Preview 2007 Cavalcade of Whimsy - Part One*
Posted Aug 14, 2007

How should Virginia Tech handle the Michael Vick situation? What should college football history books do when it comes to teams with admitted former steroid users, like Brian Bosworth? This and more in Part One of the Preview 2007 of Fiu's Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Fiu's Cavalcade of Whimsy*

a.k.a. Frank Costanza's Festivus Airing of the Grievances

By Pete Fiutak   
What's your beef? ... E-mail with your thoughts  
Past Whimsies
2006 Season

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. Part Two starts to deal with the madcap fun and whoopee needed to get the season started. 

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.

Save sports.

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 a presence.

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.