The Alphabetical: Nightmare Lists, A Happy Heisman Blip, And The Best Ideas of 2001

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY THROUGH DECEMBER 15, 2011, NO ARCHIVE, NO SALES) In this handout provided by the Heisman Trophy Trust. Robert Griffin III of the Baylor Bears poses with the trophy after being named the 77th Heisman Memorial Trophy Award winner at the Best Buy Theater on December 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Heisman Trophy Trust via Getty Images)

This week's Alphabetical is really just an appetizer made of Heisman scraps, openly wondering if UCLA still listens to Five for Fighting, and making terrifying lists for your open coaching job.

A is for Arrested Development. College football ends a lot like cult-classic television shows do. After a brief run, they end with some sort of half-assed conclusion, and then some odd one-off episodes, and then a few more specials, and then finally (if it's really successful) a movie or two at the end if you're lucky.

B is for Bowling. Like the people in cult classics, some of those involved often go on to higher-paid work in other, bigger-budget productions. For some, the move is obvious. For instance, when you see Trent Richardson do something jaw-dropping in the NFL in a few years, you won't be totally surprised, but instead say "I remember when he played dinner theater football in Tuscaloosa a few years back in this really underappreciated role. Glad to see he got a better gig." They will make much more money doing much less interesting things like running pro-style offenses, getting into periodic contract disputes, and being on the butt-end of Skip Bayless' insight cudgel on a weekly basis. 


America lives so long as one person hates Skip Bayless.

C is for Consolation. So troll on if you like, but finishing second in the Heisman is no serious indictment or endorsement of a nominee's abilities or lack thereof. The five people nominated for the Heisman Trophy each possess as much athletic ability as five normal men. The things they can do with their bodies and a ball would shock even the dancers and amateur marks-ladies of Patpong. Montee Ball is sitting there in fifth place, and I am all but sure Montee Ball could beat you in anything including H.O.R.S.E., paper football, cornhole, Skee-Ball, toe-wrestling, cribbage, sepak takraw, chess-boxing, and math. (Math isn't a sport, but it should be, because that would mean way more groupies for Neil deGrasse Tyson.) Montee Ball is an incredible athlete, and an amazing football player, and he's the caboose choking on all the exhaust way back there at the end of the train.

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D is for Duchies. So awe-inspiring athletic ability granted, let's consider the periodic fluctuations of the Heisman voting, and how vaguely defined the idea of the award is. The sport's marquee award goes to "the most outstanding player in college football," and from the start that introduces the idea of some context and immense room for interpretation. Some years this goes to the quarterback of one of the teams in the upcoming national title game, some years to the running back on a national title team, and occasionally someone goes insane and hands it to Charles Woodson accidentally. Usually these are from major programs with large budgets. This may sound like aristocrats getting together to give each other compliments and admire each other's golden ponies. This is exactly what 95% of the Heisman Trophy is about.

E is for Exheredate. To disinherit, something Heisman voters did by not awarding the Heisman to Trent Richardson, a blameless figure who had a very good season on a very good team and who was not, in the estimation of voters, the most outstanding player in the sport. Instead, we have Robert Griffin, the quarterback who got something he would have never received 10 or 15 years ago: ample television time. His appearances were often bird-dogged by social media, and he received support far exceeding the bounds of his home turf. Griffin won the South and the Midwest, which by any previous logic would have voted for Richardson and Ball respectively.

F is for Four BrothersYou may not remember the 2005 action movie, and you really shouldn't, but it did have Andre Benjamin in it, the rapper/actor/alien/genius who Robert Griffin III bears no small resemblance to (especially when he poses ripping his shirt open to unveil a Superman shirt).


G is for Globalized. So what does it mean, if anything, for the stodgy Heisman to expand its umbrella to include someone capable of winning nine games at Baylor, often doing so singlehandedly? Probably little, since the award will likely go right back to its incestuous ways next year if historical trends hold. It could mean something along those lines, though. The downside of ESPN and Fox reaching their tentacles into the marketplace has been the upheaval of conference realignment -- I'M SORRY, I mean NOT affecting conference realignment, nope, not at all. Still, someone has been pumping millions into the system, and teams have just happened to switch place, and that's been hard and awful and stressful and stuff.

