I have no intention to make fun of Raekwon McMillan; I have no intention to make fun of anyone who’s 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, and incredibly skilled at hurting people. No, this is more to just point out how the subject of the most heated recruiting battle in the Class of 2014 just so happens to share a name with one of the greatest rappers ever and absolutely nobody else.
Now that the NCAA tournament has come to a close, we can all direct our attention toward giving proper due to his parents, who conflated the tenets of “A Boy Named Sue” and the Wu-Tang Name Generator to put young Raekwon McMillan on the track to becoming a total badass. First off, wise choice on Raekwon, because if his name were “Ghostface McMillan,” “Masta Killa McMillan,” or “Dirt McGirt McMillan,” the authorities surely would’ve gotten involved and his real name would’ve probably been like Bradworth or Bennett instead.
Here’s the question: How seriously does Raekwon McMillan take his name? If we gauge his age correctly, it’s almost certain his parents heard his namesake's masterful solo debut, and rightfully figured, “Yes, this album is basically going to define our newborn’s entire life and we are sure it will sound good for its duration.” So rather than reading the tea leaves of his Twitter feed, we can reflect on what school he might choose judging from his de facto birth certificate, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.
It goes without saying that the most difficult endeavor anyone takes up at the collegiate level is forming an intramural flag football team. The mere logistics are frightening: finding at least 10 people who can agree to not be drunk for the same two-hour span, one day a week; figuring out what sporting goods store will sell the cheapest pair of cleats and accept their return two months later with no questions asked; rejecting at least two dozen Anchorman references as suggested team names; and, of course, bullying the dude with the lowest opinion of his athletic abilities into playing center.
Take that situation and extrapolate it into creating a college football team from the ground up, and one that’s going to challenge someone other than the Pi Lam dudes. It takes a leader of inordinate energy and charisma, someone with youthful vigor, a strong sense of purpose, a refusal to look the other way when difficulties arise. Obviously, someone like Phil Fulmer.
Let's go. Let's get it turned up. There you go. Let's get it. Black on black. Murdered out. You got your gold? Time to get after it. Let's go. There you go, Dominique. Trying to eat. Let's go. Let's get it turned up. It's all good, baby-baby.
The football rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State, nicknamed the "Civil War,” has always had something of an image problem. Take the name, for starters: Though quite common, it’s not as deliciously ironic as the BYU-Utah “Holy War,” or as geographically appropriate as the West Virginia–Pittsburgh “Backyard Brawl.” But for decades, that name was all they had. Neither school was even remotely on the national radar before the mid-'90s. And if they were, it was because of their Disneyfied color schemes and innocuous mascots.
But now, the “Civil War” sounds entirely quaint seeing as how the Beavers have taken after the Ducks’ Decepticon rebranding and the two schools will appear to be reenacting Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen this December, right in time for Christmas. By this point, I don’t think I have to preface you on why it’s major news when Oregon State’s Nike-sponsored gear is dropping jaws. My lord, have you seen these new Oregon State unis? Being that Phil Knight is a UO alum, I’m unsure if OSU has much pull in Beaverton (oddly enough), but it appears as if the school took a gander at Nike’s Pro Combat line and said, “We’re trying to win football games, not look like we’re going to church.” Those Neopolitan face masks!
The lesson was important: The Beavers already had one of the most recognizable color schemes and logos in college football, but as coach Mike Riley tweeted, it’s all about luring 18-year-old kids who might base the next four years of their lives on the possibility of wearing socks that are inscribed with “hip hop hooray.” Oregon State can serve as an example for many other second bananas across the college football landscape that are seeking to gain ground on their more respected rivals through some kind of radical and ridiculous rebranding. Sure, it looks a little desperate and they might always be no. 2 compared to their wealthier, more successful elders, but there’s nothing wrong with being Solange these days. Here are some more glaring opportunities:
I have never been to Lubbock, and therefore I have never visited Chrome, the clothing store owned by Texas Tech alum Stephen Spiegelberg, who became the source of mockery this week when a rather fervid marketing memo he sent to a deputy athletic director at the school was forwarded to Deadspin. Here is what my research reveals: According to the utterly impartial reviewers at Yelp, it is pretty much the only designer boutique in town; according to these reviewers, its salesgirls are skinny and impatient and mostly naked, and they occasionally make snide references to Nordstrom.
