It’s no secret that a lot of bowl games are largely frivolous money grabs created to squeeze revenue out of free labor, profiting off every moment of eligibility until all that’s left to make money off of is sales of nameless jerseys that definitely don’t represent the likenesses of student athletes (because now you have to pay for that). That’s why I’m not furious about Mizzou coach Eli Drinkwitz’s decision to sit star running back Tyler Badie against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl tonight. That said, maybe let the player make that call.
Yes, it’s selfish of me to want to see the best players on the field even in meaningless bowl games. However, if they’re cool with it, why not? Remember when the royal “we” wanted Zion Williamson to sit out March Madness? He didn’t get hurt, and he gave us some of his most memorable highlights. Hopefully, his body hasn’t given in on him, and he will still have a long, highlight-filled career, but think of if he had sat out and all we were left with was a handful of Blue Devils and Pelicans regular season games.
Bowl games are the closest thing college football players have to a postseason showcase, and there’s nothing wrong with letting them go the fuck off if they consent to it. Again, though, Drinkwitz’s logic is sound and his heart is in the right spot.
“If you truly value your team like they’re your own sons, sometimes you look at things a little bit differently,” Drinkwitz told the Columbia Daily Tribune. “What if something went wrong and I had to look myself in the mirror? I couldn’t do that.”
I appreciate a coach looking out for his player. This could be a situation where he’s offering up himself as the sacrificial scape lamb for internet trolls and diehard fans to rail against to protect Badie from catching blowback. The people who think loyalty to teammates and university supersedes looking out for yourself, family and future pro career need to stop acting like they wouldn’t cover themselves in bubble wrap if they had a seven figure payday looming.
If that is the case, and that’s what Drinkwitz is doing, good shit. If that’s not the case, and this is the time he’s chosen to look out for his player — something he could’ve done at multiple points during a 6-6 season — it’s a little too overprotective. Now you want to listen to your conscience and play the “What if” game?
What if… Badie plays and goes nuts? He probably won’t get the draft bump a deep tourney run will give an NBA prospect, because it’s one game, but it would be nice for Mizzou fans to get to see the Tigers’ single-season rushing record holder in action one last time. Plus — I’m going to say this even though it’s redundant — he wants to play.
At 5-foot-8 and 194 pounds, Badie isn’t the biggest guy, so perhaps that’s part of Drinkwitz’s justification. He just carried the ball 41 times (for 219 yards) in Mizzou’s loss against Arkansas, and we all know how much that newly christened rivalry game means to those fanbases.
Hey, Drinkwitz, it doesn’t have to be 40-plus carries or a DNP. A meager 25 totes could provide fans and family a well-deserved swan song and Badie one last opportunity to shine in black and gold.
In the research I’ve been doing for a piece extolling my love for bowl games that’s coming out over the Christmas break, there are a plethora of players who’ve added to their legacy by balling out in their final appearance as a college football player. I’m not going to give you all the examples — you’ll have to read that article for that — but here’s Saquon Barkley going for 92 yards against Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.
I don’t know if Badie will be an NFL superstar the way Barkley is (was?) so a potential appearance against Army may not be as fun of a historical document as Barkley’s run, but it could be for him. He’s projected to be a late-round pick and this could be his last time in a starring role, as his skill set and frame are more suited for the role of a third-down back than a starter.
Say he does go the way of an NFL superstar, exceeds his potential, and ends up as a crucial outlet for a Patrick Mahomes or some QB of that caliber. It would be cool to have highlights of him toasting Army the same way it’s cool to have highlights of Chris Johnson at ECU going for 408 all-purpose yards and two TDs in an upset of Boise State in the 2007 Hawaii Bowl.
There’s something reverent about a great player’s college tape. It’s like listening to a transcendent band’s demo or a burgeoning great rapper’s mixtape. If you can experience it live, even better.
I wish more great players wanted to play in bowl games because it’s entertaining as hell to see them make D1 athletes look foolish. Can I interest you in Marshawn Lynch going for 194 yards and three touchdowns against BYU in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl? His Cal teammate Desean Jackson had the two scores in that game, as well. See? Pretty cool, right?
I understand if you’re really good at something, never do it for free — especially if doing it will make you millions of dollars and an injury could prevent that — but don’t shut down a kid because he wants to share his gift during this, the giving season.