The most profound stories are told at the granular level. Specificity is key. College football in many ways mirrors storytelling, the grandest proclamations crystallized by moments that represent more than the sum of their parts. The story of David vs Goliath has nothing to do with a beta shepherd slingstoning a hulking giant—it is a two-point conversion on January 1, 2007, Jared Zabransky and Ian Johnson propelling Boise State over Oklahoma with a Statue of Liberty in overtime. The fall of an empire has nothing to do with naked wrestling or ancient Rome—it is the day after Thanksgiving 2001, Colorado running for 380 yards and 8 TDs against Nebraska in a game that clearly separated the before and after. God’s power has nothing to do with a burning bush or a father attempting to sacrifice his son—it is December 5, 2009, and Ndamukong Suh is helicoptering Colt McCoy high, high into the Texas air.
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At its finest, college football is about specificity. At its most bloated, as it is today, the sport can seem overwhelming and soulless, a story with grand designs lost in generalizations and a cloud of smoke. The threat of superconferences—and the obliteration of smaller-scale programs—dwarfs the horizon. School representatives fall asleep to the chimes of cash registers and wake to the rooster crowing about television revenue. Players change teams by the week. Even the college football playoff, promising an open-door future for all, has proven to be a country club for Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Georgia. The sport has never been less interested in telling stories at the granular level.
Still, if one so chooses, the opportunity remains to seize the small moments. We have entered August and later this month, football will be played. Despite the direction of the sport, I cannot resist its enchantment. Call it nostalgia. Call it a gambling addiction. Call it an unbreakable love for the Cornhuskers despite their winless ways, the meth-loving child I will never be able to cut ties with. On August 27 in Ireland, Nebraska opens the season against Northwestern. I will be watching and my heart will quicken at the opening kick. It is a rite of passage for autumn, welcoming my meth-loving child to sleep downstairs after they promised, again, to not strip my house of copper and scrap metal, then watching them disappear into the night, arms filled with gleaming fractures of light.
Both Nebraska and college football will never again reach the heights they inhabited in my heart and mind. It is sad in some ways but also offers a new, different experience—what I choose to do with that is on me. The sport has transitioned into a bolt-headed Frankenstein. I could rail against the injustice or do what I will assuredly do at the end of this month: welcome the monster to my home, give him a warm hug, gamble on his eccentricities, curse his tumultuous rage, and make the unkeepable promise that his bolts will never be stolen and taken to the scrapyard.
THIS WEEK ON THE CHRIS RAWLE SHOW
On this episode:
- The state of quarterbacking in the NFL has never been in a better place. Because of this, competency has never mattered less.
- Revisiting the college careers of Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota.
- How Andy Reid is a master at pulling offensive concepts from college and putting his quarterback in the best position to succeed.
- Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert: quarterbacks who can get the maximum out of what’s available, and create something from thin air when nothing is there.
- Revisiting the NFL career of Mark Sanchez.
- The Eagles win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles, the Rams make the Super Bowl with Jared Goff.
- The Niners move on from Jimmy Garoppolo as starter.
On this episode:
- Golf: an investment and a battle with the unknown.
- David Foster Wallace: "For reasons that are not well understood, war’s codes are safer for most of us than love’s."
- What has been lost in the sport of college football.
- Lisel Mueller, from Still Things:
Think of the time the words
in a book you had not read
for thirty years flew out
and stung you, fierce and sudden
in the plenitude of their truth,
or of the black piano,
a darkness that has no music
until it is touched and you are stunned
by your own desire.