two things: that one still has to reach agreement with providers, and that if one fails in this, one’s network is a not-work because your viewers can’t watch the games. In our area, the Pac’s failure to reach agreement with DefectiveTV and Cheater (two of our three primary providers) denied a majority of the local viewership any chance to watch the games. In my case, four Husky games plus one non-Husky rivalry game mattered to me. During that one, I sat down to write a letter, since it wasn’t on my TV. I’d like to share it with you.

November 24, 2012

Mr. Larry Scott

Pac-12 Conference

1350 Treat Blvd., Suite 500

Walnut Creek, CA 94597-8853

Dear Mr. Scott:

Normally right now I would be rooting for one disliked Pac-12 rival to beat a more disliked Pac-12 rival on TV. Unfortunately, the UO/OSU game is on your Pac-12 Networks, which DirecTV doesn’t offer, so I have free time to write you a letter I have spent most of the season formulating.

In 2011, I was able to watch all twelve Washington games on TV. In 2012, I was able to watch eight. Sadly, the other four were on your vaunted Pac-12 Networks, thus unavailable to me. I trust you understand what this means: your network has been a detriment to Pac-12 sports coverage. If that weren’t bad enough, you have sicked our almae matres on us. Pliant minions that they can so often be, they’ve tried to convince us to blame the satellite and cable providers, and to switch to a provider that carries the Pac-12 Networks. I am not an unreasonable man, nor am I new to DirecTV. I know that DirecTV, a perennial corporate spoiled child and bully, manages to fight with some content provider most months, causing loss of coverage. I am not taking DirecTV’s side when I fault you for the situation. I’m pointing to results: we were better off without your networks. Your networks made sports worse.

It didn’t have to be this way. There were other options. You had a year to work out some sort of deal with the likes of DirecTV. If you had to settle for less money than you have evidently promised the schools, you could have negotiated a one-year deal and returned to the table later. You could have offered online viewing through the Pac-12 Networks website for a reasonable subscription fee (or even free). I would have paid. Instead, you co-opted the schools into repeating your talking points, pressuring fans to pressure their TV providers. One problem with that, Mr. Scott: bright minds graduate from Pac-12 schools. Most aren’t fools. We learn critical thinking. We aren’t all so easily manipulated, and the attempt insults our intelligence and education. Who’s going to dump an otherwise functional vendor relationship over such a small percentage of their TV service? That would be dumb business.

I can tell what this stance cost the conference, because I happened to see some Pac-12 Networks coverage while visiting a friend. While I found the overall coverage substandard, the commercials stood out most. Nearly all were yours, which tells me you didn’t sell much airtime. While the ADs may parrot the line, the advertisers aren’t buffaloed. They know that your stance has lessened the audience, making your price higher than your viewing base is worth to them. It was more sad than comical, but it was a bit of both.

Sir, you have failed. You have taken yet another step in the transformation of a great sport into purest moneyball, where fans are just annoyances who had best hush, accept what is thrown to them, and keep their noses out of corporate management. You have made it pointedly clear that the fans’ good does not matter.

Proud of that?

Sincerely,

J. K. Kelley (UW ’86)

I don’t expect a reply.