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2008 Kickoff Cavalcade of Whimsy, Part One

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 22, 2008


The season is finally here and Pete Fiutak kicks off the Cavalcade of Whimsy with a three-day series of way too long columns starting with the steroid issue, Usain Bolt as a football player, the real greatest athlete of all-time, booting Joe Paterno out the door, and much, much more.

Fiu's Cavalcade of Whimsy

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

The Kickoff Extravaganza of Import ... Part 1

 
By Pete Fiutak   
What's your beef? ... Fire off your thoughts  
Past Whimsies
2006 Season | 2007 Season

Part Two How the season will play out
Part Three
The 5 wacky calls and 10 things to be grouchy about

With eight months off and the season finally here, I kick off the Cavalcade of Whimsy with three days of columns jam-packed with adventure, danger, and romance thanks to a star-studded cast starring Fannie Flagg, the dueling urns of Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Riley, the urn of Charo (even though she’s not dead yet), the comedy stylings of Fred Travalena (who makes a Richard Nixon face and throws up the peace sign with both hands), Michael Phelps, and Fannie Flagg! Oh, wait, that’s Match Game 2019. Sorry. Welcome to three days of self-righteously daft poppycock.

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … a few decent tidbits were suspended because I’m playing Georgia Southern. If I was playing Florida, they’d have found their way into the column.

"I offered you a chance when we could have done something, I offered you a chance to be a cop and you blew it!" … It’ll be a normal Tuesday night 30 years from right now, just like every other Tuesday night, and President Tebow will be getting into bed next to his beautiful wife, who fell asleep a little early after a long day. The kids will have been long tucked away, the dog will be out in the yard, and all will seem right with the world. Tebow will stay up to watch a little TV and catch the scores before turning in. Just as he’s about to drift off into a deep, peaceful slumber, his eyes will bolt wide open and he’ll feel this sick, gnawing pain in the pit of his stomach as he realizes he passed on anything to do with Playboy. It'll be at that moment, as only a long-time married man could fully comprehend, that he didn’t take full advantage of being the superstar quarterback at the University of Florida. He’ll then go off into another room where he'll order two secret service agents to take turns kicking him in the nads.

"Don't worry about it. If you miss it, we lose." … When it comes to big, monster football programs that don’t need the slightest smidgen of sympathy, Ohio State is in the team photo, but it’s hard not to feel a little bit for the team after the pummeling that has ensued after losing two national title games. Now the pressure and expectations go beyond the unrealistic and into a whole other dimension.

With almost everyone of note returning to a team full of players that should be in an NFL camp, and with the addition of Terrelle Pryor, not only is the season a total and complete failure if the Buckeyes don’t get to the national title game, which is hard enough in itself, and not only do they have to win it, but they have to beat an SEC team in Miami. They could clobber USC 45-0 and go on to beat Oklahoma in the national title game 35-14 and there would still be some in the college football world saying, “Yeah, but what would they do against Georgia.”

"
When its time to change you've got to rearrange/move your heart to what your gonna be/sha na na na na na na na, sha na na na na na"If this sports off-season has shown anything, it’s that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you've done. When a company wants to move on, it’s bu-bye time.

If Brett Favre can be rejected by the Green Bay Packers (and rightly so considering the way he jerked the team around), and if Joe Paterno can be given a daily nudge out of Penn State by some ready for a transition, then what hope is there for the rest of us?

Favre, at least, gave Paterno the blueprint on how to see if your franchise loves you or not. Blubber like a little girl at your ridiculous “retirement” speech, be instantly bored and throw out feelers that you’d like to come back as you’re walking off the podium, and then sit back and wait for the hug. If it doesn’t come, the team was never yours.

But here’s the crazy part; Paterno’s 2008 Penn State team is really, really good. As in could-win-the-Big-Ten good. This isn’t a Bobby Bowden situation where the time has come and gone for a successful transition to keep the party moving. Penn State, with this defense, one of the nation’s best offensive lines, receiving corps, and defensive lines (despite the loss of two key tackles), could certainly beat Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, at Syracuse, Temple, Illinois, Michigan, at Purdue, Indiana, and Michigan State. Let’s say the Nittany Lions win those nine, not a stretch, and wins one of three road games at Wisconsin, Ohio State and against a healthy and improved Iowa. That’s 10-2, a likely second place Big Ten finish and a possible trip to the Rose Bowl.


