Cape sports culture changes as home prices zoom into stratosphere

January 5, 2021

An all-time offensive line - 2014-15: Tyre Maull, Julius Tyler, Devin Miller, Brandon Nixon and Shamar Moore. I remember coach Bill Collick saying to me, “If we can’t make great football players out of those kids, there is something wrong with us.” The Cape team was 8-2 that season with Bill Gibbs and J.J. Currie carrying and catching the ball, and Tavon Scott at quarterback. High-character, rugged and smart Afro American student-athletes, which is not notable in a surprising way but perhaps gets your attention because Cape’s numbers in Afro American participation have been dwindling across all the sports as we face the 2021-22 sports year. “Those players are just not there,” said coach J.D. Maull.       

Skewed up - My friend Dennis Forney once told me that I was an inverted snob who looked down on millionaires. Bruce Hefke, another close friend, said, “You are the journalistic Chia Pet of the upwardly mobile.” I do know that my greatest talents are most appreciated when offered for free. If I told you I made $9 million a year writing this column, you would stop reading it before discussing with others in your pandemic pantry why you never thought I was funny in the first place. Coaches Nick Saban of Alabama and Dabo Swinney of Clemson make close to $10 million a year. And Saban, with his prickly-personality self, does Aflac insurance commercials. Tom Herman was just fired as the head coach at Texas. The Longhorns forklifted over $20 million as his buyout, before hiring Steve Sarkesian off the Alabama staff. “Sark” had been fired by USC for drinking on the job and emerged at Alabama earning $2.5 million to call plays, which makes him a genius when loading all those weapons every game. I can be the only Chia Pet feeling like a loser on a lounger watching all these games transitioning into the NFL Sunday RedZone Channel and feeling we have lost our grip like an upside-down double decker from King’s Ice Cream.

Optical Illusion - Blue chip five-star players projected to go in the early rounds of the NFL Draft have been opting out of bowl games in record numbers. The closing argument: “Can you blame them?” Wreck a knee in some lame January bowl game and kill a contract and signing bonus worth millions is the RPO (run-pass-option), and most sensible athletes elect both to run away and pass on the game. And I understand all of that, so stop selling the boys-to-men, “We make them better people, which makes them better players, we are family forever” stuff. By the way, each Division I football program can offer 85 full scholarships, and the chance of any high school player getting a full ride is less than 1 percent. Best bet is to get an education, hopefully followed by an unpaid internship. Now I’m just being stupid, which is always my fallback position. 

Brawl yaw - Imagine you are the college president at Tulsa or Mississippi State watching the mayhem following Mississippi State’s 28-26 win in the Military Bowl. Google it if you haven’t seen it. The best place to watch a football riot is from your home office swivel chair. Somebody could die, lose an eye or get their neck broken if you go “Kenny Loggins” and foot-stomp their helmeted head. As college president, I’d be doing a complete self scout, from coaches and players to the entire recruitment and admissions process. And I want to know about academic progress and graduation rates. It's just nearly impossible to come back quickly from that type of negative publicity or what’s worse, if the fans, boosters and boards of directors don’t care at all. 

Numbered rooster - “Hey, coach, do you have a numbered rooster?” “No, I don’t even have chickens.” The old roster/rooster joke works every time, and I should know. I’m checking rosters every day from high school to college and even pro teams. The late start to winter sports has produced a record number of empty rosters while teams are just a week away – Jan. 11 – from being allowed to compete. The rosters always tell a story. I can walk into a sports practice and in less than five seconds I can tell you who is not there. There are enough lulls in my later life. I need games and wrestling matches, track meets and road races. I may even cover a swim meet or pickup game if I can get over the fence.   

Snippets - COVID is real and has changed the game of higher education and sports. Those who persevere through the pandemic will pop out in better shape than those who do not or cannot. Life is not a fair game, which is why you have to play hard every day. Go on now, git! 


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