Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Football Stuff to get out of the way

From time to time, I post something concerning sports. You might even call me an athletic supporter. For me, though, there is one sport that stands above the rest. While some write poetically about baseball and others describe gracefulness of Dr. Naismith's game, I prefer football.

I know. I know. How does a non-violent, peace-loving feminist love the sport that epitomizes everything he stands against? I'm not totally sure. In fact, I have a lot of problems with the sport despite my fandom.

Let's take the NFL draft. Here are rich companies, better known as football teams, measuring, testing, and scrutinizing young men to determine who will fill their needs the quickest. Of course, most of these young men are African-American. Although the players do get significant compensation, the whole process does stink a little of our country's history in slavery. Again, the players make a lot of money, but they also have short careers (3 years on average) and shorter lifespans than the average Joe (about 55 as compared to the national average of 77).

Regardless, I watch the NFL, including the troubling draft/auction. No other professional sport provides as much parody as the NFL. This gives me hope that every fall my Cleveland Browns will finally overcome drives and fumbles and Art Modell to actually challenge for a championship. They've got the weapons in Braylon Edwards, motorcycle trickster Kellen Winslow, and once-unknown QB Derek Anderson. Besides that, they have an African-American coach in Romeo Crennel. I always cheer for the black coaches. African-Americans just don't get their share of head-coaching jobs in the league.

I've got a lot of problems with the underlying racism in the NFL in addition to its insistence on cities building them stadiums paid for by tax payers as the league continues to rake in the dough. However, I will probably continue to follow the league and watch the Super Bowl.

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Although the NFL has dominated recent sports news, my real l
ove is for college football, in particular for The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Despite losing another national championship game to an SEC team, it's been a good off-season for OSU. The one player who left early for the draft, freakish defensive end Vernon Gholston, was chosen #6 by the Jets. The best part is that Ohio State has five projected first-rounders back for next season. Pretty much everyone is coming back. Also, they signed the best quarterback to come out of high school in years in Tyrell Pryor.


Some have criticized Ohio State for being too slow to play against the speedy SEC, but I don't think that's the problem. Ohio State has run away from SEC teams in each of the last two national championship games on long touchdowns. Conversely, neither Florida nor LSU was able to break big plays against OSU's defense. The difference is in competition.

The SEC has long been considered the best conference in college football. The league is very balanced with teams all over the top-25. This means that every game is competitive, week in and week out.

The Big Ten (or eleven, but who's counting?) is not as deep as the SEC. Really, the conference only has one legitimate national title contender in OSU. Michigan used to be good, but the Wolverines have dropped six of the last seven to my Buckeyes. The rest of the league is mediocre at best.

This difference means that whomever comes out of the SEC on top, is better prepared than Ohio State for the national championship game. Ohio State is loaded with NFL-caliber talent. So, the argument that they're not fast enough is bogus. Apparently Michigan was fast enough to beat Florida or Wisconsin was fast enough to beat Arkansas and Auburn the previous two years. The speed theory doesn't hold up. However, the overall strength of the conference is the primary factor.

This discrepancy in conference schedules is why Ohio State has to play teams like Texas, USC, and Oklahoma in their non-conference games while the defending champs are playing Tulane and North Texas. OSU has to bolster their schedule because the Big Ten is so weak.

Either OSU needs to form a new conference or the Big Ten needs to upgrade (add West Virginia, Notre Dame, Pitt, and/or Louisville) or this will keep happening.

I look for OSU's season to come down to one game. I'm not talking about their annual rivalry game versus Michigan. Oh no, I'm talking about the game on September 13 in LA versus the vaunted USC Trojans. If the Buckeyes win that, there's nothing that can keep them from making it back to the national championship for a third year in a row, and fourth time in the last seven years. If they lose, they will dominate their conference and settle for the Rose Bowl, even if no one else is undefeated (like last year). There's no way the voters would put OSU in the top two spots without an undefeated season.

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I guess my love of football comes from my upbringing. I grew up in Ohio, a football crazy state. Many say that modern football was born there when Paul Brown took teams in Massolin, Columbus, and Cleveland to championships at all levels. Four of the country's oldest high school rivalries exist in the state. One of those rivalries involves the team that hosts the NFL's Hall of Fame game (Canton McKinley) versus the team who hosts all divisions of state championships (Massillon Washington).

Then there are the players who have passed through the Buckeye state. Jim Brown, whom many consider to be the greatest football player ever, played his entire pro career for the Cleveland Browns. Then there are legends like Chris Carter ("All he does is catch touchdowns."), Larry Csonka, Archie Griffin (only two-time Heisman winner), Paul Warfield, Orlando Pace...the list goes on and on and on. The list of coaches is equally impressive with current Buckeye coach Jim Tressel, Woody Hayes, Paul Brown, Urban Myer, Lou Holtz, Bo Schembechler, Don Shula, etc. etc. Football is in our blood in Ohio, something that people in Misery don't get.

Hell, footballs are made in Ohio.

I played football from seventh grade on while in school. There were three years as a starter and varsity letter winner. There were last second heroics. There was even a brief flirtation with a D-1 scholarship. I played one season with a D-3 team before discovering indie rock, beer, and college women. I too have played some ball.

As of Sunday, I continue to play. I joined a flag football team in an ongoing effort to get back into shape. What I'm saying is that the sport is a part of my identity and will not be easily dismissed despite the many, many problems I have with the sport.

I really have no idea where I'm going with this. I've just had football on the mind and had to get a post out that addressed my love for the sport. Of course, I didn't get into any of the really tangible reasons I'm into it or any of the major controversies that question my fandom every day. I just like football.

That is all. I've got my fix. I will post on more important matters soon.

9 comments:

Kate said...

And how about that little Justin Boren grab for OSU? Hey-O! I can't wait until August 30th!

comoprozac said...

It's just another victory over the Wolverines. It's routine anymore.

BillySchuh said...

Cameron Heyward is a monster...
i'm a mizzou guy, and i have been forever, but it is easy to see why OSU maintains its loyal fan. (see http://www.buckeyplanet.com)

Huey said...

More important matters??!!! What?! There is nothing more important than football.


But seriously, I loved this post. I really felt your passion for football. And pride.

I wanted to add to the list of coaches that have come through OSU or the state. Remember earlier this decade 7 of the top 10 college football head coaches were assistant at OSU at one time?

And the list of players could go on for days. People are quick to mention Texas as a big football state and rightfully so. They also bring up Florida and California as hotbeds of talent. But Ohio is right up there with them if not better.

While the sport does represent some questionable things, it is oh so good. There is plenty about it that is good in my mind with the bad. How about Romeo winning a Super Bowl for all the black coaches out there!? I know Tony Dungy already has one, but we need another I think.

And if OSU's juniors all left, we could have had 3 of the top 5 picks this year....at least! Look out. That USC matchup in September will be fun!

And yes, the schedule is more of a reason the SEC is dominating us than speed. Whatever the reason I am tired of it.

Huey said...

Heyward IS a BEAST!!!

GE said...

Err...Go Blue.

comoprozac said...

I've heard a rumor that someone here may have written a book about the OSU/UM rivalry. Anyone?

GE said...

I've been outed. Funnily enough, I was a a guest on Sirius' Rivals Radio this morning to talk about my book (shameless plug alert), The 100-Yard War.

comoprozac said...

Plug away. Your kids have to eat.