Our usual #HotSportsTakes columnist is on vacation this week. Please welcome guest columnist Holly Anderson.
FACT: There’s no I in “TEAM,” but there is an I in “WATKINS” — and if I didn’t know better, I’d think he put it there himself.
A thoughtless vandal made headlines this summer by chipping away at Howard's Rock. That was an obvious strike at the heart of a symbol. But where is the uproar when an athlete's prideful ways threaten to split the rock-solid heart of a squad?
"If we come out and beat Georgia, not just beat 'em but beat the mess out of 'em like we should, I don't see no problems in getting started in the right direction. I don't have disrespect for them or for nobody else, I just believe we can be just the kind of team we want to be. The talent is here, we know how to win."
FACT: You can't spell "Sammy Watkins" without "MY WINS."
College athletics has its share of problems. Drugs. Graduation rates. Tattoos. But elite athletes with attitudes like Watkins’s, guys with the temerity to think highly of their own team’s fortunes, are doing more than all these factors combined to erode the Cordura stretch fabric of the game.
It’s high time somebody put this Clemson Clownfraud in his place.
Talking is for coaches, young man. That's why they give them headsets. You, on the other hand, have the right to remain silent. Any trash you talk can be used against you — not in a courtroom, but on the field. In the Court of Raw.
For the past two Saturday nights, football fans have lived a charmed life. Last week, we got the Hail Mary Game. This week, there was a slice of triple-overtime insanity when undefeated Stanford survived a scare from USC. Those were the best games of the year, and the Musburger-Herbstreit duo were on the scene for both. There's a lot of season left, but it's hard to imagine a better back-to-back stretch. Somewhere in the world, a prime time TV programmer is dancing a jig. And so am I, because this was the most surprising week of the season.
Across the college football landscape Saturday, undefeated heads were rolling. Georgia Tech lost, Illinois lost, Michigan lost, and for a while, it looked like that unlucky group would welcome a fourth member. Humility and history beckoned in College Park, as no. 8 Clemson trailed Maryland 35-17 in the third quarter. The usual spark was missing. Quarterback Tajh Boyd had a terrible first quarter, highlighted by an interception return for a touchdown, and the Tigers defense showed no signs of making a stop. In situations like these, there are two choices for the favorite: go quietly into the night, or
Let's confront the scourge of college football. Forget the boosters, the agents, the arrests, and the embarrassing lack of a playoff. Those distractions can be stored in the attic of our minds on Saturdays. What's really aggravated me recently — and what I'm convinced will soon have a major impact on a big game — is the excessive-celebration penalty.
On Friday night, BYU and Central Florida were knotted at 17 in the fourth quarter, when UCF forced BYU to punt. It was a booming 61-yard kick, and J.J. Worton had to sprint toward his goal line to receive it. The ball went off his hands as he tried to make the catch, and BYU's Michael Alisa recovered at the 8-yard line and ran into the end zone. Because it was a "muffed" punt rather than a fumble, BYU wasn't allowed to advance past the point of recovery. But members of the punt unit, thinking they had just given their team a critical lead, were ecstatic. They formed a massive, celebratory pile in the end zone, and the flags flew for excessive celebration. Instead of first-and-goal, BYU was pushed back to the 23. The Cougars eventually scored, but the penalty could have changed the outcome of the game.
And what's the point? There's so much adrenaline in football, so much violent tension, that to expect players not to celebrate after a score is absurd. What's behind this conservative ideal? Exactly whom does celebration hurt? Why don't we want players to express their joy and showcase their personalities?
Football is supposed to be fun, but the draconian rules feel designed to stifle that aspect and turn the players into automatons. Any flicker of personality is punished. In its absence, we're supposed to revere some imaginary stoic star who calmly hands the ball to the official after a big touchdown and trots back to the sideline. It almost feels like the NCAA is trying to enforce a broader moral code, and, hypocrisy aside, that is most definitely not its place. It makes me so mad I could dance in front of a referee.
If I had to design the touchdown celebration rules, they'd be a lot shorter than the NCAA's Rule 9-2. This is all you need:
1. Don't taunt, bait, or demean an opponent. Keep the celebration about you and your team. 2. Keep it under a minute. 3. The team with the best choreography gets a four-point bonus.
I'm willing to negotiate on the last rule. Otherwise, one and two are all you need.
Let's move on to the Week 4 highlights before I make myself dizzy.