It’s been days now since Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey (since joined by Baylor’s Shock Linwood) declared themselves ineligible for their schools’ respective bowl games due to not wanting to ruin their NFL careers before they start, and a funny thing has happened.
Nothing. Not even a barely-half-sincere, “Is Christian McCaffrey actually a Communist?”
In fact, the biggest name among the people who decried their decisions to skip the Cirtus, Sun and Cactus Bowls was Dallas Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott, whose disdain actually turned into an argument with himself on Twitter:
“All these young guys deciding to skip their bowl games (needless emoji intrusion).I would do anything to play one more time with my brothers in that scarlet and gray (Ohio State).”
“One last time to honor your university and one last chance to play with your boys who will be your brothers for life.”
Then it took a turn:
“The only one that (matters) is the National Championship.”
Then a qualified turn:
“And there is a difference between not coming back for your last year and not finishing your last season.”
“My bad though I didn't realize they were already battling injuries. So I guess it makes sense.”
Before doubling back on itself:
“I just know how much I loved my university and the guys I played with. My last game was the most memorable moment from my college career.”
All from someone who left early for the draft, and whose last game was a four-touchdown beatdown of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl that was designed for him to drive his own draft stock upward.
In other words, eliminating some old fuds defending the Ottoman Empire nature of the bowl system, the compelling debate about the undermining of the sport’s basic structure was just Sal Tessio telling Tom Hagen in The Godfather II, “Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.”
Right before getting clipped for turning on the family.
Only nobody wants to clip Fournette or McCaffrey, or even knows about Linwood. People, well, yawned.
Now maybe this is a condemnation of the current bowl structure, which is 40-games strong (nearly two-thirds of all teams) and was reduced this year to a question about whether Minnesota’s players would go to the Holiday Bowl after 10 of their teammates were suspended for allegedly gang-raping a woman, and whether the Gophers would be replaced by Northern Illinois and its 5-7 record.
Now THAT is communism.
But it does reveal an unpleasant truth about college football, and maybe proves a harbinger for other sports. Namely, that all but three games (the two semifinals and the national championship game) are simply white noise to most people, a gigantic amorphous blob of people in brightly colored costumes running into each other every night for a month under the banner “HAVE ANOTHER HELPING. DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE TASTE, OR EVEN IF YOU’RE HUNGRY.”
And nobody seems terribly concerned about the sanctity of the Cactus Bowl.
Nor should we pity the bowls or the system. They chose to multiply like guinea pigs as part of Mark Cuban’s “Hogs Gets Slaughtered” policy, and most of them leave no impact, or are really designed to do so. They are allegedly rewards for players, when in fact what they are in many cases are rewards for bowl game directors and advertising directors. Yes, non-pro-potential players get some fun out of it (and that alone is worth the bother, since fringe players should at least get a swag bag for their extra month of unpaid work), but if most of them died tomorrow, we’d just fill up our days drinking beer for other reasons and talking about Tony Romo.
But now that we understand that for those with future aspirations (including coaches, it must be remembered) they are mostly pre-job interviews, it must obviously follow that some people already know they have jobs awaiting for them, and for them, pushing for that extra yard in the third quarter of a 27-3 loss to Directional AM & PM before a quarter-filled stadium makes as much sense as studying for a test by hitting yourself in the head with a skillet.
Amazingly, most people see it that way. “Most people,” of course, do not include TV and radio producers who need a contrived argument thrice daily just to stay alive, and there are some old folks who remember their youths and are offended by how little of it resonates for a younger generation. And let’s face it, if you get to your 60s and can’t act like Mister Know-It-All telling the young’uns what’s up and why while they sit slackjawed and amazed by your Gandalf-like wisdom, getting to 60 is just going into the fourth quarter of, well, the Cactus Bowl.
So yeah, Christian McCaffrey is not a communist after all, because you can’t have a revolution when the people watching your revolt tell you, “I totally get it. That’s the smart play.”
And another ginned-up debate dies the horrible death it so richly deserves. Now back to "Why Do NBA Players Get To Sit Out Games?" and the continued deterioration of our culture.