One of my fondest childhood memories is of the annual crafting of my Christmas wishlist. They weren’t so much lists, as they were handwritten catalogues of every toy and gadget a boy could dream of. I toiled over them in a manner similar to a general orchestrating a large-scale invasion. “What would you like Santa to bring you?” That is such a dangerously open-ended question to ask a child. I could ask for anything – army tanks, race cars, a jet pack, a pet monkey-anything. The possibilities were endless, and that was what made them so special to me. Simply adding something to my list didn’t guarantee it would be sitting under the tree on Christmas morning, but no one thing was ever completely ruled out until the last shred of wrapping paper was ripped away. There were always more items left on the list than what was received, but that was the point. There was always next year.
With this in mind, I decided to treat myself to a bit of nostalgia and once again attempt to create the most perfect Christmas wishlist. However, instead of action figures and video games, this list will be centered around what I’d like to see from the Auburn football team and college football overall in 2013.
For College Football in general:
8 Team Playoff – We(the fans) clamored and clawed and mobbed and sobbed and scraped our way to a playoff and they still found a way to put a greedy and senseless spin on the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, a 4 team playoff is light-years better than what we currently have, but an 8-team playoff removes almost absolutely all doubt. NCAA, BCS, various bowl committees, the Illuminati, whoever is making these decisions please find a way to make this happen. I promise you’ll still have enough money left over to get you by.
NCAA Overhaul – They’re seemingly slow and inefficient. They show up in places here and there more randomly and senselessly than the rodents on a ‘whack-a-mole’ arcade game and most of the time they produce more questions than answers. If the NCAA isn’t careful to adapt to a quickly evolving college athletic landscape, they risk losing millions in revenue and any credibility whatsoever.
Stop Screwing with Kickoffs and Onside Kicks – Either have kickoffs and onside kicks or don’t. Simply reducing the kickoff to a ‘figurehead’ play is a mistake. No one wants to watch a parade of touchbacks and fair catches.
Diminished T.V. Rights for Teams on Probation – I really think this should be aimed at teams facing post-season bans like Ohio St. did this season and USC did a couple of years ago. Quite simply, if you’re program has committed infractions that has led to its participation in post-season play being denied then you don’t get the benefit of major media outlets covering you. This is a tricky one because it is essentially un-constitutional. Media outlets can cover whomever they’d like, but I do think there are some steps the NCAA could take with this to limit the ability of certain networks covering teams being punished. If ESPN covered USC or Ohio St. any less while both schools served post-season bans, I couldn’t tell. This leads me to my final wishlist addition…
A Diminished Role for ESPN in College Football – (and other athletics) I could do an entire article on this issue. Look no further than the first letter of the network’s acronym and you will have discovered the motivation for all of their sports coverage operations: Entertainment. In a world where journalistic integrity is becoming as hard to find as Sasquatch, ESPN stands head and shoulders above its fellow scandal-mongering counterparts. Facts be damned, they will get their story. Their influence in the college football world is nauseating and in many ways far too substantial. Gonzo journalism might be the best way to describe their practice. I was angered at a piece that was featured on Sportscenter this previous football season that highlighted the Ohio State Buckeyes. It began with a recap of sorts of Urban Meyer’s journey to becoming the head coach there and the things he was doing to change the culture of the program. That part was fine, but what irritated me was that in the remainder of the piece the team was painted as a group martyrs. Guys that were falling on their swords for Ohio St. and even going so far as to give the impression that the current team was being unfairly punished. This is just flat out disregard for facts and common sense. Players could have left the program if they wished and transferred with a waiver from the NCAA (assuming they didn’t commit any infractions themselves). Urban Meyer knew the situation he was inheriting. In my eyes, it was a nothing more than an honest to goodness profile of Meyer combined with an effort to keep the OSU program somewhat relevant and give the appearance of innocence when it absolutely didn’t deserve it. As pieces of entertainment they were fine I suppose, but they weren’t presented in a manner that suggested they were purely entertainment. This is just one example of many of ESPN skewing a story or situation to possibly benefit themselves in the future. Ohio St. couldn’t be forgotten because then less people would be interested in their conference games broadcast on the ESPN network. It was the same situation week after week when USC was under their own post-season ban. Week after week, an ESPN “expert” on College Gameday would predict where USC should have been ranked in the BCS standings even though officially they couldn’t be. If these things are discussed hypothetically on a pre-game ‘tailgate’ show that is one thing, however, for a major network (that has contractual agreements with the NCAA granting them full broadcasting rights over entire conferences) to continue to promote schools that are being punished by the very organization they are contracted to is ludicrous to me. I also realize that there is basically zero chance of ESPN’s role in regards to sports broadcasting is going to diminish any time soon.
