Lake Wobegone (Signing) Day

January17/ 2000

 Those of you with “real lives” who actually contribute to society probably didn’t  realize it; but Wednesday was “special”.  It was not a contrived holiday for some radical fringe group seeking to force its total irrelevance down our thoughts …. Well actually that’s exactly what it was.  It was “National Signing Day” for Division 1-A Football Programs.  Also called “Mack Brown’s Christmas”.  The day that football coaches consult a thesaurus for synonyms for “outstanding”, “top-notch”, and (BobLee’s alltime fave) “our kinda kids”.

In Garrison Keillor’s mythical Lake Wobegone … 

all the women are strong, 

all the men are good-looking, 

and all the children are above average”.  

   Surely Lake Wobegone has a Division 1-A “Big Time” College Football program, if not, they need to start one JUST for National Signing Day hyperbole if nothing else.

Yesterday the 120+ NCAA Division 1-A football schools could “officially” sign their annual harvest of “Blue Chippers”.  Figure 120 schools with roughly 25 “football scholarships” equals 3,000 young men who, as of Wednesday, will have all or a portion of their college “education” paid for in exchange for their perceived ability to “play football” at the major college level. 

There are some genuine “wonderful stories” among those 3,000 kids.  Many of those kids might not have the opportunity for a college education were it not for their athletic prowess.  A cure for Alzheimers or another Ken Lay might evolve from these opportunities.  If Miss America contestants can earn “scholarship money” for simply being prettier than other girls why can’t Billy Blue Chip do likewise for being faster, stronger, or “more aggressive” than other boys.  “Athletic scholarships” are not a bad thing.

Like every privilege in our society, it is abused … and the instances of “abuse” seem to increase annually.  Tax fraud, Welfare fraud, Voter fraud, and “student athlete” fraud … grab a cat by its tail and swing it and you are likely to hit examples of these and countless other abuses in our society.  But, if it provides “column fodder” for folks like us, it is not totally without value. 

“Tax Fraud” is “OK” if it’s you saving $$$.  “Welfare Fraud” is “OK” if it’s you getting the extra $$$.  “Voter Fraud” is “OK” if you’re a Democrat … and “Jock-ademic Fraud” is “OK” if he’s wearing your preferred jersey color.  Remember Rule 2 of the Hypocritical Fan: Who cheats in recruiting? – THEY do, not us!

Remember Harry Carson … played linebacker for the New York Football Giants in the 80s w/ LT.  Harry can’t seem to get quite enough votes to get into the NFL Hall of Fame.  He can’t figure out why.  Here’s why.  Harry “invented” the Gatorade Dump.  

Yes, it was Harry Carson that first grabbed the Gatorade thermos and dumped it on Bill Parcells.  It was funny the first time.  It was kinda funny the first 50 times.  That lame tradition “jumped the shark” about 1995 but endures into 2006.  Sorry Harry, that’s what you get for starting it.

   NOTE: On Sat-Feb 4, after reading this column, Harry Carson publically apologized to “sports fans everywhere” for inventing “that stoopid Gatorade Dump”.  In return, Harry was voted into The NFL Hall Of Fame.  Once again, BobLee “stirs the drink”. 

I’m offering a reward of a dinner for three at The BBQ Joint for you and those two Panther Cheerleaders for whoever can trace the first Blue Chipper to do “the ballcap grab”.   That lame stunt joined “the wave” back during Clinton’s first term.

Billy BlueChip has his big announcement press conference in the school library attended by his proud coach, the local high school sports beat writer, his homies, his proud mamma, a couple of “Erkles” from Internet recruiting services, and a mysterious “uncle” who holds up the cue card saying MENTION “ACADEMICS”.

Billy sets out three different ballcaps like a 3-card monte scam on 6th Avenue.  Milking his Andy Warhol Moment for all he can he selects his chosen school cap and tells the world which fine institution he has deigned to grace with his presence on the way to “the league”.  Appropriately colored balloons appear, mamma rips off her coat to reveal the appropriate t-shirt and the beat writer asks the coach when he begins his new job as Deep Snapper Coach at, coincidentally, that same school.

In our rapidly changing world, its nice to have a few “always” you can count on.  Every Blue Chipper press conference MUST mention “academics”.  I picture Billy in the Little Boys Room just before the big announcement practicing saying it … “ak – a – dem – icks”.  What does it mean?  Never mind what it means JUST SAY IT!

