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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Capital One Bowl Zen

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All fans and even sporadically enthusiastic social hangers-on of the game can all recall a great game, a fun game, a drunken game, an intense finish that uplifted them for an afternoon, or an entire weekend. In honor of the impending kickoff to the 2006 season, SMQ resolves over the next three weeks to share a few of the personal moments that have fueled and reinforced his irreversible affection and obsession for the apparent foolishness known as college football.

TODAY: January 1, 2005: Iowa 30, LSU 25
Ah, these were simpler times: gas was ludicrous at $1.59.9, Hurricane Katrina was months away. Young SMQ, having eluded the unsettling and persistent New Year's Eve advances of a lonely, anonymous, middle-aged aunt-type at the wedding party of a high school friend's father, was laboring to conceal his only January 1 hangover to date when father of SMQ asked, "Did you wear a tie last night? It's in the driveway."

Consequently, the morning's games were a haze. Vince Young (and, we forget, the also-spectacular Braylon Edwards) would be opening eyes everywhere hours later, but early on, the Gator, Cotton and Outback bowls were less enthralling than the largest possible cup of water.

Anyone inclined to recall such trivialities at all will remember the 2005 Capital One Citrus Bowl almost exclusively for Drew Tate's desperation heave ho to win, improbably hauled in by fifth-year senior Warren Holloway for his first career touchdown at the gun, and Tate's spontaneous, sprinting, helmet-pumping reaction. Which was itself suitably memorable.

For SMQ, though, the fog briefly lifted sometime late in the third quarter, just prior to LSU's insertion of hyped, untested redshirt freshman JaMarcus Russell for senior Marcus Randall and struggling Matt Flynn, around the time Iowa launched consecutive drives of 12, 8 and 12 plays to build a 12-point lead early in the final quarter, when ennui morphed into a barely describable state of something like nirvana: Michael Jordan once described "The Zone" in basketball as looking at the basket and seeing a big ol' empty bucket, and similarly, very gradually, SMQ began to view the game in what he felt was its truth, stripped of adornment. Not the game of football, generally, but of college football specifically, of its messiness, inconsistency, of this huge, impossibly wide field that looks so confined when the professionals step on, of the substitutions, the depth and the mass quantity of athletes directly involved, and fleeting successes immediately forgotten but also quietly carried around with them forever, of the often subtle and sometimes convulsive ebbs and flows, momentum and strategy born of trial and error and the effortless focus that comes with experience and immersion in a game that takes its time, breathes, evolves and develops its own specific rhythm – the unpredictable but palpable and inherent rhythm, precisely, in danger of succumbing to the commercialized creep of conformity. An acute awareness of the haphazard process of micro-evolution, whether or not its exact nature could be understood by the lay observer.

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Mahayanan conception of the paramitas and the ideal of the bodhisattva's universal salvific power: Drew Tate hands off

And of its ultimate indifference: after Russell had come off the bench to lead LSU to two late touchdowns for a late one-point lead – and SMQ had returned to a more normal state of basic nausea - the un-thinking desperation of the Tate-Hollingsworth heave mocked in a way the effort and sweat that had preceded it, and exhilaratingly justified it all at once. On other levels, Tate’s reaction, in the unlikely event the game allowed him to be in the position to react to anything at all, would have been a penalty.

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11:14 AM

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And don't let the name fool ya - second guessing the phenomenal athletic feats and split-second decisions of college kids under extreme physical duress is for every day of the week.

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