THE EARLY LEAD: B-Hurl’s somewhat loony holiday wish list
By BRANDON HURLEY
Dear Santa Claus,
Please, bear with me, you fluffy haired fool. Grab a glass of milk, throw on your big red coat and enjoy a beauty of a letter.
If I’m being completely honest, I usually don’t want much for Christmas. It’s awkward receiving gifts from someone, even if they are a close loved one. I never know the proper amount of excitement to express, and I typically don’t feel worthy of such graciousness. I’m occasionally embarrassed that someone actually took the time to put thought and effort in trying to make me happy. And to top it off, I’m a horrible gift giver. I struggle with ideas, a poor characterisiting puncuated by a crippling inability to actually wrap the presents. It’s a mess, trust me. Perhaps that’s why I’m a writer. I’m better at observing and voicing my thoughts in writing, I’ve never been much of a person who provides thoughtful, pre-mediated joy. I’m more of a spontaneous, spur of the moment type fella.
With that being said, there are a few sports-related things I’ve included on this year’s holiday wishlist. I know I haven’t been the best this year, but let’s be honest, who has? I deserve some slack, at least I feel so. Some of these items are a stretch, and others are things I wish would change, but the premise and purpose of this letter remains the same throughout.
Since I’m a sports nut, many of my gifts typically revolve around some type of memorabilia or tickets or subscription anyway, so this ensuing list is quite fitting.
Santa, if you’re out there, please give my concerns and wishes some thought. I know it’s been a tough year for all of us, so why not throw me a bone?
Here we go.
1. Please fix the numerous issues in college football
This is perhaps my most difficult and time-consuming gift request. I’m sure you can find a way to sprinkle some of your magic dust on the higher powers that be. This item alone could quite possibly push me past the 10,000 word mark if I were to intricately detail everything wrong with the game of college football. I’ll try and be somewhat quick. Despite it’s entertainment value, the NCAA and the College Football Playoff together are a freaking collective mess. Holy crap. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the games every Saturday, but things have gotten out of control lately.
Here are just a few items I’d like corrected:
A. Make all rules the same as the NFL
B. Share more TV revenue with the schools
C. Make regular season games matter again
D. Force teams to schedule tougher opponents/fix playoff
I really could go on and on and bore the hell out of my readers, but I’ll attempt to paraphrase each of these points. In reference to rules, there is no reason why an NFL player can get up off the ground untouched and keep running while if a college athlete’s knee or elbow touches the turf at any point, the play is dead. Also, why do you need two feet in bounds to make a catch in the NFL and only one in college? Why does the clock momentarily stop after every college first down but it doesn’t in the pros? And targeting, boy, that’s a whole can of worms that we could turn into an entire column. That rule needs to be fixed.
Now, this isn’t the easiest of transitions, but if the NCAA claims to be a non-profit organization, why can’t your billion dollar TV contracts keep schools from having to cut sports? The SEC recently inked a $300 million per year deal with ESPN while the NCAA is receiving nearly $1 billion per from Turner Sports for the rights to broadcast March Madness. This money certainly isn’t going to the member schools, because if that was the case, then despite a pandemic, lower-lever sports shouldn’t be eliminated in cost-cutting efforts. This stuff is crazy, and it blows my mind how the NCAA claims to still be focused on the student-athlete. There’s no way in hell, and Congress needs to step in and put a stop to this.
With that being said, college football is still an entertainment industry, and fans and players alike deserve to be treated to a good product. These last two points are rather intertwined. If you aren’t going to make the top-tier football teams play tough teams, and even if those games played don’t necessarily end up mattering in the long run, then why even have conferences and a regular season?
Ohio State is likely going to make the College Football Playoff having only played six games, taking the spot from an 11-0 Coastal Carolina team. There is certainly a high-likelihood that even if Clemson loses in the ACC title game Saturday, they’ll still make the playoffs if Texas A&M falters. Which, to my point, neither of those teams would have won a conference championship. Why do we even have conference championship games if they aren’t going to matter? And why is the playoff field restricted to just four? I’m sick of seeing Clemson and Alabama every year. Expand, please.
Whew... I’ll stop while I’m ahead. I could continue for days (don’t even get me started on recruiting), but I’ll spare you the pain.
2. Stop canceling games
This is a pretty broad wish with a lot of factors in play, but it’s still necessary to address. COVID-19, as we all know, is an incredible pain in the ass. It’s ruined so much this year and continues to throw off any and most plans. The sports world has not been spared, either. Remember that three month stretch from March to June? Ugh, that was brutal. No high school, college or professional sports. And even though competitions have come back, the global pandemic continues to play the relentless and stout defense. As a fan and a sports editor, these cancellations have become increasingly irritating, I can only imagine what it feels like as a player. Hell, the Greene County wrestling team took to the mat for the first time this Tuesday, nearly a full two weeks after the season started. Incredible.
The local basketball teams had their first three games wiped from the schedule the opening week and many college programs have seen competitions canceled as well. And this all makes sense, we are playing it safe. But, man, the rigidness of sports today is exhausting, even as a fan. Let’s hope we can have the NFL playoffs, high school basketball wrestling and basketball tournaments as well as March Madness occur in the next few months, because these guys and girls definitely deserve the chance. They’ve persevered, kept grinding, and it’d be a shame if even one of those have a season cut short.
3. Iowa beats top-rated Gonzaga, wins a national title
This is a no-brainer and certainly ranks as the most important on my wishlist. But, the initial part of this item is not necessarily a make-or-break moment in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a nice wish, isn’t it Santa?
Regardless, a victory by third-ranked Iowa basketball over the top-rated team in the country to remain undefeated would be a sight to see. Saturday’s showdown is by far the biggest and most notable regular season game in my lifetime growing up as an Iowa fan. And securing a marquee win like this on a neutral floor would be absolutely huge for their rightful claim among the nation’s elite. A triumph definitely puts Iowa on the map as a serious national title contender, and what an accomplishment that would be. A championship even during a global pandemic is still a historic achievement.
So please, Santa, I know this is a two-parter, but please let these things happen and help the season see it’s way through.
That’ll do it, Ole’ St. Nick. I know it’s not very lengthy, but there’s definitely some juicy material for you and the Mrs. to chew on. I’m a sports guy, did you expect anything less? The holidays and sports go together like a perfectly cooked ham and cheesy potatoes, washed down with some delectable cookies.
Speak to you again soon, big guy.