The 2012 college football season was something else, right? Remember all those killer pancake blocks from Eric Fisher? Ryan Nassib leading Syracuse to glory in a series of fearless two-minute drills? Cordarrelle Patterson making an impossible leap to secure a touchdown during a thrilling Tennessee comeback?
See, this is what happens when college football spends more time being viewed as an NFL feeder program than its own glorious ecosystem — you tend to forget that week after week, countless players warm our hearts by piling up untenable, system-abetted statistics, taking advantage of the tactical breakdowns made by 20-year-olds whose physical development far outstrips their mental one, and simply being in the right place at the right time. What became of Matt McGloin? God, remember Sam McGuffie?
The news came out Tuesday that college football's new four-team playoff system will be called "College Football Playoff." It's a safe choice for the BCS, which decided to play it simple. But the decision came at the end of a lengthy debate, and this morning Grantland received a sheet of paper from a BCS source with a handwritten list of 50 names it considered and ultimately rejected. Some of them are predictably masculine, some are cynical attempts to play off pop culture phenomenons, and some are just bizarre. Throughout, you'll notice a strange fixation on Nick Saban. In a few cases, clarifying parenthetical notes accompany the names. We now present the unedited list:
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.
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.
We could give you some context for this, tell you that it’s actually taken from LSU’s "Harlem Shake" video. But we’d rather not. So here’s a 10-minute loop of Les Miles dancing to an Epic Sax Guy soundtrack. We apologize in advance for how much time you’ll spend watching this today.
There’s no shame in transferring from one college to another. There is, however, usually lots of shame behind that decision. You know how this typically goes down. There’s the guy blindsided by classes that require more academic effort than half-heartedly slapping together dioramas based on the exploits of George Washington Carver. Or, there’s the guy who went to the same university as his high school girlfriend and later had to deal with the indignity of her hooking up with the RA. Or, that same RA lied to the dude after he downed a bottle of Goldschläger to drown his sorrows and said, “Everyone’s gonna forget about you singing 'Fake Plastic Trees' at the top of your lungs while crying naked in the hallway.”
Obviously, it’s bad enough when you gotta break the news to your parents, after they bought a bunch of sweatshirts and put that decal on their car and everything. Now just imagine you’re a top quarterback recruit; your decision to enroll in a certain school was met with months-long national scrutiny and you probably screwed some people over in the process. No one wants to see you succeed, especially if you’re a dude like Gunner Kiel, who I’m assuming is a total dick because his name is Gunner Kiel. Also, because he was last year’s no. 1 QB recruit, who eventually chose Notre Dame after spurning LSU and getting his manhood questioned by Les Miles. And, even more notoriously, he bypassed the chance to be Indiana’s answer to Tim Couch, the homegrown hero leading a beleaguered, basketball-mad program to the dizzying heights of an Outback Bowl bid.
Seriously, we wish Kiel all the success in the world. But if we’re looking at the recent trend of blue-chip QB transfers, the odds aren’t in his favor. Here are the most recent examples, and they don’t appear as if they’re individual pitfalls to avoid so much as a supermassive black hole.
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.
New restaurants have a staggering failure rate, largely because the infinite number of aspiring proprietors ignore the eternal truth, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” This explains the inevitable shuttering of your friend’s food truck that specialized in artisanal Fruit by the Foot or that gastropub down the block that tried to target-market college kids by serving a dozen varieties of Bagel Bites and harboring the last known supply of “classic” Four Loko without a liquor license. And yet, in the face of these harsh financial realities, the Atlantic Coast Conference is betting that nature has a hole in its belly that can only be filled by a $20 basket of chicken fingers named after Steve Wojciechowski.
Assuming most interested parties were distracted by the rumors of Selena Gomez cheating on Justin Bieber with Gucci Mane, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport website snuck in a mention of the "ACC American Cafe" that will be be operational by Spring 2014; one imagines its grand opening will be right on cue to attract the numerous Duke and Virginia grads on layovers en route to their horrifying iBanking jobs in New York, desperately guzzling multiple 11 a.m. martinis while watching their lacrosse bros stick it to those Johns Hopkins bozos. One also wonders why they had to go there with “American” and ignore the massive contributions of Serge Zwikker, Ademola Okulaja and Makhtar N’Diaye.
The mind truly boggles at the potential for the “ACC American Cafe,” particularly as it must find a way to compete with the California Pizza Kitchen and the Bruegger’s Bagels, which are truly awesome. Is it going to be a Cracker Barrel that sells DVDs of the first three Continental Tire Bowls in its waiting area? A Johnny Rockets for people whose nostalgia is primarily based on warm memories of Chris Corchiani or Jeff Lamp? Or, when you consider the ACC getting served a vaguely upper-crust rendering of the Big East’s horsemeat football over the past decade, is it just going to be sort of like a Chipotle?
As a 32-year-old, 5-foot-6 Jewish guy from Philadelphia who has been rocking a buzzcut for the entire 21st century, I think it goes without saying that I relate to Kentucky’s flat-topped phenom Nerlens Noel in a multitude of ways. The most pertinent being that sometime around Valentine’s Day during our respective freshman years of college, we both ended up writhing on a hardwood floor, wondering whether we were going to die or whether our futures were just totally screwed.
There are minor differences, obviously: Noel was well on his way to becoming the no. 1 pick in the NBA draft before tearing his ACL and being shelved for the season. His road to recovery will involve brutal, demoralizing physical rehab and doubts about whether he can ever regain confidence in his body. Mine was likely some horrifying incident with Goldschläger as a fraternity pledge, and my salvation mostly entailed copious amounts of Gatorade and switching to alcohol that didn’t have floating pieces of metal as a selling point.
1. I should declare up front that I am firmly entrenched in the strata of college football fanatics who find National Signing Day to be a weird and discomfiting phenomenon, and that I do not frequent any message boards, and that I believe that the hat dance has really run its course. I am of the firm belief that recruiting, while of obvious importance, probably means slightly less than we think it does, especially at this moment, with the sport on the dawn of a new age of offensive schemes, at a time when actual coaching seems to matter more than it ever has.
Manti Te’o’s fraudulent online emotional affair is eerily similar to Chris Webber’s timeout in the 1993 NCAA championship game. Webber’s temporary lapse in judgment ultimately defined his career despite a 15-year NBA run. Similarly, the defining moment of Te’o’s collegiate life may cast an even longer, weirder shadow over his pro career. Never mind that both were college students at the time of the respective incidents — both made timely mistakes with cultural significance that overwhelmed the rest of their public identity.
Manti Te’o is no longer ‘a good locker room guy and emotional leader.’ He is that dude who got Catfished.
Chip Kelly is the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. This is more exciting than it probably should be; obviously, coaches change jobs all the time. But this feels different, somehow. Kelly is the best contemporary offensive mind in America (that’s an arguable designation, but it’s certainly the argument I would make if you put a gun to my head and started asking bizarre, subjective questions about football strategy). The Eagles are an elite NFL franchise in total disarray, habitually hounded by a fan base that despises everything (including themselves). There are landmines aplenty, all in the form of questions. Here are the main ones:
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.