• October 15, 2019

HART: College football, “Bread and Circus,” is back - and now serving beer - Odessa American: Opinion Columnist

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HART: College football, “Bread and Circus,” is back - and now serving beer

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Posted: Sunday, September 8, 2019 6:00 am

It is an exciting time in the South. When summer’s heat subsides and there is a nip in the morning air, we know it is time for college football. Women, if you have anything to say to your men, now is the time. Otherwise, wait until after the New Year’s Day bowl games.

Football is the modern-day “bread and circuses” meant to placate citizens, and in the South it is akin to a religious experience. Psychiatrists will tell you that football satisfies the primal human thirst for war. But government goes ahead and gets us in a bunch of wars too, just to be on the safe side.

Of course, the South again dominates the college football rankings. Rest assured, the South beating the North in football is rooted in far deeper issues than an amateur athletic contest. And it bothers the blue Northern states that Southern football might just be maneuvers in preparation for secession.

On Opening Weekend I enjoyed attending the Memphis vs. Ole Miss game, especially since Memphis won. You have to love this upstart Memphis team with a defensive lineman from the outback of Louisiana nicknamed “The Swamp Donkey.”

I hate to kick Ole Miss when it is down, but... It has yet to recover from its holy roller coach resigning after escort service phone numbers were found on his cell phone. It was embarrassing for an Ole Miss coach to have to pay for sex in a college town like Oxford, Mississippi. It is said Ole Miss is the only school that redshirts Miss Americas but, given what has happened to that program, even they are entering the college transfer portal.

One has to feel for Hugh Freeze, the fired Ole Miss coach. Being an SEC coach is a non-linear job, a feast-or-famine gig. You are either making millions landing five-star athletes or, if you don’t sign them, driving fans to games in hopes of earning a five-star rating on Uber.

The University of Tennessee is also on the ropes. UT paid $985,000 for Georgia State to come let UT beat them. But UT lost. Even Jussie Smollett found it hard to believe that Tennessee paid that much to have someone beat them.

Alabama’s Nick Saban reloaded his talent and is the preseason number two again. During the recruiting season, the Discovery Channel decided to suspend Shark Week as he was distracting the sharks. Saban can focus his team on football; he is not worried about getting his players through college at Alabama—a college that graduated Forrest Gump.

College football is a great business model. Brand loyalty is baked in and labor is free. If it hosted a TV signing day, I’d suggest that it be held at historic Jamestown Colony, just for the symbolism. Coaches observe preseason practices and games from a high tower in case any players get any fancy ideas about escaping.

College football continues to shine as NFL players continue to damage their brand by kneeling in self-indulgent “silent protest” during the National Anthem. The only way a Southerner kneels during our National Anthem is if his bourbon flask slips out of his sock. We Southerners are more traditional in our values; we firmly believe that a “silent protest” has no place outside a marriage.

As a libertarian and free market person, I am all for paying these players. If you watch “Last Chance U” (and I suggest you do), you learn that most of these kids are overwhelmed by college and the workload of football. It blurs a university’s stated academic goals, is run by egghead college presidents, and structurally invites corruption. The feckless and political NCAA, started in the Roosevelt era, has not seen the football since the kick off. They got so mad at UNC for cheating that they put Alcorn State on probation.

Few of the players are in school for the education. They want to develop in their sport and be drafted into the pros. Their dream is to be on TV, picked in the NFL or NBA draft or, as the Kardashian sisters call it, the Home Shopping Network.

Southern Cal, the poster child for corrupt college admissions with the “Varsity Blues” sting operation, is also struggling this year. USC continues to illustrate how transactional college has become. Few would believe that celebrities would pay $500,000 to get their kids into a party school. But USC is a school that has the famous alumnus, O.J. Simpson. It should have a ceremony to recognize “The Juice” and retire O.J.’s number: 1027820.

Odessa, TX

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