College Sports and History

A good friend of mine,  (actually he is my cousin, but, I have known him longer than almost anybody, and I consider him a good friend), messaged me saying ESPN College Game Day was going to be in Lincoln. It was the first time in seven years. We had made plans, but I thanked him.

College Game Day coming to town is considered an honor, or maybe a privilege, or possibly a boon, I’m not sure, I never watch it. Pregames have always been too long, and now they seem endless. Plus, they have reached the point of crossing over from sports to entertainment. Except for the entertainment part, or the sports bit, both of which seem to be missing.

I am a college sports fan, a Cornhusker fan. I don’t fool myself with the noble, building character propaganda, they never give scholarships for strength of character. But, I enjoy watching a team of athletes compete.

Sports has reached such an elevated level of importance in the world today I can’t really understand the exaggerated significance. College coaches are being paid millions. And thanks to the constant stream of televised instruction everyone everywhere can tell you what they are doing wrong.

Even people who were never athletic enough to be a college cheerleader (like me) can explain how the coach is an overpaid simpleton who doesn’t know the difference between an “X Fly Right” and “Zone Read Run Pass Option.” It makes me feel as though the coach and I have something in common. I don’t know the difference either. I normally just think, “man I wish that play would have worked better.” Or sometimes, if I am really angry, I might go as far as “man, I wish they would have done something that wasn’t so stupid.”

But, I watch some games, I am still a fan of the game. Occasionally I will even listen to the announcers, though it really ruins the game. I hear them talk about the genius of a play call, or a coaching strategy, a game plan, and how effective it was. It sounds as if the coach has some mystical connection to some deep understanding of human behavior, wired into some ethereal plane of cosmic knowledge. Invariably they will reference the coach’s love of military history and how that illuminates his coaching decisions.

I’ve noticed, you really can’t miss it, how the “best plays” are normally called by the coach with the best players. It has led me to the startling conclusion that it is remarkably easy to call great plays if your football players are bigger, stronger and faster than the other coaches football players. You could just almost say, go out there and run all over the top of those littler, slower, weaker guys. But, that sounds so petty and mean.

Some teams have so many really good players that it probably wouldn’t matter who called the plays. They just stockpile great players, make them practice right up to the point of violating the Geneva Convention, and then win games and pay the coach millions. And everywhere the same sounds echo across the television, radio, newspapers and internet “he is a coaching genius.”

I don’t know how some teams get so many great players, all the time. I have no proof they’re cheating, but I have no proof that they aren’t. And, I don’t really care. If they can get away with it more power to them.

I remember the words of Jerry Tarkanian, Tark the Shark, basketball coach, author and notable NCAA adversary. “The NCAA was so mad at Kentucky they put Cleveland State on probation.” The NCAA is not too keen on shining too bright a light into the dusty corners of the old school nobility. Imagine the uproar, it would be a cataclysm of history bending chaos.

But, I still enjoy the games, some of them. When my team wins I am happy and when they lose I am a little less happy. And when people ask me what happened I say, “I don’t think they scored enough points. Or, maybe they let the other team score too many points. It had something to do with the final score, though, I’m comfortably sure of that. Maybe they needed to learn something from the Battle of Agincourt.”

That’s just my opinion, though.


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