H is for Holistic. At the same time, Harry Truman wanted a one-armed economist for a reason: there are always two hands, and for every upside there is a corresponding downside. The downside of conference alignment is the nearly universal access you, the viewer, have to every corner of the college football sporting jungle. Without Fox getting in on the Big 12, there is little chance you pick up all the insanity Griffin's season had to offer.

I is for I'm Going To F---in Kill Someone. Without ESPN's continued investment in the sport, you likely don't get the prime spot on Friday night for the game that started the Robert Griffin III 2011 Heisman Campaign: TCU/Baylor, where Griffin and the Bears stunned TCU by ripping apart the Horned Frogs' secondary for 359 yards and 5 TDs. You also would have missed this young lady:


2011 would have been complete without either RG3, this gif, or the Great Tessitore'ing of aught-'leven, where any game called by the announcer instantly unwove into a mess of high-scoring gibberish. 

J is for Jeofail. An official acknowledgment of a mistake.

The Heisman show is always obviously this weird, cobbled-together thing done in a room that's two sizes too small and filled with people who by and large hate to be on camera. For instance, take Nick Saban, whose very hate of every second of the ceremony was telegraphed on his face, all but rolling his eyes at everything not involving a direct mention of Alabama. Watching Les Miles, clearly thrilled to be anywhere at any time, sitting next to him and giggling away with the world's worst dye job bleeding out from his hair was the best recruiting pitch we could imagine for LSU. "Who do you want to play for? This miserable tiny man on the right, or Uncle Goodtimes Chuckles there? We thought so, son. Welcome to LSU." 

K is for Kyriolexy. The use of very literal language, something also ingrained in the Heisman Trophy tradition. Athletes don't age particularly well, and they're forced to talk at the Heisman ceremony, a very bad thing in most cases because when you can run a 4.5 and throw a ball seventy yards SURPRIIIIIIIISE: public speaking is NOT a priority in your studies. Fortunately, Robert Griffin happens to be very smart, and gave a nice, concise, and self-deprecating speech that no sane announcer in the world described as "Well-spoken," because even Lee Corso gets that that's on the "implicitly racist list of racist type things to say, even if you clearly aren't a racist and are just fumbling around for a way to say things badly like a sports-type guy doing sports things."

L is for Listography. Before we allow the ceremony to completely fade into the gloaming, let's review the status of several Heisman winners and their current states:

  • Vinnie Testaverde: still freakishly tall even for a room full of athletes.
  • Gino Toretta: still sticks out like a sore thumb for simply being Gino Toretta.
  • Mike Rozier: still wearing a stupid hat wherever he goes.
  • Danny Wuerffel: walking, which is pretty good for a dude who has Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
  • Tim Brown: getting a proper, dad-quality gut on.

M is for Mora. Imitating things your peers did 10 years ago is by and large a bad thing. Ten years ago was 2001, and chances are your friends were doing some stupid things now that you look back on it. (You were, too, but this is about you, and not them, and therefore your friends are the stupid ones for our purposes here. Riiiiiight.) They were listening to Five for Fighting. They were arguing about politics on the "internet," most likely using a lot of all-caps. They were still, believe it or not, watching Friends. They were dissing your Dreamcast, and that was really unpardonable.

N is for Nooooooo. Some of your friends, depending on how well-connected you are to the USC football program, may have even hired Pete Carroll to coach your football team. This is allegedly the same pattern of thinking informing the hiring of Jim Mora the Younger to coach UCLA: a youngish but experienced NFL coach, recently jettisoned after some tough breaks, returns to the college game and dominates with fiendish recruiting and NFL-friendly talent schemes. A tale of redemption and success is told, and then let's forget how it ends, because that's inconvenient to this story, okay?

O is for Obdurate. And yes, some NFL coaches can be successful at the college level and vice versa, but they are exceedingly rare and valuable, and usually drift upward and stay there. Carroll admittedly changed nearly everything he did when he took the USC job. Jimmie Johnson may be one of the smartest men to ever coach college or pro football, and possessed a unique intellectual flexibility to go with his natural eye for talent and psychological "motivation."* Rich Brooks was a successful program builder at Oregon and Kentucky, but not without substantial trial-and-error (and some immense patience by his superiors).

