Imagine a world without college football. No pennants pinned in cubicles or fantasy football arguments at lunch. No athletic men in jerseys on high-def flat-screens, being screamed at by unathletic men in jerseys on sectional sofas. There are no fight songs, no tailgates, no sports bars. No bowl games in December and January. No universities making billions off undefeated seasons and ticket sales and television rights and logo-ed ballcaps made in Taiwan.
Okay then. Here we are, living in this alternate world without college football. Now he’s just a white haired man with an alleged penchant for children. In this alternate world, he is not tied to bowl games or television rights or ticket sales or logo-ed ballcaps made in Taiwan. He is just a white haired man with an alleged penchant for children.
As it turns out, this alternate universe exists. It’s called my hometown, and probably your hometown too. They bust white haired men for trolling playgrounds and chat rooms, and the hometown district attorney throws the book at them. There was a white haired man on the local news last week, walking in handcuffs, a windbreaker over his head. At our local farmer’s market, they give away thin newspapers with the headshots and criminal histories of all the sex offenders in our hometown. It includes a big map with red dots denoting their home addresses. There is no Division I, national championship-winning university with a legendary coach in my hometown.
Now jump back to a world with college football. The white haired man is busted more than ten years ago, but he doesn’t lose his family, his home, his freedom. In fact, he loses very little. The hometown district attorney dismisses any criminal charges. The white haired man retires from the football program. He retains his emeritus status.
In 2002, when a graduate assistant catches the white haired man sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the shower, he reports it. The graduate assistant later finds himself in a meeting with the athletic director and the university’s senior vice president for finance and business. Interesting. The senior vice president for finance and business in a meeting about a former assistant football coach.
Amazing power, that oblong leather ball holds. As this debacle unfolds, we hear a lot about bowl status, scholarships, the future of the football team’s 2011 season. We hear outrage about the legendary coach’s firing. We hear no outrage about the victims. Did you know there are eight victims in the grand jury indictment? That’s more than half of my son’s kindergarten class. I’d encourage anyone who rioted in State College or flipped over a news van last night to read the indictment. It is more tragic than any last second loss to Ohio State, if you can even imagine such a thing.
In a world without college football, we sing fight songs for the victims. We paint our faces and rage at the loss of their innocence. We pin up pennants in our cubicles rallying for their support. We carry them off on our shoulders victorious, having defeated an enemy far more sinister than a wolverine, badger or boilermaker. That’s the alternate world I’d like to live in. Because it’s certainly not the one we live in now.