Why Johnny Can’t Win

John Swofford
February27/ 2012

In 1955, Austrian readability expert Rudolf Flesch wrote a book called Why Johnny Can’t Read.  (readability expert ??).  I like to begin a column with a catchy title.   My alternate title – “Non Amicus Wolfpackus”  is beyond “catchy” to bewildering.
“Johnny” is maligned, embattled and disparaged ACC Commissioner “Little Johnny” Swofford.  No matter what he does, Johnny Can’t Win.  Neither could Hannibal.

Being a BCS Conference Commish is, like Public School Superintendent, not an occupational safe haven for anyone needing lots of warm fuzzies.   A commissioner of anything is doomed to be maligned.  Whether “of” is your county, Major League Baseball, or The ACC.

A Commissioner answers to a board composed of his member institutions.  He does not make rules but he is charged with enforcing them.  That is no fun at all.  In good times the commissioner gets zero credit as prosperity happens “in spite of” his obvious incompetence and/or blatant conspiratorial dishonesty.  When storm clouds roll in, as storm clouds do, it is “obviously” due to Commissioner Doofus.

Selecting a Conference Commissioner from among the member institutions is a risky venture at best.  Never more so than in “the modern era” of sports as “blood sport”.  91.6% of Swofford-haters cannot name any previous ACC Commissioner.  That right there tells you the level of general awareness you are dealing with on this issue.

I am of the “on his watch” school of commissioner evaluation.  I also am an “on his watch” evaluator of POTUSes and of coaches.  When s*** happens “on one’s watch” one can be evaluated for (1) causing it to happen…. (2) causing it to be worse than need be…. (3) minimizing it’s impact…. (4) cleaning it up….. or some or all of the above.  Likewise good s*** can happen “on one’s watch” and that chronological circumstance goes on one’s resume too.

As a quite stubborn traditionalist I long for an 8-team ACC…. no tip-offs after 8:00 PM…. and TV timeouts lasting no longer than 15 seconds (and there being only two of those per game).   If I thought Little Johnny was responsible for those issues, I would “Occupy Grandover”.

Really good commissioners are forever scanning the horizon for approaching storm clouds and battening down the hatches in advance of a bad storm or deftly steering the ship around the storm.  No commissioner will ever get “credit” for deftly avoiding a nasty storm.

“Being a commissioner” is, to the average fan, even a cooler thing to be than an AD.   A commissioner means you get to attend any game you want to, with a guaranteed seat in the press box and unfettered access to the press box buffet.  How cool is that!  If you ever finish in the top five in your fantasy league, or can name five Sportscenter hosts, you are qualified to “be a commissioner”.

Much of the no-love that Little Johnny Swofford receives is tied directly to his undisputed past affiliation to one member institution – UNC.  That tie was well-known when he was hired fifteen years ago.  If it was considered “a deal-breaker” then the deal shoulda never be brokered in the first place.   Not unlike – Mitt being a Mormon – Obama not having a birth certificate – Clinton being a philanderer.  All of which were “givens” before any vote was taken.

Whether Johnny Swofford’s ties to UNC “matter” is relative.  Boston College fans don’t spend much time fretting about it.  Boston College fans are thankful that they snuck into The ACC regardless of who the commissioner is.  98% of Boston College fans cannot name their own FB and/or BkB coach or The ACC Commissioner; but they know Johnny Pesky’s shoe size.

The epi-center of Swofford-hate lies between Hillsborough Street and Western Blvd in West Raleigh.  There may be isolated pockets elsewhere but the eye of Hurricane Johnny is forever centered over The Brickyard.

The great Carthaginian general Hannibal, as a young boy. made a pact with his father and brothers –  “Non Amicus Romana” – “I will never be a friend to Rome”.   That pact served as the prime motivator for Hannibal waging a twenty year War with Rome (the Second Punic War).  All you likely know about Hannibal involves elephants and “crossing the Alps”.   Hannibal was one of THE most astute military strategist and tactician of all-time.  He came within one battle of defeating the Roman Empire.  Which has absolutely nothing to do with whether Little Johnny Swofford “has it in for” NC State.

Did Johnny Swofford, growing up in North Wilkesboro, swear “Non Amicus Wolfpackus”?  Swofford-Hate is so pervasive in WolfpackWorld that even “the adults” are afflicted.  Lupine libraries are devoted to The Administrative Crimes of John Swofford.  Young Wuffs are told stories at their parents’ knee of how the eeeevil Swofford has conspired to subjugate NC State athletics to eternal mediocrity (except in Cross-country for some unexplained reason).

The latest “high crime” (pre-Karl Hess) involves Swofford interceding with The NCAA in the resolution of Butch Mess.  If the death penalty is not meted out to UNC, it will be because of Swofford’s influence.  If the death penalty IS meted out it will be “in spite of” Swofford’s interfering influence.  Given those two options, UNC fans might as well hope for the “because of” outcome.

Back to the Hannibal analogy.  Hannibal fought so long and so effectively against Rome that when Rome eventually defeated Carthage in 150 BC (after Hannibal’s death in 183 BC) they had such built-up animosity towards Hannibal that they “salted the fields” of Carthage effectively destroying the country.  That is why today Carthage (1) does not field an Olympics team – (2) is not a member of the EU and (3) Duke does not have any Carthaginians among their Crazies.   There is no Carthage.  There is no Atlantis either but that is a story for another day.

If the members of PackPride get a vote (not likely BTW), I fully expect Kenan’s greensward to “be salted”.

For the record, John Swofford is the 4th ACC Commissioner.  The other three were:
Jim Weaver
Bob James
Gene Corrigan


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