The list of NFL coaches who failed in college is much longer, and far more grim: Callahan, Weis, Gailey, Sherman, Dorrell,...the death toll is long, and will grow longer. What seems so strange about the hire of Mora is that Dan Guerrero seems to have unearthed 2001's most daring ideas with no irony whatsoever. Dan Guerrero may still be watching Friends. Dan Guerrero might still think the XFL is a great idea. Dan Guerrero is back there in 2001, and may be there for quite a while. Send him some of that exciting new Red Bull energy drink, please.

*Or terrorism, depending on how good or bad you were.

P is for Proxy Tickets. What Virginia Tech's administration is asking Hokies fans to purchase to shave a bit of the embarrassment off of only selling 9,337 of its allotted 17,500 tickets for the Sugar Bowl. The hoax about seat-filling will, like all good fictions, soon become a reality in New Orleans. (Just pay people in beer, though. It's cheaper, and in New Orleans may get football fans to turn out with greater force than hard cash.)

Q is for Quietation. We know that there are by rule no losers in the Army/Navy game, but the game and your last chance at victory with a drawn offsides? Oh, Army, that is exquisite agony, indeed. Navy beat Army for the 10th time in a row, and gave Michigan State something to feel slightly less alone in the category of "teams who had piddling flags ruin a chance at a last-minute comeback in huge games in 2011."

R is for Reminder. Bob Davie is being paid to coach football in 2011. SO EXCITED FOR THE BAWBNESS, GUYS. For the footbawwwl. For the games where he runs out of timeouts, time, and hope all at once. For the even deeper shades of radiation burn Bob's skin can turn in the New Mexico sun. Oh, guys, this is going to be so best.

S is for Secondary Reminder. Should your lust for human resources drama still need stoking, Arizona State has still not hired a head coach.

T is for Terror.  To assist with this process, we now name the ten most horrifying candidates for the job, a cavalcade of coaching terror sure to send any Arizona State fan running headfirst for the nearest giant tree shredder.

  1. Mike Locksley. Already in the region!
  2. Paul Wulff. A nice man, by all accounts, just like your dad, who would also do a terrible job coaching your team.
  3. Dan Hawkins. He just needed seven years to turn that Colorado around.
  4. Rick Neuheisel.
  5. Ron Prince. A royal presence in the Devils' land.
  6. Rick Venturi. 1-31-1 as Northwestern head coach in the late 70s, and still alive! He could only improve with age!
  7. Ray Goff. Also "still alive."
  8. Woody Widenhofer. Still working tollbooth in Destin, Florida and available for work immediately.
  9. Tim Brewster. Hire him away before Urban totally locks him down for Ohio State's staff, and embrace victory.
  10. John Mackovic. Like a hug from a leprous robot: that's the Mackovic touch. 
  11. Jeff Bowden and Terry Bowden. Package deal in two bottom halves of a horse costume, so they make one headless, double-butted steed.

U is for Unsane. The FCS playoffs are of course un-American because they actually decide championships on the field, but they do have their sanctified moments.

V is for Vivat Bowlum! Back in the world of American things decided Americanishly, The New Mexico Bowl is back, but minus the Chili Cook-Off BYU somehow managed to win last year. (Boo, New Mexico Bowl, and your chili-hating ways.) Wyoming plays Temple, and if that seems like a really random matchup, it is. Enjoy watching Wyoming QB Brett Smith anyway, because he's quite entertaining and was the Mountain West freshman of the year. Let's hope Temple doesn't have to pass in this game because they really, really aren't very good at it.

W is for Wincing. Utah State made the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, thus ensuring coach Gary Andersen would get a tattoo of the Utah State logo on his shoulder. We wish Dennis Erickson had made this same promise to every team he'd ever led to a bowl game, because he'd have a pretty gnarly full body suit of logos at this point to go with the terrifying biker tats you know he's covered in head to toe.

X is for XXXXXXXX. What it says under "Louisiana-Lafayette's Bowl Record," because the New Orleans Bowl participants have never been to one in the history of their football program. They play San Diego State, a fanbase whose 38 attendees will be forced to convert to being Louisianan, or otherwise devoured by excited Ragin' Cajuns fans.

Y is for Your Bad Bowl Is Not As Good As Ours. Your bowl event loses to the New Orleans Bowl's, because they have the Rebirth Brass Band playing at their Friday Fan Fest, and you do not.


Z is for Zakuska. Consider this alphabetical a zakuska, or snack, as it'll be the last you have for a while until a bowl review edition.

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