Fiu's Cavalcade of
Frank Costanza's Festivus Airing of the Grievances
What's your beef? ... E-mail with your
Here’s part one of
the 2007 Season Premiere of the Cavalcade, dealing with the icky side of
sports as it currently relates to college football.
starts to deal with the madcap fun and whoopee needed to get the
If this column sucks,
it’s not my fault … I haven't written one of these things in a while, and
unlike the pros, I don't get any meaningless preseason games to use to
tune up for the season. Oh yeah, this is a preseason article. Sorry,
it's probably going to suck.
And while you’re trying to do the impossible, reinvent the great
American sitcom, find a decent rock band who can make music interesting
again, make a Quarter Pounder with cheese and large fries as healthy as
a spinach salad with the dressing on the side, and make Sarah Jessica
Parker attractive … O.K. college football, here’s your task, and
it’s not an easy one.
From the Bonds farce that resembled
the 1984 Apple McIntosh Superbowl ad (complete with Hank Aaron on
the AT&T Park big screen playing the role of Big Brother) more than a
chase for baseball immortality, to the “isolated, rogue criminal” posing
as an NBA official, to Michael Vick's alleged side hobby, to something
called the Mighty Ducks winning a Stanley Cup that four people outside
of the greater Anaheim area watched, to something called the Spurs
winning an NBA title that six people outside of the greater Cleveland
and San Antonio metropolitan areas cared about, to the Tour de France
being the ultimate showcase for performance enhancing drugs, and further
calling into question the heroics of one of America's greatest sports
figures, to a hot dog eating contest that garnered Super Bowl-like
attention, to an ESPN “Who’s Now” feature that did everything humanly
possible to make our nation just a little bit dumber, to fantasy sports,
the Wii and Madden making the fake far more interesting than the real,
to people being more interested in watching a TiVod game in 25 minutes
rather than enjoying the beauty and subtlety of its normal pace, to the
stunningly swift decline into irrelevance of longtime staples like
Sports Illustrated, Monday Night Football, boxing, the Indy 500 and the
Kentucky Derby, the legitimacy of actual sporting events and the sports
world are hanging by a thread.
We’re at a point in sports where, thanks to unprecedented media coverage
and often unnecessary hype, we've lost our perspective. Now, we quickly
dismiss the great events in search of the next “historic” happening the
weekend after. One week Tiger is making “history,” and the next week
there’s a “historic” record being broken, and the next week there’s a
championship in one sport, and then a championship in another, and then
comes another “history” making round by Tiger, and so on. The sports
world basically goes from pumped up moment to pumped up moment without
taking a breath in order to feed the beast of 24-hour sports coverage.
And then football season arrives.
College football is hardly innocent, and is easily the most hypocritical
of all sports in the way it pretends to be an amateur pursuit rather
than a multi-million dollar business that’s more professional than
anyone wants to admit, but it’s still the best sport going, even if it’s
not as popular as the league of mercenaries. And now, thank your
personal sports god that the season is almost here.
The BCS might be weird, but now we can talk about the merits of one team
over another, and every team's worthiness of playing for a national
title or being in the BCS, instead of dealing with Pacman Jones. The
Heisman race might be overblown and overrated, but the greatest of all
individual trophies still makes for fun banter, instead of having to
hear about which multimillion dollar star is holding out for just a
little bit more. With 119 teams, there are so many games and so many
opportunities for gripping football theater (all without being
bastardized by fantasy football) that goes beyond the antiseptic,
keep-your-socks-at-the-right-height NFL, and now we're this close
from finally being able to talk about an actual sport again.
I know, I know, we’re just around the corner from another school getting
tagged because a player ate an egg salad sandwich bought by a booster,
and the breaking of “unspecified team rules” will dominate headlines
soon enough, but as long as possible, get excited about the most
wonderful time of the year. Enjoy college football. It's one of the few
things we sports fans have left.
But if you’re wearing rainbow suspenders while saying it, you’ll
still come across as wacky … Just like comedians can’t make kids
with cancer or 9/11 funny, no sportswriter will win any points this year
by saying anything negative about Virginia Tech.