Memo to the Rose Bowl: When you have a chance to select the No. 2 SEC team to face USC, you take it … There’s no reason for the BCS rankings to matter anymore outside of the top two after the regular season is over. Now there there’s a BCS Championship Game, and the national championship doesn’t rotate bowls, there's just no point to any other pecking order. The Rose Bowl can still be the Rose Bowl, the Orange the Orange, and so on. They’re going to payout the same no matter what. Fox will still want the primetime TV slots, and ABC will still desperately want to hang on to the Rose Bowl. If you’re going to have the BCS, figure out 1 vs. 2, and then let the big bowls do whatever the heck they want.

“You know I'm not a fan of that tippy-tappy, tic-tac-toe, wide-open skating.” … For all the talk about the spread offense and how it can be the great equalizer, since all you really need is a fast, smart quarterback and a couple of backs who can move, but it could be argued that no one has yet to win a national title because of the spread.

Fine, so Texas might not have been able to unleash the full fury of Vince Young if it didn’t run its version of the spread, but that team was a juggernaut because Young was so good. The style of offense didn’t really matter since Young would’ve been great no matter what, but that's still the one example.

Florida didn’t win the 2006 because of the spread. It won because of its defense. While the spread has certainly helped programs like West Virginia, Illinois, Utah, and with its version, Hawaii, get to the BCS, it hasn’t really helped anyone get over the top. You still have to tackle, and you still need a defense. If you have that, like LSU did last year, it doesn’t matter what offense you run. Five of the current six best teams in America, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, USC, and Oklahoma, play it relatively straight with Florida the one running the spread. And here’s why; if you want to bring in NFL talent, you have to run an NFL offense.

The pros aren’t that happy about getting their quarterbacks hit, and while New England runs a Texas Tech-like spread, but with more downfield passing, the Florida/West Virginia version isn’t going to fly at the next level. If you succeed in a spread offense, you have to prove to the NFL types that you’re not a system guy.

While Alex Smith and Vince Young haven’t had any receiver help whatsoever, they have yet to show they can be NFL stars They’re the test cases. One of them has to become special, or watch how the talent starts to flow even more to the non-spread schools.

Off the topic … As the well-rounded sports fan that I am, I watch a lot of baseball until the NFL preseason kicks in, and I’ve begun to have a problem with the knee-jerk reaction of disgust every time a base runner dives into first to try to beat a close play.

“If it got you there any faster by diving, you’d see everyone doing that in the Olympics,” is the line, or something to that effect, that every analyst automatically throws out. But is that really the case?

If you’re talking about a finish line going from the ground up to infinity, then yes, an extra stride will get you across a line faster than diving. However, in baseball, a runner has to go to a specific target on the ground. That extra stride might get the head or an outreached hand across the base, but the foot might not actually hit the bag. No one says a player should try to run though a tailing fly ball instead of diving for it. He’s stretching out to get to a specific spot down low, too. Have you ever heard a football announcer yell at a runner for diving for the pylon, rather than run through it? Since everything in the history of baseball has been geeked up to death, this seems like something that someone, somewhere, should analyze.

Or just go to the Tom Osborne school of evidence tampering … A quick note to all colleges, coaches, and administrators: Never, ever, EVER, try to handle serious criminal matters in-house. The media will eventually find out everything in time, so there’s no use to not provide any info possible, so it's always best to go out of your way to keep things above board.

If a kid gets caught peeing on the lawn or with a joint, that’s one thing. Welcome to college. If players are being accused of sexual matters or any kind of felonious assault, the school no longer is a “family,” it’s an institution that has a right to protect all its students. Iowa, after the Pierre Pierce case, should know better, even if it thinks it's in the right. Otherwise, everyone will assume a cover-up. No, Iowa might not have covered up the alleged sexual assault involving two former players, but it wasn’t forthcoming enough in providing information, and that's what has caused the pickle.

The winner will play either the 2007 New England Patriots or the 1948 Thomas Dewey campaign … There’s no truth to the rumor that ESPN will run a tournament of the most dominant dynasties of all time with Michael Phelps going against the 2005 pre-loss to Texas USC team. (Sorry, but I can't let it go ... that all-time tournament before that Rose Bowl is still one of the biggest blunders in recent sports features history.)
 

Fine, so without the acoustic version of Wanted Dead or Alive we never get Kurt’s epic Unplugged performance … Saying Phelps, because of his medals, is the greatest athlete of all-time compared to Bo Jackson or Carl Lewis, is like saying Bon Jovi is better than Nirvana because he came out with more albums.