He has two phrases he MUST say … 

  •  “Me and Eddie really hit it off.”  “Eddie” is 50 y/o Coach Ed Smith who pretended to know who “Fifty Cent” was when he took Billy to dinner at Lobsters R Us.  Coach Ed hid his Alan Jackson CDs in the glove compartment til Billy was back home.  Being 18, fast, and strong means you get to treat a 50 y/o man like one of your homies.
  • “I hear they have good ak-a-dem-icks.”  This side reference to the education-related aspect of this bizarre ritual is usually sandwiched between “they have lots of pretty girls” and “I enjoyed playing the cool video games in the fancy “football center”.  I’m waiting for a UNC signee to add “and really great lasagna at The Rat”.  

Yesterday some 3,000 of America’s Fastest, Strongest and Most Aggressive Young Men were spoken of in hyper-effusive terms that would put Morehead, Park, Angia B Duke, and Rhodes Scholars to shame.  Individually and collectively, each school signess are (according to 120 Head Coaches) THE MOST incredible collection of muscle, bone, sinew, heart and soul ever assembled.  Just when you thought nothing could ever top last year’s incredible recruiting class … they went and done it on Wednesday.

“Your coach” used one of two basic speechs … either:

  1.  “We don’t go by all those recruiting service rankings. We go after (TAA DA!) “our type of kid”.  Also known as “we filled needs”.  ….  This is used if your school did not sign any “highly ranked kids”.
  2.  “We really got a highly ranked group”.  This is known as the Mack, Pete, Bobby, Urban speech.

I’m glad to see John Bunting sign so many “in-state kids”.  I think that’s important.  He probably can’t win a National Championship or maybe not even get to “a BCS” using local kids, but neither of those matter much to me.  Beat State 4 outta 5, beat Duke every year, hold your own against UVa, and for GAWD SAKES don’t lose to Furman again.  Do it with a base of “local boys” with a nice mix of regional kids.  

Woody Durham already knows how to pronounce Chocawinity, Burgaw, Sylva Webster, and Nantahala.  Woody’s too old to have to be learning every “one stop light & a Wal-Mart” town in West Texas.

In John’s annual “great buncha kids” speech, I hope he down played the part about “I guarantee none of’em will embarrass the University”.  That is as silly as President Bush saying “no elected Republican knew Jack Abramoff”. Don’t promise crap you can’t guarantee.  That goes for Chuck too, but he’s dealing with a slightly different mindset with his disciples.

In a reversal from recent years, Chuck Amato did not sign a bunch of highly-rated players from Florida (but Doc Holliday’s current employer sure did!) so, of course, Chuck recruited to “fill our needs”.  Haven’t the keystone players for State in recent years been his in-state signees … Mario, Manny, Demario, AJ, Andre, Toney, etc.  Have the much-ballyhooed Florida expatriates been all that productive … Hall, Washington, Davis etc ??? I could be wrong again!

In recent years UNC recruited “to fill our needs” and NCSU “counted stars” … yet UNC has won  “on the field” for the past two years.  The only Football wins I care about take place in the Fall, not in February, so we’ll see how this reversal turns out.

Even in Lake Wobegone … not EVERYONE is indeed “above average” but on “Signing Day” it’s what we all wanna hear.


 Swagger’s Stumper

 What beer “Made Milwaukee Famous”?


   Charlotte Smith’s buzzer beater beat LOUISIANA TECH in ’94.

    Wanna feel REAL OLD … “Baby Jessica” of “is still stuck in the well” fame is 19 and just got married. … and, in a related story … “Spain’s Francisco Franco is still dead!” … and they’re still counting chads in Broward County.

    Here’s another GREAT lead paragraph … Not as good as “Two Cheerleaders In A Toilet Stall” but worth a mention: New Zealand filmmaker Lee Tamahori, who directed the James Bond movie “Die Another Day,” has been arrested in a Hollywood prostitution sting while dressed in drag. Tamahori, 55, was arrested on January 8 when he allegedly sought sex with an undercover policeman while clad in women’s clothes, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court”. 

Me and Big Bobby got us some hot dates and went over to see the legendary IVORY LATTA play on Thursday night.  She is a hum-dinger.  More “real UNC fans” should make the effort to see her. … (NOTE: If anyone got torqued that I call Ivory “a tadpole”, I call Kid “a porcupine” … GET OVER IT!)

Former Bill Dooley Assistant CLYDE WALKER died recently in Charlotte at 75.  We knew Coach Walker … a very fine man.  He was also football coach at Raleigh Broughton.  After UNC he was AD at Kansas.

   My “inside sources” tell me that Coach John REALLY DID sign some “great kids”.  My “inside sources” define “great” using BobLee’s old-fashioned definition.

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