So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the tenor of Spiegelberg’s memo, which is so utterly Zoolander-ish that I have to wonder if he wrote it just to attract attention to his wide selection of designer denim. And yet beneath all the bluster about Tom Landry’s fedora and the media’s (admittedly true) wizard fetish, his larger point is not entirely insane: Coaches have always been the face of college football, and coaches have long established an identity through iconography, and the iconography of the Red Raiders’ newest head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, is indeed unique to the sport.
Last Saturday, Nick Saban offered a scholarship to an eighth-grader. Saban is the best coach in college football because he is also its most zealous authoritarian, and yet, in this case, what Saban did is not quite as Machiavellian as it sounds. For once, he was actually playing catch-up with a trend: The eighth-grader in question, Dylan Moses, is a 6-foot-1, 215-pound running back who runs a 4.46 in the 40 and was already offered by LSU last summer (watch him ravage the Alabama Louisiana middle school countryside in this highlight video — I highly recommend 2:11, when Moses actually makes a tackle by using an opponent as a projectile).
Moses is not the youngest football player to be offered a scholarship in recent years: Quarterback David Sills committed to USC at age 13, and another quarterback, Tate Martell, committed to Washington at Moses’s age of 14. And none of this is particularly new: Back in the fledgling years of the previous American century, a Princeton recruiter named Charles E. Patterson trolled the greens of Exeter and Andover in search of talent. “He sent into the Princeton entrance examinations boys one, two, even three years away from college,” wrote muckraking journalist Henry Beach Needham in McClure’s magazine. “‘Go in and try it,’ he told them. ‘There’s no harm in trying. You might get through.’”
Yesterday, in a glimpse into the inner sanctum of the reigning NBA champs, LeBron James tweeted about how Ole Miss became the story of Signing Day — no mean feat considering the sagas of Reuben Foster and Alex Collins — and probably violated some arcane NCAA recruiting violation by having an opinion on the subject.
This is astounding on multiple levels. Well, I guess it’s only astounding on three levels. First off, if you look at the Heat’s roster, they don’t strike me as guys who derive a lot of school spirit from their former schools' fortunes on the gridiron. Secondly, recruiting isn’t the realm of the casual fan, it’s the postseason lifeblood of college football bloggers, day drinkers, and people deep in SEC country, which is a very tight Venn diagram. Lastly, they’re talking about Ole Miss ... and when you consider that school’s, to put it delicately, image problems as well as its mediocrity on the football field, you’d think LeBron James would be aware of their recruiting status only if Erik Spoelstra’s kid was offered a scholarship or something. And even then, I think that’s debatable.
Whether it’s the BCS poll, the Oscar nominations, or the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop albums list, year-end lists reduce an array of highs, lows, hints, rumors, allegations, and things left unsaid into a simplified fiction that lies to our children and our children’s children by insinuating, “Hey, everything was great!” when the truth is, the narrative was informed almost as much by the disappointment. For every Johnny Manziel there was a Taylor Martinez. Likewise, for every Japandroids album that reminded us of how invigorating shout-along/drink-along punk rock can be when imbued with undeniable melody and drum solos you can pound out on your steering wheel, Green Day made three proving you better get your kicks in before you turn 35.
The Misery Index has honored the teams throughout the year who have served as a reminder of how fleeting glory can be, how expectations can ultimately lead to resentment, how ambition is the first step to failure, while giving a nod to the artists, movies, and musicians who did the same. And now it’s time to honor a season’s body of work; they started 2012 out as Most Likely To Succeed and ended it as Most Likely To Be Forgotten, though the Misery Index hopes to keep their spirit of futility alive for generations to come.
