College football, that strange blend of tradition, pageantry and violence – not to mention a whiff of sulfur – comes to conclusion next Monday in the 2021 National Championship in Miami.
Two undefeated teams (Alabama, 11-0) and Ohio State (7-0) will face off in what might rightly be considered the Pandemic Bowl. In a year when hundreds of thousands of Americans died because of the coronavirus plague that was probably exacerbated by boneheaded actions (or inaction) by governments and everyday people, we decided we just could not do without big men tackling each other.
The 2021 college football season almost not did happen. At least three conferences – including the Pac-12 and the Big 10 – announced that health was more important than high fives and were pulling the plug on the season.
Of course, that was before the implications of lost TV revenue and alumni pressure rolled over them like the Crimson Tide playing East Idaho Tech, and the schedule was, in part, restored.
The result was that some schools played a lot fewer games than others. That led to some boneheaded reactions led by Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney voting Ohio State 11th in the nation because it had only played six games to that point.
Well, using that as an extra motivation, the Buckeyes creamed the Tigers 49-28, proving the wisdom of The Joker (Jack Nicholson) in the first Batman movie when he said, “Never rub another man’s rhubarb.”
Perhaps the most intriguing suggestion about national college football championships came from The New York Times, which suggested that the nation’s best team was actually the University of Connecticut Huskies.
Coach Randy Edsall asked his players whether they wanted to play football during a pandemic. They said no, they’d rather live.
“It was simply the right thing,” said Edsall. “I never questioned the decision we made. Not once.”
I can give the NFL a pass on this because they are paid professionals represented by a strong union that insisted on rigid protocols. Even so, many players tested positive and some sickened.
History will judge whether the thrill of the bands and the cheers was worth it at the cost of sounds of those gasping for breath in emergency rooms.
– Pete Zarustica