And you know Bolt would give Chad Johnson a run for his money when it came to celebrations … Track talent rarely translates into football production, one big smack from a linebacker usually ends the experiment, but considering what Jamaica just did on the track, and considering the size of Usain Bolt, I send my recruiting coordinator to Kingston yesterday to see how many athletes are remotely close to firing out a 700 on the SAT. I also do everything possible to see if Bolt can run a fly pattern with any regularity.

Where are Jammal Lord and Darrell Shepard when you need them … Has there ever been a collection of college quarterbacks like the Big 12 is trotting out this year? Considering Baylor’s passing offense under new head coach Art Briles should be occasionally dangerous, and Iowa State has some good new options to run its attack in Phillip Bates and Austen Arnaud, no one gets a week off this season.

It’s possible that no team has ever had to deal with as many great quarterbacks and passing offenses in one year like Texas will have to handle. The Longhorns won’t lose to a Florida Atlantic or a Rice, but new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will have some work to do with the nation’s 109th ranked pass defense.
- Florida Atlantic. Rusty Smith was the Sun Belt Player of the Year after leading the league’s best passing attack with 3,688 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
- at UTEP. The Miners finished 26th in the nation in passing led by Trevor Vittatoe, who threw for 3,101 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
- Arkansas. Yeah, the passing game still needs work, but Bobby Petrino is going to try getting the air attack going right away behind Casey Dick, who appears to be night-and-day better now that he gets to chuck it.
- Rice. The Owls finished 15th in the nation in passing. Chase Clement was sixth in the country in total offense and threw for 3,377 yards and 29 touchdowns.
- at Colorado. Cody Hawkins is a rising star.
- Oklahoma. Sam Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency.
- Missouri. Chase Daniel will likely be a Heisman finalist again.
- at Oklahoma State. Zac Robinson was 12th in the nation in passing efficiency.
- at Texas Tech. Mr. Harrell, your table is ready.
- Baylor. Averaged 273 yards through the air last year.
- at Kansas. Todd Reesing is on the Heisman short list.
- Texas A&M. Finally, a week off, right? Stephen McGee threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns last year on the Longhorns.

By the way, Texas Tech’s slate isn’t much better getting Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, SMU and the June Jones attack, and UMass and its star QB, Liam Coen, to go along with games against the Big 12 stars.

Three words: Bo Levi Mitchell … Thanks to six years of eligibility and the expanded Hawaii schedule, former Warrior star Timmy Chang’s career passing mark of 17,072 yards once appeared unbreakable. After all, he finished 2,041 yards ahead the No. 2 man, BYU’s Ty Detmer. But if the right player could be in the right system for four years, he might do it. If Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell does what he did last year, he’ll finish his career with over 16,000 yards in three seasons. If he had started as a freshman, the record would be in sight. That's why the SMU quarterbacks, if a true freshman really does keep Justin Willis on the bench, and the North Texas situation, when Riley Dodge takes over, probably next year as a redshirt freshmen, could bear watching.

Announcer: “This is Jim Carr. Jeff Hanson, I just can't tell you the pleasure you've given us. I'd like to ask one question. Win, lose or draw, this is the Chiefs' last game before you leave. Anything you want to say to Flood City?” 

Hanson: “What do you mean, Flood City? …
There’s a reason why the NHL is the NHL. One of the coolest ideas the league has created is the outdoor game. Last year it was Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo. This year, it’s Detroit vs. Chicago in Wrigley Field, and it’s going to be a tougher ticket to get than a Game 7 for the Stanley Cup. This would be an ideal game for December 31st, as everyone would give it a look for the sheer novelty, but this is the NHL. What does it do? It puts it on New Year’s Day, you know, bowl day, meaning all of Canada will be tuned in, along with the five die-hard American hockey fans who aren’t in Wrigley.

And to close out this day's portion of fun and merriment with a resounding, preachy thud  … We all need a little bit of shiny happiness in a time when the economy is in the tank and gas prices are through the roof. Floods, hurricanes, and other natural wonders are bombing away on us daily, the threat of terrorism hangs over out heads like the crazy uncle in the corner that no one wants to talk about, and the nightly news has become a horror show. Now, more than ever, finding warm sports fuzzies are a must to distract us from the everyday world. However, this only works if they’re real.

We’ve been lied to before.

