Wednesday, December 6, 2017
I have been entertained recently by the events surrounding the departure of coach Jimbo Fisher from Florida State University. Whereas he was the Seminole sweetheart at the beginning of the year he was the devil in blue jeans these past few weeks. I have not ever seen a man free fall so quickly through job security that would have made the Ceasars envious. However it has always seemed to me that the fan base here in Tallahassee has always been a bit fickle if not mean spirited surrounding football.
I will offer up one piece of evidence. That would be the departure of Bobby Bowden, my neighbor and iconic coach of the Seminoles from 1976-2009. This man was successful by any measure. He took FSU from a struggling 0-11 season and turned them into a football program that owned the decade of the '90's. He led the Seminoles to 2 national championships and 12 ACC championships. His lifetime record was 377-129-4. He is one of the winningest football coaches in history. The field at Doak is named after him. He has a statue out in front of the stadium. However, as you recall, the fans turned on him at the end of his football career like a pack of hyenas. He asked for one more year to coach at the end. Many believed that he should have been granted that if for no other reason than the fact that he was Bobby Bowden The boosters, fans and most of the administration denied him the one more year. For what reason? He had gotten old. If they had run him off because he was black, female or transgendered the university would now be called Bobby Bowden University with many buildings bearing the name of his attorney. However, he had gotten old and as we all know there is no defined EEO criteria for that. I don't believe that anyone has successfully won many age discrimination law suits so far to date.
I recall coming here from Alabama in 1972. I went to a lot of football games out at the stadium. There was a small grandstand that might have held 7,500 fans on a good day. The Seminoles were ranked in the top 20 by UPI and AP polling. After a bunch of losses I remember being in the stands and being overcome by the fact that the fans stood and collectively booed the team as they came off the field. I was shocked. I don't recall ever having seen that before in college football. I don't suppose, based on that experience, that I should have been surprised at the current events.
Now to be fair to Seminole nation I don't think that they are a whole lot different than most other fan bases around the country in the final analysis. Heck, I like to see the Seminoles win and would count myself as a fan. I declare myself to be a Bama-nole. My 'Bama devotion supercedes my FSU devotion. Heck I paid a lot of money to educate 2 of my 3 children there. The other wanted to leave town for a while and went to Gainesville to become a Gator. I also like to see them win.
It should be noted that following Bear Bryant's 27 year run at Alabama there were 8 coaches succeeding him, none of whom could fill the Bear's shoes sufficiently. Ray Perkins lasted 3 years followed by Bill Curry who was a wonderful person and a pretty danged good coach. He only went 2 years before someone parked a moving van in front of his house. Gene Stallings went for 6 years and produced a national champion in '92. He also got us placed on the NCAA death sentence for recruiting violations. From 1996 to 2006 winning was pretty scarce at Alabama. We went through 4 coaches in that run of 10 years: DuBose, Franchione ( who left to go to Texas A&M), Price who never called the first play but had fun with hookers in Florida at a coaching meeting, and then Mike Shula. I liked Mike Shula but he could not beat Auburn so that ended his days there. Then in 2007 Nick Saban, after telling the Miami Dolphins that he was their coach for life, agreed to coach at Alabama. Enter the new dynasty of Alabama football.
The simple fact is that college football has become a big soap opera. That fact has been abetted by the 24/7 talking heads on half a dozen networks who stir the pot as things develop. Most everyone has a team. As a devotee they all feel that they have a say in how the football program is run. Everyone from the CEO of Nike to Joe Sixpack feel obligated to comment on the ups and downs of their respective teams. Don't believe me? Watch the Paul Finebaum show for 15 minutes or until you become physically ill and listen to the people who call in. I think Finebaum is a great analyst however when he opens the phone lines for all the alcoholics and mental patients to start calling in the program immediately falls into an advertisement for what I am saying in this Blog. Everyone has an opinion of some sort related to their team.
I had a friend of mine invite me to attend church many years ago. It was a baptist church. I advised my friend that I was not baptist but was a mormon. I did not think I would be welcome at their church meeting. He said for me not to worry about that. They were meeting that night to vote out the preacher and all that I needed to do was raise my hand when he and his wife did. The preacher had stepped on too many toes at the last meeting and he needed to be gone.
People feel a right of entitlement after they have invested time and money into a focus of their interest. I think that is a little of what is in play with the fan uprisings in football and people who go to church. I am not sure if there have been any doctoral thesis pursuits on that subject. I find it somewhat entertaining and fun to watch. I guess sort of like a reality television show or a soap opera.