1. Jadeveon Clowney
Until the year 2013, if you had asked me to cite off the top of my head the greatest defensive play in college football’s recent annals, I might have noted this, or made a blatantly homerish reference to this. But that era has ended, because I have been told by a seismographer of questionable repute that Jadeveon Clowney’s hit during yesterday’s Outback Bowl actually triggered a minor aftershock at the breakfast buffet of a Shoney’s in St. Petersburg.
If you believe December to be a month defined by its commercialist ideals — and really, there’s no other way — the dominant message is that your previous 11 months can be judged by the state of your relationship. And viewed through the lens of a moderately priced piece of Zales jewelry, there essentially are two kinds of people: those who joyously indulge in holiday parties and modest gift-giving, and those who anticipate a lonely Christmas where they get taken to task by their elders who simply want to know what the hell is wrong with them and why they keep messing things up. Some people are sipping eggnog by a fireplace, others are chasing Captain Morgan with a McFlurry by the warmth of a space heater.
Not surprisingly, college football is every bit as beholden to relationship envy as our culture wants us to be during Black Friday. The mind-set is that no one should have to spend December without a BBVA Compass Bowl bid to look forward to at the very least. And if you don’t get what you want, the social mores are no longer in place to preach patience over acquisitive thinking. Simply put, the idea that you’re going to subject yourself to the whims of an emotionally unavailable and likely abusive white dude as long as he puts on a good face in public and keeps food on the table is as antiquated as a houndstooth hat.
The good news is that the coaches themselves are finally willing to enter the 21st century and embrace the joys of casual flings, multiple partners, and discreet hookups — in other words, the exact things online dating was meant to foster. Of course, whether it’s JDate, OKCupid, or Christian Mingle, some people are, as the kids say, “thirstier” than others. OKCoach is only in beta testing right now, but our inside sources [cough — Jeff Long — cough] were able to grant us a one-week pass. Unfortunately, until we upgrade to the paid subscription, we can’t see the premium content that includes the “swingers” profiles. But our connection says it’s worth it if only to see “PsychoLeSU” and “TurfIsBluer.”
My Self Summary: If it feels good, do it! That’s my motto. Motorcycles, flights after midnight, naughty texts, doesn’t matter. I think the kids call it “YOLO,” but rap’s never been my thing.
This is it, gang. This is the last Semi-Ignorant Guide of the year. Thank you for joining me on this ride as I spouted half-truths and outright lies, took credit for lucky upset predictions, and generally learned nothing of value. This, in the end, is what being a sports fan is all about. Let's get right to the top 10 games (all times EST).
10. No. 16 UCLA at no. 8 Stanford (Friday, 8 p.m.)
I've told you before about my college football pool, in which 18 of us pick the 10 most prominent games each week against the spread. So far the leader has 68 points through 13 weeks, for an average just barely above .500. All but two people are at .500 or below. Some of us know football pretty well, others are clueless, but it doesn't matter. It's impossible to pick games against the spread. But over the course of the season, I've come to realize that Las Vegas knows everything. Every once in a while, there's a point spread that seems absolutely ridiculous. Last week, when Louisville (undefeated in the Big East) was an underdog against Pittsburgh (1-4 in the Big East, 4-6 overall), everyone in the pool thought it was a gimme. The result? Pittsburgh won, 27-6. Somehow, Vegas knows all.
That is not the tagline for Flight, though it’d be cooler if it were. It’s actually a lyric from Modest Mouse’s “Shit Luck.” Even if that’s still a little too outré for Robert Zemeckis, you’d figure they’d use it anyway considering how far the movie goes to make everything else as blatantly obvious as possible. You basically know half the movie just from watching the trailer, and it is also a film about flying named Flight. Beyond that, cocaine highs are soundtracked by Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright,” heroin addicts shoot up to “Under the Bridge,” and alcoholics are so raging about their habits that if it weren’t for Budweiser explicitly asking their name to be removed from the movie, you’d think they took part in a Casino Royale–style gambit of extravagant product placement.
