Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Best of Sports Writing This Week

Good writing offers perspective: a chance to see a subject from another vantage point. That's why, hopefully, I use this blog to not merely echo majority sentiment. The last thing we need in the world is our news broadcast to us at a slightly higher volume. But I hope I'm providing an alternative perspective -- a chance to see subjects from another vantage point.

These three pieces did that for me this week. And if you find some time on Sunday afternoon, they would be worthy choices for reading that I think you might find enlightening and enjoyable...

Meyer, Stoops Go for the Jugular by's Pat Forde

In a college football world littered with would-be National Champions, why was it that Oklahoma & Florida were the only two left standing? Well, part of the explanation lies with the system of major conference conglomeration (known as the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS) which ensures that the lion's share of bowl revenue will be reserved for the college football elite.

The other part of the explanation, however, involves the sportsmanship (or lack thereof) of coaches Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops. And it left me wondering whether one of the last vestiges of gentlemanly behavior -- whether your particular school calls it sportsmanship, class, or whatever -- is simply a relic of an older time in college sports: an unnecessary & cumbersome luxury in today's climate and under our current circumstances.

I think I've already figured out what it says about the BCS: yet another reason to pile on & beat the dead horse. But it also left me wondering, "What does that say about college football?" And, more broadly, "about our culture?"

Here's an excerpt:

There are so many things to debate here in the run-up to the FedEx BCS National Championship Game.

But one thing about this game is indisputable: Running up the score pays off. Sooners and Gators alike can agree on that after watching their teams pile on the style points late in games to influence poll voters.

In today's college football, sportsmanship is hazardous to your BCS health. Greed is good.

The Courage of Detroit by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom is one of the nation's best writers, period. And he just happens to write about sports for a living.

This one was a warm exercise in homerism. It'll leave you feeling like you know Detroit.

Thanks to Bob for passing this great little piece along.

And we are modest. In truth, we battle an inferiority complex. We gave the world the automobile. Now the world wants to scold us for it. We gave the world Motown music. Motown moved its offices to L.A. When I arrived 24 years ago, to be a sports columnist at the Detroit Free Press, I discovered several letters waiting for me at the office. Mind you, I had not written a word. My hiring had been announced, that's all. But there were already letters. Handwritten. And they all said, in effect, "Welcome to Detroit. We know you won't stay long, because nobody good stays for long, but we hope you like it while you're here."

Coffee quietly went about his business at UA by Cecil Hurt

Cecil Hurt is hands down the best sports writer that you've never heard of. He should be the Sports Editor of a newspaper with a much larger readership, like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Instead he's at home covering University of Alabama athletics for the Tuscaloosa News.

I enjoyed how he broke down the sensationalism of Tim Tebow & his faith, as compared with the humble nature of how Alabama running back Glen Coffee worked out his faith. As wonderful as Tim Tebow probably is, the vast amount of media affection for him is perhaps ultimately counter-productive for what he wants it to be: the sharing & spreading of his faith.

I respect Tim Tebow as I respect Glen Coffee. Both are warriors on the field and, as far as I can judge, sincere off the field.

I was never convinced Tebow’s decision to sign with Florida instead of Alabama was quite the inner struggle that it was purported to be on the ESPN special chronicling his recruitment. But he says it was tough and I will give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s been on my past two Heisman Trophy ballots and if, unlike Glen Coffee, he decides to return for another season in college, he’ll probably make my list for 2009 as well.

I refrain from calling him “Superman,” as television commentators do repeatedly, not because he isn’t a great player and a fine young man, but because ultimately, the over-the-top hyperbole doesn’t do Tebow any good, either.

The Florida quarterback seems to have turned just about every person with a microphone into a blathering fan. In the end, one fears, it will end up having the same result as Dick Vitale’s endless paeans to the Duke basketball program. You’ll start to resent the subject because the messenger — or, in Tebow’s case, the legions of messengers — finally push you to a point where you say “enough is enough.”

I ended up watching the BCS championship and wondering if Tebow had any teammates. That’s not Tebow’s fault, but it was the impression you were left with by the Fox broadcast. It’s great to say that Tebow was “willing his team to victory,” but there must have been at least 21 other Gators who were doing a little something.

That’s why, sometimes, it is easier to like someone who goes about things in a more quiet world, not free from media attention but not transformed by it. Someone like Glen Coffee. One always knew Glen Coffee was part of a larger team.


Dan said...

That's a great article about Tebow and Coffee. I think Hurt captured my feelings about Tebow pretty well. I really want to like the guy: he's a great college football player, leader, and solid Christian man. But I find that he is extremely cocky, and I'm not sure he even realizes how cocky he is. It's like he's oblivious to it. Sometimes I jokingly refer to him as Tim "Never-Met-a-Camera-I-Didn't-Like" Tebow.

In my opinion, humility is as integral to the Christian lifestyle as preaching in prisons or writing Bible verses in your eye black. Someone like Coffee, to me, who doesn't run his mouth about it, but just goes and lives it, is someone I can respect more. But maybe it's just me.

Of course, all the Tebow-worship by the talking heads, as Hurt mentions, sure doesn't help bring him back to earth either.

Genies Alan said...

Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

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