If you were lulled into a stupor watching Bo Ryan run slow, agonizing circles around Tom Crean as the eleven o'clock hour approached last night, you might have missed the hidden gem on ESPNU. And that's too bad, but I'm here to help. Because while Indiana was losing its first home game, an Ole Miss Rebel named Marshall Henderson was putting on the greatest sideshow of the season, and his whole nutty carnival act climaxed with a buzzer-beater that tranquilized the entire Vanderbilt student body. Compared to BadgerBall, it felt like mainlining raw caffeine to the brain.
The NFL embodies the sort of idealized America that only exists when presidential candidates start to get a little teary-eyed about the promise of our forefathers. Every team starts with basically an equal chance of fulfilling the American Dream (read: annual trip to Disneyland), and if they fail to do so on a yearly basis, you can and should blame the victim. Work hard, be careful with your dollars, and allow for a sprinkling of top-down benevolence, and you’re on the road to success. With each season, there’s enough hope for the populace to vote with their wallets.
But in a way, college football has become far more actually American in terms of how economic hierarchies and criminal allowance determine the landscape — the most common phrase uttered during the recruiting process is the “rich get richer,” as resource-rich schools siphon the top talent from the needy like Mr. Burns’s slant-drilling operation. Real upward mobility takes generations, whereas the new-money teams are bankrolled by billionaires who are at least somewhat supervillain-y.
You think you're more excited than me about the start of college football? You think?! Then tell me this, hotshot: Did you bring a football to church to get blessed by a priest? In that case, you are definitely more excited than me. I wouldn't do that.
Seriously, though, how great is this time of year? I feel rejuvenated, blessed by the promise of football. I can almost feel my regrets slipping away, like I haven't made an irredeemable mess of my life. That's the power of football. To get us started with a new season, I want to hit you guys with a litany of confessions.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Drew Brees threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Saints routed the Giants 49-24. After the running touchdown, he tried to dunk the ball over the goalposts, but was forced to settle for a finger roll when his legs failed him. In related news, Drew Brees is now Jason Kapono's favorite player.
When it’s all said and done, the history books could show that this Kentucky team was coach John Calipari’s best team ever. Well, the NCAA history books will probably show that Calipari coached for only five years and the 2002 Memphis team that won the NIT was his best team ever, but whatever. The point is, this year Kentucky’s roster looks like someone is playing a video game and either put all the best players on one team or edited the player ratings and turned Kentucky’s guys all the way up. Hell, you could close your eyes and throw a dart at a team picture of Kentucky and chances are the guy the dart hit would be the best player on 95 percent of college basketball teams. (I originally wrote that last sentence as hyperbole, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s true. Kentucky really is that talented.)
At the start of the college basketball season, fans are looking for their team's story — a compelling narrative that will define their school's season. In the coming months there will be plenty of talk about conference records, coaching decisions, and off-the-court controversies. But, in the interest of balance, I've gathered the storylines guaranteed to not define any ranked team's season. Except Vanderbilt. Theirs is destiny.
North Carolina: Its rivalry with Tulsa has heated up after the Tar Heels stole the Golden Hurricanes’ athletic director Bubba Cunningham.
Kentucky: Walk-on Sam Malone hopes to garner playing time in order to become tired of Cheers-related puns in newspaper headlines.
Ohio State: Buckeyes will miss John Diebler’s jump shooting, singing.
Missouri: What do you want me to say? Don Draper went there.
This post has been updated to correct an error in the Gonzaga entry Jordan Carr runs the blog Better than Voodoo while trying to make it as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @btvoodoo.
Have you followed the Jordan Jefferson saga? If you haven't, it's not measurably different from any of the other black marks on college football's name. The gist is that the LSU quarterback and some teammates were at a Baton Rouge bar in August when a fight broke out. Four people were badly beaten — one suffered three fractured vertebrae — and witnesses reported that Jefferson kicked another in the face. He was charged with felony second-degree battery, and that charge was reduced to a misdemeanor last week. Nobody seems to be denying that the alleged brawl happened, but a grand jury decided it didn't warrant a felony. As his lawyer argued, the injury wasn't serious enough. Jefferson was reinstated, and scored a touchdown in the first quarter of last week's win against Kentucky.
Fair enough. If you can't live with that storyline, you shouldn't be watching college football at all.
Lately I've been getting that panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach that lets me know the weeks are about to get really long. It's a seasonal thing. Once baseball ends there is literally nothing to get us from Sunday night to Saturday morning. OK, not literally. Maybe you've got friends. Maybe family. But those things can't fulfill you the same way. So my question this week is, how do non-baseball fans make it through July and August? Those months are already the worst of the year. If I didn't have baseball to pass the time, I'd probably pay thousands to those lobbyists who want to make hibernation pills available to the public. And guys, I'm not even sure those lobbyists exist.
But I shouldn't complain. Playoff baseball is about to start, the college football season is in full swing, and October has the best weather of any month in the year. This is the golden age. Let's get to business.