There was massive pageantry at last Saturday night’s football game between Georgia and Notre Dame. More people than have ever been squeezed inside Sanford Stadium. A gargantuan light show to rival any rock band’s best effort. A flyover by four of our nation’s finest fighter jets. Oh, yes. There was a pretty good football game, to boot — won by the home team — plus a television audience in the millions.
So, what was the primary topic of conversation concerning the game on Sunday morning — and Monday and Tuesday?
Flopping Fighting Irish.
That’s right. At least twice Notre Dame football players fell to the earth and pretended to be hurt because Georgia was flying down the field so fast that the visitors couldn’t stop them and needed to regroup, but they couldn’t call time out because they had wasted most of theirs already, trying to deal with the deafening crowd noise inside the stadium.
Not so fast my friend! How do you know they weren’t actually hurt? Losing Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had the audacity to ask that very question at his post-game press conference, bemoaning the fact that loud choruses of boos were raining down upon his prone players.
That’s easy. Because they did the worst acting job since Don Drysdale was on “Leave it to Beaver” in 1962. One player was actually dragged to the turf by his teammate. The other got the message from a gentle tap on the shoulder. You can see it all very clearly on the replay.
I, for one, understood their plight. Such nonsense has been going on for a long, long time in competitive sports. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Everybody is trying to get an edge.
Back in the day, at great personal sacrifice, I might add, I surrendered my basketball career after one season on the Newton Ram junior varsity to offer my greater talents as team manager. I was a so-so player. I was All-America as a manager, and as such, learned a lot of the tricks of the coaching trade, long before I learned the trade.
Those of you who are local to this area — all 12 of you — will remember “The Streak.” The Newton County High School Rams once won 129 straight basketball games on her home court, between 1959 and 1968. Death Valley was an intimidating place to play. When the opposing team went down into the dungeon that was their dressing room, it might have been a might toasty down there. Or it might have been a tad cool. It was seldom comfortable. The one light bulb that provided light for them to dress was a 40-watt model. After 50-plus years, honesty compels me to admit that I was the person, for four years, responsible for the wattage of the bulb and for the thermostat.
Like I said, everyone is trying to get an edge. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
It was NOT me who turned the lights out in the gym the few times we found ourselves trailing late in the game. That would have been Sheriff Junior Odum, I’m pretty sure. But he wore a badge and several guns. Nobody was going to tell him to stay away from the fuse box.
I coached high school basketball and football for parts of four decades. Sometimes you needed to stop play. If a clumsy player kicked over a cup of water and the refs had to find towels and wipe it up while you got your star point guard’s nose bleed under control, well, stuff happens. And if someone loses a contact, absolutely you have to stop and look for it. And the light was always better for looking for a lost contact over by my team’s bench.
Now before you start castigating me, let he who is without sin cast the first stone!
Think about it. You ever make a phone call to your boss on a Monday morning when the weekend had been a little too hard? You ever call in sick to take advantage of a special pre-Christmas sale when you might have really been able to tough it out at work if you had really hunkered down?
How about social engagements? What excuses have you used to get out of that dinner with a certain couple because you knew they were going to show slides of their recent trip to Rock City and Lookout Mountain? And were you really, really too sick to go to church on that particular Sunday like you told your preacher, or was TBS showing “Cool Hand Luke” at 9:30?
And ladies — none of you has had that many headaches!
Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
In the end the game turned out fine for the home team and the visitors made it back to Indiana unscathed. Now if I can just figure out how to do that Irish Flop the next time my lovely wife, Lisa, has a chore for me to do around the house I will be in business. But after nearly 40 years together, she’s not nearly as easy to fool as a college football official.