Posted Jan. 8, 2015

Nov 21, 2011

Thoughts From The Valley: For One Day, We Achieved Perfection


The hangover

HOW AM I FEELING: Thankful. So very thankful. Thankful for my wife and my kids and my life in general. Thankful for this, the greatest week of the year, and thankful for the pending arrival of Thanksgiving, greatest holiday of the year. And thankful, of course, for college football. Which, as we saw just this past weekend, remains, quite unquestionably, the single greatest sport that This Wonderful World has ever seen. This Saturday past, in so many ways, was perfection. And, no, I'm not saying that only because My Beloved Nittany Lions went into Columbus, with the world on their shoulders, and gutted out a 20-14 win that moved them within one win of The Inaugural Festival of Delany. I'm saying it, too, because what we just witnessed was nothing short of historic. But more on all of this in just a bit.

WHAT I AM DRINKING: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. Ah, yes, readers and friends: The holiday season is upon us. And as a result, so too is Celebration Ale. It is not quite Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale. But it's close. Awfully close.

WHAT I AM LISTENING TO: Bill Evans, Everybody Digs Bill Evans. Because everybody does.

WHAT’S NEXT (FOR THE NITANY LIONS SPECIFICALLY, AND FOR THE GAME IN GENERAL): For the Nits, it's an all-or-nothing trip to Madison, where they will take on The Hateful Bret Bielema and his not-so-hateful Badgers. It's a de facto Big Ten semifinal, for the honor of taking on Sparty in the Big Ten Championship Game. I mean, think about that: We could actually see the Nits vs. the Spartans for the Big Ten title. Who could have possibly foreseen this? [Note: I did]. As for the game in general? Well, it's a lot of whining about how the BCS is awful and horrible and generally unfair. Super. If you hadn't noticed, folks, the losses by Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/Oregon have basically thrown This 2011 Season Of College Football into complete and utter turmoil. The SEC West has taken over the top three spots in the polls. Columnists from every corner of this nation (except for the Southeast) are complaining about the alleged sad state of Our Great Game. To which I say: Please be silent. And please be patient. More on this in a bit, too.


At approximately 11:15 p.m. Saturday night, I tweeted out the following message to The College Football World: "We may have just witnessed one of the greatest Saturdays in college football history."

It was the kind of over-the-top, borderline ridiculous declaration that we hear all too often in sports. These days, it seems, every game is "the greatest game ever." Every player is "the greatest player ever." Every play is "the biggest play ever." And so on and so forth. It gets tired, this kind of chatter. Very tired.

But here's the God's honest truth: This past Saturday truly was one of the greatest Saturdays that college football has ever seen.

This past Saturday truly was as thrilling, as heartbreaking, and as stunningly beautiful as I and so many other so-called experts have proclaimed it to be.

This past Saturday truly was nothing short of sporting perfection—a day on which it seemed, quite literally, as though anything and everything was possible.

Anything that college football has ever been, and anything college football ever will be again, well, that's what it was on Saturday, as we were blessed with a 24-hour encapsulation of all that is good and wonderful and honest in American sports.

We had Denard being Denard up in Ann Arbor and we had Penn State playing heroically in Columbus.

We had Vanderbilt fighting Tennessee to the death. We had Vanderbilt moving to the very cusp of historic and unprecented victory. And, of course, in the end, we had Vanderbilt losing in the most confounding and spectacular fashion possible.

We had Mike London prematurely celebrating a win in Tallahassee, and Mike London quite literally going insane when that victory was apparently stolen away in Tallahassee, and Mike London pulling his team off the field in Tallahassee, and Mike London, ultimately, getting that win in Tallahassee. And then getting the hell out of town.

We had USC blowing the doors off Oregon, and USC nearly blowing their blowout win over Oregon, and USC holding on in a game, and a victory, that may or may prove to the entire world that Lane Kiffin is not, after all, a moron.

And, finally and most spectacularly, we had Robert Griffin III single-handedly destroying the Oklahoma defense, and Oklahoma's title hopes, and the quaint idea that a team with a defense as awful as Oklahoma's could actually win the national title.

We had all of that and so much more, on a day when college football—so routinely beautiful, so routinely thrilling, so routinely perfect—was more beautiful, more thrilling and more perfect than ever before.

Every Saturday can't be that good, of course. And no, every Saturday won't be that good.

But sometimes, we in this little corner of the universe we call college football are blessed with A Saturday Of Legend.

That's what this Saturday just past was.

We can only feel thankful, and blessed, to have witnessed it.


THREE: As regular readers of this site (and longtime listeners of the TCFA Podcast) know, I have long been a fan of Tom Bradley, the longtime Penn State assistant who has been tasked with the simply impossible job of serving as "interim head coach" in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. If life was fair, Bradley would have been handed the reins of this program 10 years ago. But no, life is not fair, and so here we stand today, with Bradley bravely leading his team down the stretch run of a remarkably confusing season, and doing one hell of a job of it, even though he knows there is little to no chance that he'll be in charge next season. I am sure this bothers Bradley, as well it should, but you would not know it from the watching the man; indeed, he has conducted himself with nothing but class from the moment he took over. One small example: As he met Ohio State coach Luke Fickell at midfield for the traditional post-game pleasantries this past Saturday, Bradley made sure to first remove his hat before shaking Fickell's hand. A small gesture. But an impressive one, nonetheless.

TWO: I will never speak an ill word about Ohio State fans again. Here's why.

ONE: Everybody is all up in arms about the fact that LSU, Alabama and Arkansas—three teams from the same brutal division, the SEC West—currently stand at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 in the BCS standings. Everybody is all up in arms, too, about the possibility of Arkansas beating LSU, which would allegedly create absolute chaos down the stretch for the BCS. And everybody is already up in arms with worry that some "deserving" team will be left out in the cold when it comes time to pick the contestants for this year's Mythical National Championship Game. I am not up in arms, however. Because we've still got a couple of weeks of college football left. So my advice to all of you worriers and complainers is simple: Chill out, already. Everything will work out in the end. Or it won't. It's still gonna be a whole lot of fun, though. In the meantime, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Because despite what you may think, there is no greater show in all of sports.

TOUCHDOWN: As you have surely heard by now, Yale quarterback Patrick Witt last week had a decision to make: He could have either played in his team's season-ending game against hated rival Harvard, or he could have traveled to Georgia to interview for the Rhoads Scholarship (for some ridiculous reason, the Rhoades folks wouldn't move the date of the interview). Witt, faced with an impossible choice, chose football—and his team. Asked to explain his decision, the quarterback said the following: "People who don’t understand this decision have never been part of a team, never been with a group of men, blood and sweat, going through some of the things that those guys go through with each other. If you’ve ever been a part of that, you understand that decision. It’s an easy one.’’ Added his coach, Tom Williams: “You can’t have it both ways. And if he makes the decision to go to the interview, what does that say about him as a leader and a teammate? Would you like that? Really, you want to judge him on that? Because, to me, if I’m on the committee, I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ No question.’’

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