The Monday following Super Bowl Sunday is like an aluminum bat to the face, and trebly so if the team you (nominally) supported the day before lost. Granted, there is no outcome of any NFL game I could find truly fortunate or unfortunate---it’s the NFL; it’s basically just a waste of six or eight otherwise perfectly good years of collegiate eligibility (and, hey, I took forever to get through school, so why can’t they?)---but the Super Bowl marks the surest sign that football season is well and truly done.
Accordingly, in an effort to come to terms with the reality of the offseason, I bring you a brief rundown of goings-on around the blogosphere for your entertainment and, I hope, edification:
The national news media would nominate Drew Brees for Sainthood, but that would be redundant. I’ll admit it . . . I had a much stronger visceral reaction against the Saints than was warranted under the circumstances, partly because of an Atlanta-area native’s ingrained disdain for the longtime Falcons rival but mostly because I have been annoyed for a full decade over the absurdity of Drew Brees being named the MVP of the 2000 Outback Bowl, which his team lost to my team. I repeat: he was named the most valuable player in a game his team lost, even though his team’s defeat would appear to suggest that there were 85 scholarship athletes on the opposite sideline who were more valuable to their team than Brees was to his, since their team, you know, won, or something.
Nevertheless, we now find ourselves in a curious situation wherein Saints fans are praising a player who went to school in Indiana while mocking a Colts quarterback who grew up in the Big Easy. Go figure. In any case, Florida fans were rooting for the Saints, so I know I was right to favor Indianapolis.
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton is gutless. At least, that’s what Brian Cook and Spencer Hall say, although I think they’re being more complimentary than they sound. Somewhere, there is someone who will play the Donald Kagan to the blogosphere’s George Will, but, in the meantime, the deromanticizing of athletics by mathematicians is undeniably accurate, inevitable, and regrettable. This, alas, makes sports much like a great deal else in life, which is precisely what dorky smart guys like me were trying to avoid in the realm of athletics in the first place before other dorky smart guys like us insisted upon bringing their intelligence and dorkitude to bear.
When raw recruits stop being recruits, shouldn’t they also stop being raw? Since I’ve unofficially assumed the responsibility for viewing as half-empty any glass Senator Blutarsky identifies as half-full, I am obligated to state that this is a testament to the Bulldogs’ gridiron underachievement. If a team lands eight top-ten recruiting classes in a decade and finishes with a top-ten postseason ranking only five times during that span, multiple players are failing to live up to their potential. Granted, the correlation is not one-to-one---we would do better to track the performance of the recruiting class from Year A in the football season of Year A+3---but look what Alabama, Florida, Louisiana State, Oklahoma, and Texas did in the 2000s with fewer top-ten recruiting hauls than the ‘Dawgs.
Paul Johnson would like to remind you that we don’t define them in any way. There’s trying too hard to find fault with a rival, and then there’s this:
Recruiting players you KNOW can't even get into school? Saint Richt goes Outlaw and sends his man to prep school for a year. Don't worry that they can't qualify, just keep that south Georgia pipeline open.....
That is a Georgia Tech fan’s unintentionally hilarious way of spinning what I actually wrote about Lonnie Outlaw:
Although the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chip Towers reported that Outlaw will not qualify for freshman admission, the 6’7" receiver has earned the requisite ACT score. At the Bulldogs’ request, Coach Ledford faxed Outlaw’s ACT score to Athens before a formal offer was made.
Once the new Georgia signee’s test result was received, an offer sheet bearing the signatures of Mark Richt and Damon Evans was sent and Outlaw became a Bulldog. Because he needs additional credits, he will come to Athens by way of Milledgeville, where he will attend Georgia Military College.
Georgia signed a two-star athlete after confirming the adequacy of his ACT score and sent him to Georgia Military College because he still needed additional credit-hours to complete his coursework. You really have to work at it to characterize that as "[r]ecruiting players you KNOW can’t even get into school," particularly since Mark Richt has an admirable track record of signing recruits who pass muster academically. It’s not like our registrar’s office certified numerous ineligible athletes in multiple sports over a period of at least seven years or anything. . . .
Since all of us are out to get you, your paranoia is just a sign of clear thinking. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples---presumably another of those ubiquitous Gator-haters just looking for ways to take every little thing out of context to make Urban Meyer look bad---wrote the following about the "turmoil" (his word) in Gainesville leading up to national signing day:
Meyer resigned, citing health reasons, on Dec. 26. He changed his mind the next day, saying he would take an indefinite leave of absence. He kept on working, and during that time, he had to replace his defensive coordinator, his secondary coach, his running backs coach and his receivers coach/recruiting coordinator.
Despite all that -- and despite Meyer staying off the road much of January -- Meyer and his staff managed to assemble one of the nation's best classes. . . . With so many staff members in flux, the players already on the roster turned out to be some of Florida's best recruiters.
So having a staff in flux presented an obstacle for Florida, and George Edwards left the day after signing day. Nope, nothing to see here, huh?
Maybe the mention of Bo Derek in the Super Bowl open comment thread got me thinking about rating women on a scale on which ten indicates perfection. . . . Last Friday night’s season-high score brought the Gym Dogs’ average up to 195.85, good for ninth in this week’s rankings. Georgia’s losses were to No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Utah, and No. 14 Auburn.
Mark Fox has his team playing incompetently, which actually represents an improvement. Did Georgia’s 72-58 basketball victory over Vandy produce a final score that truly reflected the course of the contest? Not according to Train Island, it didn’t:
Judging by the numbers, it looks like Vanderbilt was lucky to come out with only a 14 point loss. The only key statistic that the Commodores came out ahead on was turnovers - 11 for VU compared to 21 for UGA. That opens up a whole other can of worms though - how do you force 21 turnovers and lose by 14 points? . . .
The team uncharacteristically fell apart in the second half after playing the first held together by streaky shooting and Bulldog mistakes. The only reason this game was close at any point was because of Georgia's incompetence. As a wise man said in the game thread: "Georgia's primary offense play is[/was] the turnover." Once the Bulldogs played with the composure of a Division I team, it didn't take them long to unravel the 'Dores.
It was a quality win for the Fox Hounds, but, when an opposing fan attempting in good faith to describe the game makes legitimate reference to your team’s "incompetence," you still have a long way to go. Winning two in a row and/or one on the road would be a nice start.
Because I don’t spend enough autumn Saturdays being obnoxious to people wearing orange. Clemson has released its 2010 football schedule and the Country Gentlemen have out-of-conference games against two teams with whom the Tigers share much history: Auburn and Presbyterian.
The first three men to serve as head football coach at Fort Hill all were alumni of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, and one of them, Clemson football founder Walter Riggs, later hired John Heisman to coach the Orange and Purple after having previously hired him to coach the Plainsmen while serving as the manager at Auburn. The Blue Hose, while never rising to the level of a genuine rival, regularly served as Clemson’s season-opening punching bag before Frank Howard recognized that Presbyterian provided no preparation for the tough slate that followed. The "Death Valley" nickname was first applied to Memorial Stadium by a head coach of the Blue Stockings.
Good for Clemson for reaching back into the Tigers’ past and scheduling teams with whom the Fort Hill Felines share significant history. If the Country Gentlemen have any more such dormant rivalries---and they do---perhaps it’s time to revive them more frequently, as well. I’m just saying.