Though events totally non-blog related have delayed it significantly today, this is the Friday Tailgate, the place where you put your virtual tailgate tent until such time as the Athens –Clarke County and University authorities allow you to pitch your actual tailgate tent tomorrow morning. It is the place for game predictions, idle chatter, and in this case speculation about what football coaches would be like as characters from a Coen brothers movie. Maestro, the music:
Long time readers of Dawg Sports will know that I have a particular soft spot for the movies of Ethan and Joel Coen. From Miller's Crossing to The Big Lebowski, their particular brand of absurd and occasionally morose humor just speaks to me on a primal level.
It occurred to me in the lead up to tomorrow's contest between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers that some of the men who have led the Creamsicle-clad gladiators of Knoxville would fit in quite well in some of the Coen brothers' film works. And no Coen brothers movie is closer to the ouevre of Volunteer football than Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, a depression-era retelling of Homer's Odyssey. It is an excellent movie in its own right, and also a handy key for catchphrases that I have probably inserted in a full third of the posts I have written at Dawg Sports over the past eight years.
It just so happens that most of the Tennessee Volunteers' recent football coaches find a kindred spirit in this particular movie. None of them is George Clooney's Ulysses McGill, though I looked really hard to match one with John Turturro's Big Lebowski character Jesus Quintana.
My final guesses on each of these are found below:
1) Phil Fulmer- Menelaus "Pappy" O'Daniel. Like the venerable governor, Fulmer was a man of the people, brought up in their midst as a Volunteer football player. He likewise embraced modern technology as a way of mass communicating to recruits. However, following a national championship, Fulmer found that they had one of them depressions on, losing a lot of football games. Whereas governor O'Daniel was able to avoid defeat in the end, and was not ridden out on a rail, Fulmer was unable to likewise keep on the sunny side of things. Still, I was unable to label him as Big Dan Teague for the simple fact that I have never seen him bludgeon anyone with a tree branch. But then I don't follow the guy around on a daily basis, so who knows?
2) Derek Dooley- Vernon T. Waldrop: The campaign manager for Pappy O'Daniel's opponent was a straight-laced perfectionist, who openly took to the moral high ground. He promised to grasp of the broom of reform and sweep out the corrupt prior administration. Anyone who does not see a parallel with Dooleys post–Kiffin regime is not looking very hard. Like Waldrup however, the well-intentioned Dooley ultimately found himself hamstrung by events outside of his own control, and was left defeated and broken, abandoned by his constituency.
3) Lane Kiffin- Big DanTeague: While it was tempting to make Kiffin one of the O'Daniels, because no one has benefited from nepotism and cronyism like him, this just seemed to fit. Kiffin strolled into Knoxville selling a message of hope. He didn't believe one word of it. He then left with the Vols' money after taking a tree limb to their program in the form of recruiting misses, questionable conduct which led to NCAA probation, and a night of mayhem that will remain a black eye on the program for years to come.
4) Butch Jones- The Blind Prophet on the railroad hand car: Anyone who'd jump into the middle of this fire either sees beyond what the rest of us can perceive or has gone crazy from the heat.
5) Johnny Majors- Pete Hogwallop: Betrayed by his own kin. Amirite Vol fans?
Feel free to quibble, or openly contest my selections in the comments below. Look into your heart. In the end it's just, like, your opinion man. Bonus points: figure out which Tennessee players, coaches, mascots, or fans would fit in other Coen brothers' movies. Frankly a Vols as Fargo characters would probably send me over the edge, especially if it involves Kenny Chesney going pica shell necklace first into a wood chipper. Until later . . .