While Tech won’t exactly be America’s Team, like the New Orleans Saints
became last year, there’s almost certainly going to be a media-driven
cheer-for-the-Hokies-or-you’re-evil slant to the 2007 season. It’s
understandable. After all, the school can use all the pluses it can get
considering the last bit of national attention came when NBC was
allowing that doorknob to spout his manifesto of the tragically strange.
That’s why the Vick situation is so painful in Blacksburg. Vick might be
the Atlanta Falcons, but he’s a Virginia Tech legend and, for better or
worse, the face of an entire university for so many. From all the money
No. 7 has given to the school, to putting the football program on the
national map, to all the honors, hosannas, and reminders of what he did
for the football program before leaving early for the NFL, Vick is still
Unfortunately, it’s going to be so, so hard for the school to completely
distance itself from the current situation. Oh sure, this is America and
you’re innocent until proven guilty (unless you’re in Guantanamo Bay),
but along with death, taxes, and Rush Hour 3 sucking, there’s no
more sure thing than a case after the feds hand down an indictment.
U.S. attorneys don’t throw a dart without having rock-solid, unshakeable
evidence that it's going to hit a bull's-eye. If they actually go to
court with a case against you, that means they’ve got it in the bag.
That’s why it’s a really, really big deal in their world when
they lose. These guys are the ultimate closers.
Vick apologists, and all those NFLers who “have his back,” had better be
prepared to do a quick about-face. Fortunately, for Virginia Tech, I
have an easy, quick solution. For anything named after Vick, just
replace the name with the number 32 to honor the slain victims of the
April tragedy. No one will dare say boo about it.
“Pork chops taste guuuuud. Bacon tastes guuuuuud.” … Who does the
best job when it comes to public relations? The tobacco industry? Not
even close. Big oil and gas? Please. Who does the best PR?
These things have basically gotten a free pass when it comes to what we
find acceptable as far as killing animals. Of course, dog fighting, as
has been so graphically demonstrated in the Michael Vick case, is
deplorable and despicable. There’s no excuse for the disgusting
practice. None. However, you can’t be that outraged by it all
while you’re digesting that bacon double cheeseburger you had for lunch.
You can’t really be that sickened by the idea of defenseless
animals being born, bred, and trained to die for human pleasure, and
then go hit the Colonel’s for a bucket.
We all stick our heads in the sand when we’re eating chicken, ham,
sausage and turkey (there’s no truth to the legend that the greatest
Roman vomitorium was named Boca), believing we’re consuming animals who
passed on while sitting in an easy chair while watching The Price is
Right. No one thinks that we’re eating things that, with a better PR
firm and solid ad campaign, would’ve had names, and would’ve been
treated better than most humans.
Cream and Clear isn’t just a creative
defense to match up with the Run ‘n’ Shoot …
Barry Bonds is the ultimate sports villain,
and rightly so. He’s a horrendous human being (please, read Game of
Shadows), and he’s cheating baseball and the legacy and honor of the
most hallowed stat in sports as he passes a true American hero in the
record books. Not only has Bonds continued to deny any wrongdoing
(really, read Game of Shadows), but he’s been unrepentant even
after admitting he’s guilty in front of a grand jury. All the while he's
had the unmitigated gall to suggest race has had something to do with
how the media and the fans have reacted.
With that said, you can’t be that outraged by Bonds being the new
home run king, and you can’t even put a mental asterisk next to the
record, unless you’re prepared for the brutally honest reality when it
comes to performance enhancing drugs and the history of football.
If you really care about the effect steroids has on the record books,
then you can all but wipe out anything football related from the
mid-1970s through around 1990, since, for example, almost no one fielded
an entirely kosher offensive line. Of course, back then, steroid use was
basically an accepted way of life for so many college and pro players.
No one really thought twice about it for a long, long time, so while we
might all think of it as cheating in today’s day and age, it’s easier to
accept in a historical sense.