It was released in theaters earlier this month and certainly deals with enough emotional, physical, and property damage to inspire more than a few words in the College Football Misery Index during any given week. I just didn’t realize an airplane hurtling toward certain doom would be an apt metaphor for the entire sport in light of almost every contender flaming out and conference realignment once again having everyone reach for their oxygen masks. So we’re strictly dealing with the big topics in this week’s Misery Index — all BCS contenders and conference carpetbaggers, and much like the alcoholic Denzel Washington plays, their self-destruction hurts us just as much as it does them.
It's Rivalry slash Thanksgiving Week, when teams who have historically aggravated one another by virtue of shared geography, but who may not even be in the same conference in 2012, meet up for an annual gathering of bad feelings. This is the week for Florida–Florida State, Georgia Tech–Georgia, South Carolina–Clemson, and more. But before we get to the top 10 games, let's take a quick look at the perfect scenario for the final few weeks of college football, and let's do it in stream-of-consciousness form. For the ultimate comedic and poetic payoff, here's what has to happen:
Oregon loses to Oregon State, Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, Florida loses to Florida State, Alabama loses to Georgia in SEC title game, Georgia Tech beats Florida State in ACC title game, Kansas State loses to Texas, Stanford beats UCLA then loses to UCLA in Pac-12 title game, Louisville beats Rutgers but loses in a bowl game, Wisconsin beats Nebraska in Big Ten title game, Notre Dame loses to USC, Oklahoma wins out, Kent State and Northern Illinois both lose in bowls.
First, none of those outcomes are unlikely. All of them put together? Highly unlikely. But humor me for a second, because these are the teams that would earn automatic BCS berths if that scenario plays out: Georgia Tech, Georgia, Louisville, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Oklahoma. And the national title game would probably be Notre Dame vs. Georgia. Now, let's say Notre Dame, at 11-1, loses to 11-2 Georgia. Also, Ohio State beats Michigan this week.
The result? Zero bowl-eligible teams with even a one-loss record, and a BCS champion in Georgia that lost 35-7 to South Carolina, and suffered a hypothetical loss to Georgia Tech. The whole college landscape is a dusty wasteland. And then, rising amid the destruction, like a glorious phoenix, is Urban Meyer with his 12-0 Ohio State team. So riddle me this — could the AP poll, which is independent of the BCS, really put the Buckeyes anywhere but no. 1? I say no, and that means Ohio State would win a split national championship. The same Ohio State that's banned from postseason play because some kid got a free tattoo, and the same Ohio State that barely beat Cal at home, escaped from Indiana, and needed a miracle to beat Purdue in overtime.
And when all that happens, I'm going to phone up the BCS and just start laughing in their faces. A dude can dream.
Guys, I'm not gonna put lipstick on the Week 12 pig. This is not a terrific Saturday. After several weeks of knocking us back on our heels with marquee game after marquee game, NCAA football is slumming it. This is the week when most SEC teams are playing what I think are high school squads, but may in fact be new Big East teams.
But here's my argument — weird, wild stuff happens in the so-called "boring" weeks. Something's going down. An upset is brewing. I'm not sure if it's Baylor over Kansas State, Wake Forest over Notre Dame, or Stanford over Oregon, but it's coming. And when it comes, you don't want to be the guy with his thumbs in his pocket, crying. Stop crying, dude.
Despite Alabama's loss to last year's Big 12 also-ran Texas A&M, reports of the SEC's death are greatly exaggerated. And entirely premature. That conference is like the sunrise. You can't stop it.
From a statistical standpoint, there is only a 1-in-7 shot that all three of the remaining unbeatens in college football — Notre Dame, Oregon, and Kansas State — finish the regular season without a loss.
People freaking out that a 12-0 Notre Dame might not play for a national championship are having the wrong nervous breakdown. Those people should have the heebies and/or jeebies about either of the SEC teams in the current BCS top five (Alabama and Georgia) ending up in Miami. Historically speaking, it's not at all unlikely that multiple teams near the top of the polls still lose. Should that happen, and should the SEC step its way into another title game, it might also be totally undeserved.