From Mark to Barry, Lance to Ben to Marion, Roger to Andy, there have been more than enough examples of cheating to demand that sports fans, and more importantly, the media, be far more cynical and not be afraid to inquire about the legitimacy of what we’re all seeing. With that in mind, I’m begging everyone around the football world, from the fans, to Roger Goodell, to the NCAA, to the people covering the sport, who inexplicably continue to have their heads in the sand after we just went through this with baseball, to ask more questions and be more critical about how natural the athletes are. It’s not fair to the sport, and especially the players, to continue to brush the idea of steroids and undetectable human growth hormones aside, like everyone has done over the last two weeks as they assume all the Olympic and world records are just magically falling because of the athletes are just that good.

From moment one, the Olympics have been a steaming pile of hoo-ha (helped by consistent ads from Coca-Cola and McDonald's to show how their products and healthy lifestyles go hand in hand), and it all started with the host country. China, the bastion of truth, honesty and humanity that it is, artificially cleaned up its air for two weeks by keeping cars out of Beijing, used computer generated fireworks for part of the opening ceremony, pulled a Technotronic Pump Up The Jam by having the Chinese version of Ya Kid K, a very cute 7-year-old girl, handle the singing, while a cuter-looking 9-year-old girl did the lip-syncing, trotted out obviously under-aged female gymnasts, allegedly made possible by phony passports (although, do you really want to go from silver to gold on an age technicality?), and put the kibosh on any protesters of any kind. Start with that, and the slope gets slipperier and slipperier, and you just know, someday, these Olympics will have an ugly footnote attached to them.

I desperately hope Usain Bolt really is that fast, but past Jamaican star runners have been nailed for banned substances, and if something doesn’t smell fishy to you when an entire program all of a sudden rises up and becomes dominant, and one guy is so much faster than the rest of the field, then it’s your fault if you’re shocked when it all turns out to be a farce.

Of course, in today’s day and age of advanced technologies, better training, better scouting, better coaching, and a whole new generation of Marv Marinoviches browbeating sports and training into their children from conception, there’s going to be a higher level of athlete than the world has ever seen. However, when world records start falling like they’re no big deal, and when 41-year-old swimmers are doing things 21-year-old world-class swimmers can't, and when it’s all being done so easily, it's time to start digging deeper. Adding to the hypocrisy is the ring-leader of it all, Bob Costas, who can’t go 14 seconds without bringing up Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle, while pining for the over-romanticized pre-steroid days of baseball, and yet he has played lickspittle to Michael Phelps without daring to at least put the star of the games on the record to deny ever using performance enhancing drugs (call me totally naive, but he's one of the few who appear to be legit).

Fine, let the Olympics have their day, at least they took the focus off of Brett Favre for ten minutes, and now we’re finally close to life beginning again. Again, I beg of you to use a more critical eye than ever, if only because no one else is when it comes to football.

I want to enjoy what I’m seeing. I want to be amazed. I want to assume the best, and I'm trying to go into the football season with an open mind. It isn't working.

Whenever you hear the words “quick healer” or that a football player is a medical marvel, read between the lines. Whenever you see an old guy doing things old guys have never done before on an NFL field, and in some ways, improving well into their 30s, blaring sirens need to go off.

Whenever you see a college sports information department praising a player for being the strongest ever in the weight room, roll your eyes.

When the NFL Combine kicks in and certain mediocre teams somehow crank out workout warriors, understand what's probably happening.

Remember, the phrase “never tested positive” doesn’t mean anything. The tests continue to be ten steps behind the times, and the drug testers continue to admit as much. The harsh reality is that nothing much can really be done if someone really wants to cheat.

Would you be any less entertained if most offensive linemen were a natural 265 pounds? Would your college football Saturday be any less fulfilling or the games any less exciting if linebackers were running legit 4.7s at an honest 225 pounds? Baseball has gotten better and even more enjoyable even though chemical factories bashing 500 foot home runs 73 times a year have gone bye-bye, and football can be the same way. Eventually, it has to be.

But if you start counting by kicking your foot, you’ve gone too far … With all that said, steroids don’t have to be all bad. Using the technology available to heal faster isn’t a negative. It’s when the drugs and the human growth hormones are used to give a player a competitive advantage, and potentially ruin his or her health, that makes it a problem.

Ask any parent whose kid is having a hard time clearing up an infection what a little dose of steroids can do for a breathing problem or an ear ache. If a new ligament isn’t responding naturally and a shot will help the knee/elbow/whatever get better, there's no harm. But then it all has to be regulated when it comes to football, and that’s just too much effort, especially at the collegiate level, but in lieu of proper testing, it might be the only hope.

Part Two How the season will play out
Part Three
The 5 wacky calls and 10 things to be grouchy about