What are my values?
Well, some of them would probably be things like:
– Follow the rules, or else there will be consequences.
– Don’t take credit for stuff you didn’t do.
– Your actions matter more than who you are, or who other people think you are.
– Do the best you can, whatever that may be at the moment.
– Don’t be a horse’s ass.
Set against this list, it’s easy to see what happened with me and college football in the decade of the 2010s. College football as it exists today is in direct conflict with my entire value system. Consequences are meaningless, if you look at the NCAA punishments doled out to Auburn or USC or Penn State. Who you are is more important than what you accomplished, and if you don’t believe me, ask UCF or TCU or anyone who got jobbed out of the BCS or the Playoff so that Ohio State or Alabama or Oklahoma would be taken care of. Putting your players in front of the graduation stage rather than the judge avails you exactly nothing at all, and beating the same team three years in a row or five out of seven isn’t enough for the world to stop writing Vandy down as an automatic W for the Vols or Ole Miss or UK.
I guess that’s what’s made this so much worse after the last decade of the sport. Something I enjoyed, something I loved, something I set my watch by and marked my years around has become a thing that stands in opposition to the very core of who I am as a person. Which has been a problem in other areas of my life as well, and no easier to let go of. But there we are. I watched Army-Navy, and saw a team that should face an insurmountable obstacle to success win its tenth game – something Vanderbilt has never done in 130 seasons of football.
And then there’s just the insult to injury shit. Florida pitching itself as the most academically challenging school in the SEC. Clemson doing it’s pore-lil-ol-underdog-us routine off the back of two national championships in three years. And at the heart of the decade, Penn State exemplifying the meaning of lack of institutional control and strip-mining Vanderbilt’s best success in a century so they wouldn’t have to suffer the ignominy of only winning seven games a year any more. Never mind the ridiculousness of Missouri in the SEC or West Virginia in the Big (sic) 12 (sic) or Maryland in the B1G or, or, or, or. The list is too long to recap yet again.
The HBCUs of the SWAC and MEAC have this figured out, having gone the Ivy League route. We’ll opt out of your nonsense, play each other against teams that are regionally located and on a par in culture, values and athletic budget, and we’re going to punt the Playoff and the bowls and the polling and the nonsense. If that was all it took, and there was some way for Vanderbilt to make its way to the Patriot League or some other new division-I creation that would let football be itself without compromising all our other successful programs, I’d be all for it. But I think that ship might have sailed, there’s no Magnolia League coming, and the final outcome for me and college football will be watching less and less until it wastes away into a once-or-twice-a-year-on-the-radio thing the way the NFL did.
I’ll be diminished for it, but my quality of life will be better. Which is the tragic necessity of our dumb century so far.