Past 1990, do you really think baseball players were the only
ones figuring out how to get away with juicing up? If NFL czar Roger
Goodell is so hell-bent on cleaning up the league by suspending players
who were accused of wrongdoing, without necessarily being convicted in a
court of law, he needs to have learned the disastrous lessons from the
Bud Selig era and start investigating what’s going on around his
corporation (even though the NFL has a far better record of testing than
baseball) before Congress decides to start doing some digging. The same
goes for the NCAA, who says it cares about the student-athletes, but
hasn’t really pushed the steroid issue even through the players aren’t
organized enough to have any rights and can be tested up the yang.
Even so, here’s the concept the American sports public has to get into
its head: the best performance enhancing drugs are undetectable, no
matter how many times the players have to pee into a cup or give blood
samples. There’s a reason why Bonds has never tested positive.
If you’re comfortable with the “everyone was doing it” theory, then
sleep well. But if you’re interested in setting the history of football
straight, at least compared to the “Steroid Era” of baseball, then you
have to start with the great Pittsburgh Steeler teams of the 1970s
(Steve Courson couldn’t have been the only one shooting up), continue
with the Lyle Alzado Raiders, who flaunted and bragged about how they
liked to bend every rule, and keep pressing with those mid-1990s,
two-time Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Bill Romanowski was a lone
gunman on that overachieving team of castoffs and misfits to pump up
with more than weights … riiiiggggght.
When if comes to football, America has always looked the other way when
it comes to steroids, because deep down, we like these guys to be
enormous, bigger-than-life figures. We like the huge hits and the speed
and the violence. Heck, these guys can’t walk or think straight when
they’re in their late 30s anyway, so who cares what happens to their
internal organs, right? Unfortunately, that seems to be the attitude.
College football has to be better. If you’re going to be all high and
mighty about “cheating” when it comes to a few Oklahoma players taking some money a few years ago, then you should demand the truth to finally
come out when it comes to real damage done to the integrity of the game. But be careful; things get really,
really ugly if you're taking a hard look at the top teams of the 80s and
90s. You want to nail the Oklahoma record books with something real? How
about all those wins in the mid-80s with Brian Bosworth, an admitted
former user? That's just a tip of the overall iceberg.
Unfortunately, it’s time the red flags go up on anyone over 250 pounds
who can run a 4.4 40. It’s time to be more than just a wee bit
suspicious any time someone gains 45 pounds of muscle in five months and
gets a whole lot faster. To be honest, the pros can do whatever they
want. They're entertainers. I just care about the college kid who feels
he needs to do whatever he has to in order to be on scholarship.
Having the faux Ian Johnson proposing to
the faux cheerleader on the sidelines is really over the top …
Forgetting that any video game that Tom
Brady-wannabe (and aren’t we all) Matt Leinart is able to run for a
50-yard touchdown against Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl probably isn’t
worth its salt, shouldn’t Cory Bennett, DeMarcus Granger, Lendy Holmes,
Alonzo Dotson, D.J. Wolfe, and Curtis Lofton of Oklahoma, and Jeff
Cavender, Ryan Clady, and Ian Johnson of Boise State all be declared
ineligible, through absolutely no fault of their own, after their images
appeared in the TV ad for the EA Sports NCAA Football 2008 video game?
Let’s cut through the crap; those aren’t just generic images that just
so happen to have the same numbers as players on teams, as they’re
technically supposed to be in order to keep everyone eligible, those are
the exact likenesses of the players themselves down to the height,
weight, skin color, muscle tone, speed, quickness, and any other
category you can possibly think of. I know; I’ve worked on putting
together the player attributes on these games in the past. If No. 28 is
Adrian Peterson, as stated in the ad, then those are the other players.
Why are they still eligible? $$$$$$$$$ … and it’s not going to the
players. Now, you STILL want to nail OU to the wall for a few ex-players
taking a few hundred bucks from a car dealer?
Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I rubbed a
steroid cream on my knee ten years ago after surgery on a torn ACL.
There's now an * next to all my past columns.
Part Two is coming tomorrow. I'll try to be more entertaining.