Tuesday, August 24, 2010

family conversations, 2010 version, part 4

Welcome to a rousing return of "Family Conversations," a much beloved running segment in which I trade emails with my cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?) Jamie, regarding 'Bama football, Auburn football and life in general (take a glance at Jamie's family blog when you can). You can read the first three parts here, here and here. As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts here in the commentary section or by visiting me on Twitter.

will: Aw hell, your two questions are so good, let's flip them around from the Auburn side: your most-replayed plays? Most regrettable plays?
Jamie: Most replayed plays in no particular order:
1) I'm going to group these 3 plays into one. I still have no idea why this game never got the "did you see that?" notoriety that it deserved. One of the most unforgettable days I have ever spent watching a football game.

2) Related to one of your most forgettable, 1997 Iron Bowl. In case Ed Scissum ever gets this forwarded to him, I will not link the play. I'm sure you have seen it enough anyway.
3) In 1994 four high school kids hopped into an "89 Ford Tempo and set sail for Gaineville, FL (Our 3rd such road trip of the season) with dreams of knocking off #1 Florida. Joyous times were those days.

Most regretable: #1 and not even a close second in my mind:

This game haunts me to this day. I was 10 and could not take the pressure of that final play. I went to the bathroom and turned on all the sinks and shut my ears. When I returned my grandparents (granddad was tide fan) looked at me as if the world had ended. Even at 10, I knew that team was awesomely good, and a loss would be devastating. If Ron Stallworth is one step closer to Tommy Hodson We are watching AU-Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl for the National Title.

will: How much do you pay attention to Auburn guys at the next level?
Jamie: I keep up with AU guys a good bit. Obviously it's easier to keep up with Jason Campbell or Ronnie Brown than someone like Kendall Simmons.

Jamie: What team besides Fla, Ga or UT do you see winning the East first.
will: I've actually written about this before, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what is keeping South Carolina from being a contender. South Carolina doesn't have the handcuffs of rigorous academics (like Vanderbilt) or a monstrous basketball program that dominates everything (like Kentucky). Actually they appear to have all the same advantages enjoyed by every other school in the conference: rabid alumni, plenty of cash (Spurrier doesn't work for free) and the designation as the state universities. But they always seem to take a step back every time it seems like they could contend; even the Spurrier thing hasn't worked out for them. So I guess they'd be my pick to be the one who wins the East out of the "bottom 3," although they've shown little sign they can be anything other than "dangerous" most of the time.

Jamie: How much power does ESPN have over college football and at what level do they affect the landscape of the sport with thing such as; who should be ranked over whom, coaches keeping their jobs, and players winning individual awards etc...?
will: It's fair to say ESPN has a great deal of influence, only I'm not sure it's entirely their fault. The 24-hour news cycle can be difficult to fill, even in sports. And, much like us as fans, ESPN is a sucker for a good story.
Weirdly, the two biggest problems with ESPN are also its two biggest strengths. To wit:
• Its endless supply of former coaches, former players and longtime writers able to obtain access at every turn. Which is great, until it comes time to criticize. Because all those guys build relationships with the people they cover (obviously, this is how they get the access in the first place) and it invariably clouds their thinking. And God forbid everyone associates an analyst with a certain school (lookin at you, Herbstreit) ... it's hard enough in this business to fight the perception that you're biased.
• Quite simply, ESPN is everywhere. Nationwide (worldwide), they can cover every single story in every single part of the country, almost at a moment's notice. The problem: they don't seem to cover them particularly well. Whenever ESPN writes a story of local interest in the SEC, it has the feel of "drive-by" journalism: they came in, did two interviews, read the local paper and off they went. Didn't take much time to figure out the meat of what's going on ... and why would they? There are other stories in other parts of the country to cover.
Does this influence the country? Somewhat. Fans will believe what they believe, for the most part; anytime they see a story contrary to what they believe, they dismiss it as "media bias." Nonetheless, most of our universities know better than to get on ESPN's bad side.

will: My follow-ups:
• How superstitious are you? Do you have any particular pregame traditions? A lucky shirt? A favorite drink? Any place you have to visit?
• Do you have an innovative idea for the playoff system you'd use in your ideal world?

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