By Scott Sullivan
Football brings heartwarming holiday moments. My favorite came during former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral.
At the same time ex-President George W. Bush was giving his father’s eulogy, Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke was summoning Senior at a press conference. She could not help but think that H.W. was “looking down from heaven with happiness” to know Houston was getting an XFL team.
The XFL, as some may recall, was a pro football league launched in 2001 by NBC and the World Wrestling Federation. Not all network moguls were thrilled. Bob Costas, who declined to call games, announced, “It has to be at least a decade since I first mused out loud, ‘Why doesn’t somebody combine mediocre high school football with a tawdry strip club?’ Finally, somebody takes my idea and runs with it.”
After losing $35 million in the league’s first season, the partners bagged it. Apparently fans were not ready yet to appreciate the Maniax, Rage, Xtreme, Demons, Hitmen, Outlaws and Enforcers playing a practically rules-free game egged on by trash-talking P.A. announcers and near-naked cheerleaders.
We’ve evolved. You can resurrect Jesus, so why not a great idea like this? I brushed a tear from my eye to think the late president would take time out from his son’s eulogy to smile down on Burke’s announcement.
There are more football reasons to be grateful this time of season. In another, Hugh Freeze — who resigned as Ole Miss coach in 2016 rather than be fired for repeatedly patronizing a female escort service, paying players under the table and so on — said upon being hired as new coach at Liberty University, “Jesus is the only person I’ve met who can handle my junk.”
Talk about repentance. Liberty, founded by the late Jerry Falwell and now presided over by Jerry Falwell Jr., may be near the bottom of Forbes’ college academic rankings. But its “Knowledge Aflame” motto is appropriate.
In all the times I’ve met Jesus, I’ve never asked Him to handle my junk. Burn, baby, burn. Now it’s Christmas, maybe I should.
Every dim bulb has a silver lining. Take the University of North Carolina, which fired head coach Larry Fedora after back-to-back 9-loss and 1-7 conference seasons.
I wrote about Larry in August after he warned that football is “under attack” by folks using data to link head blows he urged his charges to face with every play with concussions. Changes fact-mongers were proposing to make the sport safer “would mean the decline of our country,” Fedora cautioned.
Nothing makes America great like ignoring evidence. “I fear the game will be pushed so far to one extreme you won’t recognize it 10 years from now,” warned Larry. “If it gets to that point, our country goes down too.” Yikes.
You can bust your head playing basketball, baseball and beer pong if you’re as clumsy as I am. If those go, no sweat.
But football? What would America be had not Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson suffered brain damage playing even though the game was not yet invented.
UNC is ranked higher than Liberty, which is somewhere near Romper Room, academically. Trustees there were willing to overlook head trauma but not losing teams that were driving away fans and revenues.
Silver lining? Fedora will have time off to be with his family this holiday. Plus he’ll turn up elsewhere. Big college football devours its offspring, then, just as predictably, recycles them.
Enough fun and games. Now we’re grown women, men or persyns, it is time to put away childish things. One of mine, having been raised Christian, was thinking only my kind can go to heaven. Too bad, Jewish Jesus.
Now such a house of mirrors sounds like hell to me. I’d rather die to eternity there and return to a more-inclusive place such as Saugatuck-Douglas where there’s always vinegar as a tonic to milk and honey.
So Fedora, Freeze, Burke … happy holidays to us all.