I was having lunch at one of my favorite eateries the other day and was, in fact, sopping up the last of the pot liquor from my collards with the remnants of my cornbread when a fellow walked by and said, “Why aren’t you in Memphis?” Since I didn’t know the guy, I looked around to make sure he was talking to me and not Elvis.
If Elvis was alive, he would be as likely to be having lunch where they serve good greens as anywhere else.
When I had ascertained that this person was, indeed, addressing me, I asked him what he meant.
“Why aren’t you in Memphis?” he asked again, adding, “At the Liberty Bowl.”
I just shrugged and said something about not being able to afford the trip this year. I didn’t want to go into a long diatribe while savoring the remnants of my collards and cornbread. But the more I thought about it, the more I wished I had answered him truthfully.
Please know this. I am as loyal a Bulldog as there is. If anybody bleeds red and black, it is me. I’ve graduated from UGA two or three times myself, and all of my children and all of my money either have gone or do go to Georgia. And just about every year for the past 10 years, the week after Christmas has found me following the Dogs to such exotic locations as Orlando, Tampa and New Orleans and, yes, I even did Shreveport and the “Amway for Vitamin Water Bowl” last year.
And no fair weather fan, I. I have stood with the Bulldogs through thick and thin. I already told you I went to Shreveport.
But I chose to sit this one out — for a variety of reasons. And now, let those reasons be presented to a candid world.
First and foremost, Memphis is a long drive and gas is high.
Who am I kidding? That ain’t it.
It is historically cold in Memphis in December. But I have all sorts of cold weather gear left over from last year’s trip to Northern Louisiana. That’s not why I didn’t go either.
Nope. I wasn’t in Memphis for New Year’s because I don’t believe that 6-6 football teams deserve to go to bowl games. There. I said it. And I mean it. And now that I started, I’ll just tell it all.
Not only do I believe that 6-6 football teams don’t deserve to go to bowl games, but I also don’t believe that mediocrity should be celebrated. My money is way too hard to come by to spend celebrating the under-achievement of a group of mollycoddled athletes who have been told since Pop Warner days how wonderful they are and that they can do no wrong and that their sewage doesn’t smell bad.
Please don’t hear something I am not saying. Mark Richt doesn’t have a bigger supporter than me, but Mark Richt makes a million dollars a year while I have to get by on a teacher’s salary. I was in Columbia when Washaun “Hit and Run” Ealey put the ball on the ground against South Carolina, and I was in Boulder when Caleb “I’m too cool to keep my academic appointments” King did the same thing. And, yes, I was in the stadium — formerly-known-as-Gator-Bowl — when freshman sensation Aaron Murray unraveled and we lost to the worst Florida team in two decades.
And if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, I will be in the Georgia Dome on Sept. 3 when Boise State brings its overrated program to town. I’m not quitting on college football. Not yet. But this year I chose to sit the bowl game out.
I’ve watched a lot of football on television, though, during this bowl season, and I’ve done a lot of thinking about my lifetime infatuation with college football. I have come to the conclusion that the game I love to love is in deep trouble, at least as we know it. The Bible teaches that the love of money is the root of all evil, and the love of money is controlling every decision made concerning our game.
The NCAA is the most inconsistent governing body since Orval Faubus. Some players are forced to sit while investigations are ongoing. Others are not. Some players are suspended immediately and others can play for now but sit out next year — after they have gone pro. Teams will play at noon — or at 7:45 — or at 10 a.m. Teams will play on Saturday morning or Thursday night or any other time the Television Gods tell them to play. As long as the ratings are up and the revenue is rolling in. There are 35 bowl games, and the BCS championship game will be drawn out until the second Monday of the new year. All because of the almighty dollar.
If I sound bitter, I am — but it’s nothing a couple of JuCo transfers and an 11-1 record won’t cure.
And oh, yeah. Happy New Year, y’all.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.