I love football. But there is such a thing as too much football.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, football, football, football. Football infinitum. Football ad nausea.
All winter long, all spring long, all summer long, football, football, football. By the time we actually get to football season, as we are now, we are already worn out.
All too many players getting in trouble, here, there, everywhere. This coach is going here, this coach going there, who’s mad at whom, and whose feelings are hurt because of some perceived slight, real or otherwise.
And all the coach-speak. It seems as if no one, no coach at least, has ever had an original thought, much less knows to express it.
Jabber, jabber, jabber. It’s like that ole poem we had to learn as kids, Jabberwocky, I believe it was. Jabber, jabber, jabber, jabberwocky.
And the internet has made it even worse, not at all good for the game. Rumor here, rumor there, rumor everywhere.
And somebody, many somebodies actually, are stupid enough or naïve enough to believe it. “Well, I read on the internet,” they say. Give us a break! Give all of us a break! Give college football a break!
Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it true. It has a better than even chance of not being true.
And we used to think talk shows were bad!
And recruiting! It’s the worst of all, totally ridiculous, totally out of hand.
This 17-year old is going to Auburn today, to Alabama tomorrow, and to Florida, Georgia or LSU by the end of the week. It’s like a teenager trying to decide who to go out with Saturday night.
It’s ridiculous the amount of coverage these commitments, semi-commitments, and “leaning toward” stories receive. Nobody knows for sure until signing day where these young men will go. They don’t know, not really. So why worry. They are kids. Remember when you were 17-years old? They are no different.
Where’s it going to stop? Alabama offers a 10th grader, so Auburn offers a 9th grader, LSU offers an 8th grader and Tennessee a 7th grader? It’s ridiculous, bordering on stupid, for a fan base, any fan base, to get so wrought up.
Pretty soon we will be reading about recruiting infants. If he burps, he’s going to Auburn; if he lets one fly, he’s going to Alabama. Feel free to change that to favor your school.
Next thing you know, Gus Malzahn will be in the waiting room only to find that Nick Saban is in the delivery room, both with scholarships in hand. It’s crazy; it’s ridiculous.
But ole Pat Dye has already done them one better. In the early eighties, he had a great defensive tackle, Doug Smith, who was dating an equally great women’s basketball player, Becky Jackson. Both were athletic specimens coaches dream about.
Dye took great delight in telling alumni and friends that he had already told Doug and Becky that if they got married and had any children, “chilluns” as he called them, he guaranteed them a scholarship to Auburn, especially if they had a “boy-baby.” They never did.
All of this craziness, this media jabberwocky about recruiting is reminiscent of a book that was once written about Texas football. It was entitled “Meat on the Hoof,” all too often an appropriate name for football recruiting in colleges and high schools.
But we all know high schools don’t recruit. Right? Yeah, right.
I am reminded of a situation that happened long ago, back in the eighties, in the Dye Era.
There was a player in the Birmingham area who was the best, the absolute best, maybe the best football player God ever created. He was Tracy Rocker, Cam Newton, Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson, Aundray Bruce and Nick Fairley all rolled into one. Throw in Lee Roy Jordan, John Hannah, Cornelius Bennett, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Mark Ingram, too. This kid, whose name I have long since forgotten, was that good. Or was supposed to be.
Naturally the Birmingham News rated him the No. 1 player in the state. But he committed to Auburn and the next week the News rated him the fourth or fifth best player in the state. Go figure.
That’s a true story, the moral of which is, don’t pay attention—at least not too much attention—to those four, five, six, seven or eight- star ratings any more than you would a campaign speech by Hillary or The Donald.
“What matters is not so much who you get, but what you do with the ones you do get,” Coach Dye said, and he was right, as right as right can be.
“When you sign all those four or five stars, “he added, “sometimes you have to ‘un-recruit’ them to get them to buy into the team concept.”
Now, at last, we are getting to when it matters. As John Wayne said in “The Undefeated,” “the talk’s dried up.” The real football season starts now.
I am reminded of a line George C. Scott had in the movie “Patton,” “War. God help me, I do love it so.” That’s the way I feel about football, I do love it so.
Every Saturday is like those Greek city-state wars we read about in high school or college Ancient History classes. Both sides come to the battlefield, in our case a 100-yard battle field, banners flying, drums beating, soldiers and camp followers shouting, cheering, yelling and hollering, sometimes in unison, sometimes not, all ready to do battle to see who is best. It’s college football in the 21st century.
As this football season approaches, as grand and glorious as it may be and as much as we love it, we would be wise to consider what we read and hear. What appears to be true, what the public and media rush to believe is true, may not be true at all. Perhaps even the figment of someone’s fertile imagination.
That said, let the games begin. The time has come. The W’s and L’s will do the talking from now on. That’s the only talk that really matters
As for me and my house, we say “War Eagle!”
And mean it.
David Housel was Auburn’s athletics director from 1994-2005 and The Plainsman’s editor-in-chief in 1969. You can read more of Housel’s essays on his Facebook page, “The Backbooth at Chappy’s.”