Is it football, or soap opera?


Tebow crying while being consoled by teammate.

I chanced to catch a column by Washington Post Staff writer  Neely Tucker regarding developments in the world of football.  I knew this kid when he was 12 years old growing up in Sturgis, Mississippi.  In fact, he won a bicycle in a sweepstakes I ran for the bank I worked for.


His musings are printed verbatim, and I expect some of you football fans will be amused:

Tucker wrote:

“What in the name of Bear Bryant is going on here?

This is the traditional High Holy Day of College Football, when large men in tights bash the snot out of each other all day long in end-of-the-season bowl games. It is obsessive, extremely violent and possibly the most marvelous day of the year.

But today, you might as well tune into a Telemundo telenovela, because college football’s final month of the year has dissolved into . . . daytime television!

There are tears, hug-fests, betrayals! Catfights, lawsuits, a Texas Tech coach who made a kid with a concussion go stand in a dark room with not so much as a University of Tennessee “hostess” to keep him company! Coach got suspended, threatened to sue, then got fired! Florida’s coach Urban Meyer quit one day, then unquit the next! The Kansas coach was forced to resign because he — and this is hard even to type — said “hurtful” things to, like, linebackers.

Did we mention that Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the Most Rugged Player in the History of the Universe, started boo-hooing during a game? Because his team was losing? That his teammates patted him on the head and rubbed his shoulder? That when Alabama’s Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy, he started crying? That when Meyer told his team he was quitting, he started going wanh wanh wanh all the way home?

Gentlemen, for the love of Vince Lombardi, THERE AIN’T NO CRYIN’ IN FOOTBALL!

No wonder Tyra Banks and Oprah are retiring! They can’t match the drama!

’Don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like it,’ said Phil Steele, the veteran college football writer and analyst, of Tebow’s tears and the related soap operas. ‘I’ve seen athletes crying during competition in, I think, women’s gymnastics. College football? No.’

(The derision being heaped on Tebow is staggering. In the four weeks since his televised tearfest, some 205,000 people have become fans of the Facebook page “Tebow Crying.” That’s something like 6,500 people per day. The total more than doubles the number of fan pages the Heisman-winning quarterback has amassed in the past four years.
But no time to dawdle!

Let’s go to Texas and the Valero Alamo Bowl for the real hair-puller!

Much of this week’s episode of “Desperate Ball Coaches” has centered on Texas Tech’s fiery (now former) head coach, Mike Leach. He’s a very successful coach who has a very smart mouth. A few months ago, he taunted his own players for “listening to their fat little girlfriends.”

But then player Adam James (son of legendary football star and ESPN analyst Craig James) suffered a mild concussion. He said Leach punished him by ordering staff to lock him in some sort of shed on two occasions, for a couple hours at a time, and forbidding him to sit down while there.

When this blew up in the media, an assistant coach, never one to throw a sophomore under the bus, manfully told the university’s administration that James was “unusually lazy and entitled.” As if that made the shed thing A-OK. Well, the kid flexed right back. He posted a cellphone video taken inside his little shed of horror on YouTube.

The university demanded Leach apologize. He stamped his foot and said no. The university fired him, pretty much during a court hearing. Supporters in the gallery gasped. They started hollering that they would not be renewing their season tickets, thank you very much.

Leach had to leave the hotel where his team was getting ready to play Michigan State, but did let the world know the university was “dealing in lies.”

It has all left ESPN sounding like a Dr. Phil special.

“Why, Mike Leach? Why do you take a player and basically lock him in a shed or an electrical closet or whatever it’s called?” ESPN analyst Mark May wondered aloud on air the other night. “Why couldn’t both parties just come together and solve this?”

Exactly. Why didn’t they settle this the time-honored traditional method, with somebody slugging somebody else?

You know what Ohio State’s long-ago coach Woody Hayes did after losing one game? He threw a punch at a sportswriter. He was ahead of the hated “school up north” (Michigan) in another game by 36 points. After the last touchdown, late in the game, he went for a two-point conversion instead of the customary one-point kick. Asked why, he snarled, ‘Because I couldn’t go for three.’

He slugged an opposing player on national television, for Bear’s sake. In the middle of a game.

Of course he was a maniac. Of course he was fired.

But did he cry about it? Shucks, no. When Bear Bryant got tired of coaching, he didn’t complain about the stress and he didn’t weep to his team. He won his last game, hung up his houndstooth hat and died 28 days later.

Not that there isn’t room for a little honest emotion in the game.

Post reporter Hamil Harris, who played nose guard at Florida State many moons ago, was on a Greyhound bus in Florida on Thursday afternoon. He was en route to Orlando, to make it to Friday’s Konica Minolta Gator Bowl. It’s the last game of his old coach, Bobby Bowden.

As the bus rattled past “sugar white beaches and moss trees,” he sent this e-mail to friends:

‘Tomorrow I will be a husband, father and Washington Post reporter but today I am simply ‘Porkchop’ riding to say goodbye to an 80-year-old legend who was my coach three decades ago.’

When asked why he was making such an arduous trek, he explained that, as a walk-on player, his main job had been to hold a tackling dummy during practice. He did not get a plaque for making the team as the scholarship athletes did. He went to Bowden’s office and complained. He said he thought all players should get plaques.

Bowden, Harris e-mailed, “took a plaque off his wall and put in a gym bag and said, ‘Don’t tell anybody.’ It read ‘To Hamil from the Chief Nole.’

“This is why I paid $500 for a flight and $80 for a bus ticket to go to the Gator Bowl.”

A few minutes later, as we were marveling at this little story, he added:

‘They just kicked a drunk off the bus who left his whiskey bottle behind.’

It’s almost enough to make a football fan tear up. You could ask Tyra.”

And that’s the end of that story.

10 thoughts on “Is it football, or soap opera?

  1. Maybe women’s lib was worth it after all.
    Football has been feminized!!!
    What a wiseguy Neely Tucker is and he speaks my language.

  2. Neely’s come a long way since winning our bicycle, Emily! – including a best selling book a couple of years ago.

    He may have a future as a sports psychological analyst, also.

    Keep it up, Neely!!


  3. Hey Larry – yes, you remember the bike too! Remember how happy we were than he won it? You snowed in up there in Yankee land? We’re working on it – snow and sleet coming down by the buckets full. University and schools called off. Oh, how I love a day like today with no place to go! Stay warm.


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