Some things I learned (and/or daydreamed about) while watching the University of Arizona football game last Thursday night:
• Regular-season college football games should be played on Saturdays. Period. They should be played on Saturday afternoons in most parts of the country, and on Saturday evenings in Texas, Louisiana and the Southwest during September and parts of October. That way, people can make a day of it.
No matter how much money ESPN and other networks throw at the schools, the guardians of college football should stand firm. Well, at least they should have tried to stand firm for a little while before eventually whoring themselves out. Tradition should mean something.
• Arizona Stadium was maybe half-full at game time, and people were still filing in during the second quarter. Putting a game on a weeknight means that working people need to come straight from work, and students need to change their study routines and sleep habits. Even with the Wildcats scoring six straight touchdowns, a streaker and a bench-clearing brawl, there was a blah feeling to the night.
• Even worse than Thursday-night football on TV are the Friday-night college telecasts, which are in direct competition with high school football. As with colleges, football is the biggest moneymaker for high school athletic programs. For decades, there was a gentlemen's agreement in place that kept the networks from scheduling and broadcasting big-time sports on Friday nights during high school football season. (The late Mo Udall, while in the House of Representatives, actually considered codifying that agreement, fearing that greed would win the day, as it obviously has.)
• Here's one last yucky thing about TV-über-alles and the scheduling of games: Last Saturday's big showdown between Oklahoma State and Missouri started at 11 a.m., local time, completely ruining any opportunities for tailgating. Do you know how hard it is to barbecue eggs?
• Do you think recently fired UA football coach Mike Stoops watched the UA game? If he did, that had to be painful. You can throw out all the platitudes you want, but a normal human being is not going to want his former team to succeed without him. That's just human nature. You don't want your ex-boyfriend to start dating somebody prettier than you, and you don't want the team that you coached to five straight blowout losses (and 10 straight losses to Division I schools) to rise up and pimp-slap somebody in the first game after you're gone. Sure, he's got $1.2 million with which to wipe away his tears, but it had to suck, nevertheless.
• One of the good things about getting older is that you can watch the generational shifts as they take place. During the late-summer and early-fall months, I coach middle school six-man flag football, which is almost as exciting as it sounds.
We don't have a whole lot of kids on the squad, but those we do have make up for the lack of bodies by having a general lack of body strength. I named one play "Virgil Earp," because if it works right, the kid who ends up throwing the pass has a dead arm which is pretty much useless. (That's one example of the generational difference. The kids laugh when I explain the names of the plays; the parents, not so much.)
Anyway, the team is wildly overachieving, considering the albatross of a coach around its collective neck. We finished the regular season tied for third place and clinched a home playoff game for the first time in school history. As it happens, my quarterback is a left-handed Asian girl named Hope. In probably half the games this season, she was clearly the best athlete on the field for either team.
While her teammates don't bat an eyelash over her playing, twice this season, I've had adults come up to me and question me. One said, "So, what are you trying to prove? Is this some kind of social experiment?"
I, keeping my focus on that coveted Sportsmanship Award, said, "Dude, your kid's team just got whupped, and that 'social experiment' accounted for four touchdowns." (Hope ran for two scores, passed for another, and returned an interception for a TD.)
• Fighting in football remains the second-stupidest thing in all of sport. In football, you get to line up 70 or 80 times a game and hit people as hard as you can. Why, then, would there ever be a need to fight?
• UA Athletic Director Greg Byrne is a baaaad man. He basically got two NCAA football coaches fired in one fell swoop. There's no way UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel survives after the beatdown his team took last Thursday. UA interim head coach Tim Kish ought to consider retiring with a record of 1-0 after that masterpiece.
• One last thing: Is it just me, or did it bother you that at the press conference to announce Stoops' firing, Byrne wasn't wearing a tie? Oh, well; maybe it's just a generational thing.