No more discussion of the NCAA and Auburn in relation to one another. It seems that every other day there is a story “breaking” on a sports talk radio show or ‘SportsCenter’ that places Auburn’s football program on the brink of total annihilation. I don’t know who or what is responsible for the high frequency of Auburn/NCAA stories of late, but this is something the school has got to address. Enough is enough already. Either someone has the goods on Auburn and is waiting on the development of reliable time-travel to spill the beans or we’re too easy a target to draw ratings with. I’m leaning towards the ratings.
Program Stability – Gene Chizik took Auburn to the top of the college football world, but overall the ride was rough and exhausting on the Auburn family. I’d like to go an entire season without hearing about coaching conflict, team chemistry issues, etc. I hope Gus Malzahn is able to run the program in a way that will allow us all to focus on football and not behind the scenes issues. This also applies to the on-the-field product as well. Looking back, outside of most of 2010, you couldn’t look at any given game on the schedule and really have a good idea of what the team would like that week.
Less tailgating restrictions on campus for gamedays. I know that the chances of this coming to fruition are low, but this is a Christmas wishlist. I just think adding more things to pay for in order to have access to tailgating each year is moving in the opposite direction of making Auburn a family-friendly environment. I know there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution for this, but do we really want an all ‘Tailgate Guys’ campus tailgating presence for gamedays?
An edge. A mean streak. A disposition. Anything resembling fire. When Gus has finished separating the men from the boys in spring practice he will then have to start replacing the physicality of the Auburn football team that has vanished the previous two seasons. This has nothing to do with talent, which is why it is such a discouraging sign. I have no doubt that the team that runs out of the tunnel for the opening kickoff of 2013 will look much different from an attitude standpoint. Gus will restore belief, and with it, passion to perform.
Live Tiger(s) Mascots – Think about it: a night game, in Jordan-Hare, against a ranked opponent, the pre-game eagle flight, and as a last minute surprise Auburn debuts a live Tiger present on the sideline. Do you know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby! “Pumped up” wouldn’t come close to describing the crowd in attendance for that game.
Less Two-Bits and More Bodda Getta – Or better yet, more Trackem Tigers… But seriously, two-bits?
JUST WIN BABY – I’m not trying to be funny or mean spirited. I just really want to start winning more than we lose again. The amount of recent blowout losses to SEC foes is also something I’d like to see remedied. Jordan-Hare was not properly raucous not once outside of LSU in 2012.
Orange Jerseys – Imagine the scenario above that involved the debut of the live tiger. Now combine that with the team running out for the kickoff in previously unseen orange jerseys. Yes, please.
Beat Alabama – What would an Auburn Christmas wishlist be without this request? The post-game press conference rant from Saban about Malzahn’s “illegal” and “unfair” offense would be an instant classic.
The good news is that if you’ve made it here: (A) my ESPN rant wasn’t crazy enough to run you off (or you skipped it) and (B) the Mayans were totally wrong. Which reminds me, I’ve got a lot of previously unanticipated holiday shopping to get to. Please chime in and let me know what you want and don’t want from my list and also feel free to share your own Auburn football/college football wishlist.
Maybe you want the eagle to fly clockwise instead of counter-clockwise around the stadium for its pregame flight (or vice versa), maybe you want your own pair of Auburn’s practice short shorts (which would be weird but it’s your list), a mustache like Brian Van Gorder’s (be sure to apply for all of the legally required permits), or a genuinely clever name for your ‘Tailgate Guys’ setup; it doesn’t matter. Just remember it’s your list, and the possibilities are endless!
Enjoy your families and your time together with them this Christmas. Have a safe and wonderful extended weekend.
Merry Christmas! War Eagle!
Tags: Auburn Football, Auburn Football blogs, Auburn Tiger Football, auburn Tigers, Auburn Tigers Football, Auburn University, Derrick Roberts, Gus Malzahn, sec football, Track 'em Tigers, Track'emTigers, trackem tigers, track’em tigers.com