Every year, right around this time, I cobble together a Hater's Guide to the Top 25 teams in college football. And it contains pretty much everything you would expect in any boilerplate piece of college football trolling: Notre Dame is full of haughty dipshits; Alabama fans are crazy redneck mutants; Florida State Twitter is the fucking worst (it is—go see for yourself); and everyone in the Big Ten sucks. Especially Ohio State and Michigan. I mean, look at what this one asshole from Michigan said:
"This fireworks proposal has sparked an important discussion. This is, I believe, a huge symbolic issue. I love fireworks, but not at a Michigan football game. … We are not Comerica Park or a Super Bowl or Disney World or a circus. Enough is enough. It should be an experience – a place that resists the excesses of our culture."
Yes, apparently fireworks are a sign of witchcraft. Anyway, there is a great deal to despise about the rituals of college football: the SEC fanboys, Desmond Howard ruining what used to be a fun College GameDay show, a Big Ten that now includes Rutgers, PSU truthers, the overabundance of Dabo Swinney jokes that I don't understand, the endless instances of colleges turning a blind eye to sexual assault, and any early afternoon ACC game. All of that is bad. And yet, college football is the kind of sport that can fuck up year after year after year, and then eliminate all of that bad will in a moment, simply by giving us a play like this:
I've had an offseason to consider it, and that's the greatest thing I've ever seen in sports. I'll never see anything like it again. Ever. Not at that time in a game. Not at that level of play. It was a mathematical impossibility that will be mathematically impossible to duplicate. The absolute lunacy that brings out the worst in college football (see the people in the above paragraph) is also what makes that play the best goddamn thing ever. That's college football's dirty little recipe: It makes its own mess, and then dazzles you with the few moments when it can pull itself together and resemble a real spectacle.
So there's not gonna be any Hater's Guide today. I come to you all hated out, ready to drop the whole trollish façade and be a typical sports fan this evening at 6 p.m., when Kevin Sumlin's A&M plays Shirtless Steve Spurrier in a game I will watch specifically because both teams have an arbitrary number affixed to the left of their names on the screen. Numbers make you good.
This is also the first year that college football has an honest-to-god playoff, which is all I really ever wanted. Sure, it took a bunch of cynical and greedy conference commissioners to make it happen, and they'll still fuck up the entrants and gift Notre Dame a slot because they "travel well." But it's finally happened, even though I was told, over and over again, that it never would … when conference commissioners would spit into the camera and just laugh every time you got your hopes up that it might happen. I used to wake up on Sunday morning in high school and watch The Sports Reporters (Lupica was just as terrible back then) and pump my fist when they shat all over CFB for not having a playoff. I would compose rants in my head and offer my hot take while driving in the car. No playoff made me visibly angry.
Secretly, silently, I am a football viewer first and a human being second. A playoff is all I ever wanted. If they have to re-jigger every last conference and destroy every last rivalry, and openly steal money from players to get to it, whatever. I don't really care how the sausage is made. What I care about is that it gets served, and that it looks like this …
No reason not to watch it twice. College football will never be fixed entirely. They will still find a way to fuck over players—that $5,000 cap mentioned by the O'Bannon judge is still bizarre to me—and schools will cheat and lie and leave incredible amounts of collateral damage in their wake when the music stops and they try to cram their fat asses into the last four folding chairs. The charade will go on. But as the TV audiences swell and the playoff bloats to 167 teams down the line, the charade will look better and better.
So off we go.
Photo via AP