Oregon vs. Texas tonight in the Alamo Bowl may be my last stand. The timing and symbolism can't be beat.
Something has changed in the game--I should say surrounding it--that has made the entire experience of watching and attempting to enjoy the spectacle and color of college football less agreeable than in the past.
It didn't happen overnight, of course. The game as spectacle has been evolving for a number of years now, but the bottom line for me is that the game no longer gives me the joy it once did. I don't like the new trend. I have turned the other cheek in the main. Perhaps it is time to give up on it altogether.
Its colors have changed, too, like something growing liver spots over time. The game has grown ugly, not on the field where it maintains a certain appeal, but everywhere else.
My relationship with the game is floundering like a bad marriage. We may have irreconcilable differences.
The politics of the game have changed for the worst. The actual bottom line--the economy of the game--has shifted, and I am ill-equipped to deal with its newest shibboleths; in fact, I do not even care about the politics of games or their monetized values.
Never have. That is one reason why I'm not a big NFL fan. Business is business there, and pretty brutal at that. I don't like the seeping brutality of the college game. It's distasteful.
The college football coach as CEO...that's a drag, man.
Wins and losses are just that to me--I was a football fan once, not a Wall Street investor with a psychopath's interest in money. I played the game when I was a kid, and for the longest time that carried over for me, probably gave me more cause than most to value the game, at least on a personal level. I understood the things that made the game enjoyable for me, and the least of them were tied to money.
As a player, I won a few and lost a few. Everybody does.
The entertainment value of the game has been usurped by its burgeoning business dimensions. When I think of my life as a kind of anti-corporate shill, a voice in the wilderness you might say, college football no longer meets the criteria with which I measure things of value within my own existence.
In my value system money is way down the list. Success is having a good day as opposed to a miserable one as long as you can keep a roof over your head and eat once or twice a day.
I'm not particularly enamored of CEOs. I've met a few, and I might say we seldom see eye-to-eye about the meaning of life, much less the price of a widget, doodad, or gizmo.
College football is now reflective of a corporate mentality that guides too much in American society these days. Call it my weariness of the propensity people have for judgment or grandiosity when reflected through the prism of money. Call it corporate codification, or the will to marginalization, for that is what corporations are best at--marginalizing people who don't fit in.
Call it another unfortunate consequence of the modern, technological world. Call it reality. Call it whatever you like, just don't try to convince me that games are life and death--or that business ought to define their principal meaning.
That stuff never interested me. Today it is in your face. Here's what Joe makes. Is he any good?
I once worked in the health care industry. Now that was a life and death environment. I made a living as a corporate propagandist, writing hopeful tracts on the "services" and "medical advances" and the supposed wonderfulness of the ugly place that surrounded me daily.
Here's what made it ugly--the bottom line. The greed I witnessed in that place was of the same kind you see everywhere now. I left to pursue a less damaging lie.
Halliburton and Dick Cheney had nothing on my old employer, folks.
You could say it wasn't actually life affirming.
I may leave college ball behind because it has become a damnable lie. It's causing more damage to me personally than I'm comfortable with enduring. Its hypocrisies have overwhelmed me.
I never thought I'd witness a time when a 10-2 Oregon team would be run through with a rapier by so many hacks in the media and so many delusional fans whom you might imagine should be happy that it is no longer the seventies in Eugene.
To say I was shocked by the vitriol that arose after Oregon's two losses this year would be putting it mildly. I didn't see it coming, perhaps because I never expected Oregon to be as good as it is in the first place.
People talk about the sense of entitlement the players seem to have at Oregon as the spoiled progeny of big bad Nike. It has occurred to me that a worse problem lies with the average Oregon fan. Now losing is cause to complain about everything.
The seventies in Eugene are a part of the historical record, and I liked it better back then. But that doesn't make me modern enough, I guess. The object has become to kill the coach, so to speak. To cry over two losses.
I may be losing my love of college ball. It happens. I can't deal with the disappointment of my fellow Ducks. Their disappointment disappoints me.
"Well, it should have been a better year," comes their cry.
Well, in my opinion everything should be better, but that doesn't make me an expert.
To the gasbags who want change and change now in the Oregon football program, I say this: quit blaming others for your miseries. Quit blaming kids, age 18 to 21, for your unhappiness, your illusions. You'll never cast away all of your miseries to begin with, but you sound ludicrous.
The kids aren't listening to you anyway. Hell, in most cases you don't even know them. You don't seem to care if they're good students, nor are you interested. All you are interested in is the glory that you seem to believe will be reflected on your life if Oregon is great.
That is not the way things work.
Oregon enjoyed a great run under Chip Kelly. The unfortunate backlash to his success is that Oregon is now defined by his shadow. I have news for everybody who hasn't noticed. Kelly is long gone.
He ain't coming back, either. With the success he's had this year in Philly, he'll likely be out of college ball for a long time, too.
O, how long will this persist? And must it really?
I liken the present situation at Oregon to what happened at UCLA when the great basketball coach John Wooden retired.
Everybody who came along after him was treated like crap. Some of them were actually pretty good coaches, too.
But they didn't last long, not amid the dumb, withering noise.
I have one piece of advice for anybody who can't stand the thought of ever witnessing a loss on the old gridiron, be it at Oregon or somewhere else.
Grow up. It's gonna happen, and the longer you dwell on it the more obnoxious you sound.
I, as much as anyone, hope for the best from Oregon football going forward. I'm not going to kid myself into believing that I have any say in what happens next, however.
You know, the All-American quarterback might get hurt or something.