Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jumping in while the water is warm

The big news around the football world, of course, is Florida State's mass suspensions due to academic improprieties. Because Florida state is playing Kentucky in the Music City Bowl, I'll have to write this piece from a bit of a Kentucky-centric perspective.

First of all, Kentucky has known many years of football futility and many years of basketball success. Today, the fortunes of the two sports at Kentucky seem oddly reversed, as Kentucky struggles to integrate a new coach into their basketball program, and the football program prepares for the culmination of two of its most successful years in memory. It is a strange juxtaposition, but good fodder for commentary.

Comes now Florida State with some 36 players suspended for the Music City Bowl, some of them several games into next season as well. The reasons for these suspensions include the academic cheating scandal, violations of team rules, injuries or "other reasons," leaving the Seminoles with a total of only 43 scholarship players available for the game. The list includes a total of 13 players who had started games at one point or another in the season for Florida State, and the lines seem to be the biggest sufferers of attrition.

As most watchers of football know, the lines are often the difference between bad teams and good teams. Lots of bad teams have good skill players, but without the lines, they are very limited in how far they can go in any given season. Florida State's biggest and perhaps only advantage over Kentucky has taken a thunderous hit, and it is unclear if the remains will be enough to make FSU competitive for the game.

From a Kentucky standpoint, this is a disappointment. UK fans always wanted to face Florida State at it's best, mainly because an opportunity to play and perhaps even defeat one of the great college football programs in the nation is good for our program. Unfortunately, the Music City Bowl will now be all about the FSU suspensions, and Kentucky must face the fact that they will be playing in a no-win situation. If the Wildcats win, it will be because of the the suspensions. If they somehow lose, it will be proof that Kentucky football is still the same as it always was, and can't even beat a team that has 25% of its best players missing. That will be the story line, true or not.

But the reality is, Kentucky has always been a destiny-blasted football program. How can we truly complain if that gets thrown in our face yet again just when things start to look up? As a Kentucky fan, I don't blame Florida State -- if it hadn't been them, it would have been someone else. The one positive in all of this is that Kentucky, who has a long record of compliance issues with the NCAA, actually winds up looking like good guys for once. At least, that is the silver lining I have found. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Besides, why should Kentucky fans blame Florida State when there are so many Florida fans to do it for us? I must have truly must have lived a sheltered life for the last 20 years, because I had no idea of the visceral hatred the Gators have for the Seminoles. I knew they were rivals, but I had no idea it was almost as bitter as Alabama and Auburn. I suppose the fact that they play in different conferences mutes the rivalry a bit, like Kentucky vs. Louisville or Indiana in basketball. The rivalries that get lauded as the "best" always seem to be in the same conference.

But back to the Gator schadenfreude at the expense of the Seminoles. Mlmintampa, writing for Alligator Army, gives us perhaps the archetype of the disgust Florida fans feel for FSU:

When we first wrote about the FSU cheating scandal in September, it was limited to 23 athletes in several sports. But, St. Nick has given us an early Christmas present.

As many as 20 Florida State football players will be suspended from playing against Kentucky in the Dec. 31 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, as well as the first three games of the 2008 season, for their roles in an alleged cheating scandal involving an Internet-based course, a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.

Excuse me for a moment.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!

Wait, Mlm -- now tell us how you really feel. But I gather that this is just typical of the kind of joy that Gator fans have felt at the troubles of their rival. Orange and Blue Hue also engages in a bit of schadenfreude. But all that taken together doesn't match this post from Chris at The Gator Blog:
I hate Florida State. So much that I can barely get through writing out the school's name. I would rather see the entire school disband and Tallahassee be swallowed by a sink hole, if it weren't for the fake that I wouldn't get the satisfaction of beating them once a year.

I hate Chris Rix, Geno Hayes, Sebastian Janikowski, Thad Busby, Mickey Andrews, Jack Childress, PK Sam, Lorenzo Booker, DeCody Fagg, Peter Warrick, "The Choke at Doak," jump passes, flare passes to the RB, Samari Rolle, Chief Osceola, his dumb flaming spear, the FSU flag boy, Chris Weinke, Leon Washington, "the echo of the whistle," Darnell Docket, Greg Carr, and especially you, Bobby Bowden.

I hate that they changed their foundation date so they can "beat out" us. I hate that they count 31-31 a win, I hate that they altered the record books to count a 21-19 "win," I hate the Swindle in the Swamp, I hate that they give free rides to Seminole Indians to prevent being sued. I hate the Warchant, I hate the website Warchant, I hate everyone who posts there, I hate Dot, and all their delusionole (ha!) fans. I hate that they talk "band smack."

I hate that they make me root for Miami once a year, and that they made me root for Tennessee and Georgia. I hate that Tallahassee is the capitol of this state. I hate that FSU is so crappy that we get downgraded to noon ESPN2 games (like last year).

You know Navy's losing streak to Notre Dame? I want that against Florida State...only 40 years from now, I want to still be beating them.
Now that, my friends, is an impressive rant against a team. That is loathing of a character I can barely comprehend, and I can comprehend quite a bit. That is visceral, it is active and it has the vitality of hot battery acid.

AEM at SEConds to Victory has another impressive rant against FSU. Now, I don't know his partisan affiliation, but he berates the Seminoles for moral turpitude:

I have just one little thing to say: Are we kidding? When is it going to be enough and when is someone that can do something about it, such as the NCAA, going to show us that the people making a paycheck for doing nothing are actually making a paycheck because they are doing something? Don’t get me wrong, I blame a lot of people for this mess. The kids that need to understand the true meaning of “student athlete”, the school for not having the guts to send these kids packing and setting an example once and for all, and of course the NCAA for not delivering a harsher punishment to the players, while having no problem that the tutors have been sent away.
He makes a strong point. It is a bit short of compassion, but I can't say that he doesn't have it right -- spare the rod, spoil the child and all that. NCAA institutions are utterly guilty of self-interest in their lopsided application of the rules, and the NCAA itself is a willing accomplice. At the end of the day, the pursuit of lucre will always triumph over moral integrity, even in the hallowed halls of the academic institutions and the Association itself. This may seem a cynical view, but given the discordant history of responses by both the schools and the NCAA itself, it's hard to ascribe any real moral authority to those worthies.

Finally, Ian Cohen at Fanhouse wins the "Best FSU Lede" contest with Did You Get Suspended by Florida State?:

Seriously, check your voicemail: Florida State's gone on a suspension spree two weeks out from their Music City Bowl tilt with Kentucky, with as many as 20 Seminoles missing out on Nashville in December and possibly the first three games of next year. This all stems from an alleged online cheating scandal that's already claimed the jobs of two academic assistants (they were only trying to assist!). I mean, all things considered with online classes, I'm amazed this doesn't happen more often.
Ah, well. At Kentucky, we have to take life as it comes. We are still looking forward to playing Bowden & Co., and hopefully beating our second ACC team in a row at the Music City Bowl. It will be a less than perfect ending for Kentucky's seniors, win or lose, but it is surely better than sitting home and watching others play football during the holidays.


Richard Pittman said...

I finally discovered this blog and its occasional references to me. I'll definitely keep up.

BestofSEC said...

Glad to see you, Richard. I love your LSU writing, you do a good job and I am happy to link you.

Good luck in the BCS championship. You can count on considerable blogging on this end about that.

Richard Pittman said...

Thanks dude. I really do appreciate the positive feedback and the links/comments.

BestofSEC said...

You're welcome.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and yours.