Tuesday, February 2
The 50 Most Loathsome People in College Football: the top 10.
We've gone through #s 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, and 20-11, and now we're at the lowest of the low, the bottom of the barrel, the vilest people operating in college football today. Strap in, because the Top 10 begins with . . .
Charges: In any given season, there are any number of coaches, players, commentators, or other participants who do their part to besmirch the greatest sport in America, but let's face it: There's only one common thread running through all of them, and it is that you won't stop fucking bitching about them. You scream "traitor" at the top of your lungs and call down the wrath of God when your coach leaves your program for a better opportunity elsewhere, then immediately start hunting for an up-and-coming program whose coach you can steal. You hype naive 18-year-old kids as Christlike saviors every January, but immediately condemn them as worthless, overrated punks the minute they sign with any program that isn't yours. (As for the ones who do sign with your team, you save the condemnation until they lose their first fumble, at which point it's time to pull their scholarship and slap their mothers for even giving birth to them.) You take time that could be used to feed the homeless or read to your children and instead spend it firing off indignant e-mails to columnists as if your team were somehow owed the title of Greatest Program In Sports History. And you hurl obscene trash-talk at opposing fans of all ages, only to go home and whine about how "classless" the other team's fan base is. Wow, you know what? Without you, this sport might be damn near perfect.
Exhibit A: Go to AJC.com's sport section and check out any comment thread relating to college football. (Or anything else, really.)
Sentence: The federal government takes over Division I-A and decides to determine the national championship via a written exam.
9. Joe Barton
Charges: An overgrown Campbell's Soup kid who would make de Tocqueville spin in his grave, the not-all-that-distinguished gentleman from Texas's 6th congressional district is basically Orrin Hatch's House doppelgänger on football-related matters, only with half of Hatch's manners and a tenth of his intellect. Barton's Capitol Hill hearings on the legality of the BCS this past spring were a study in incoherence, with Barton comparing the BCS to "communism" in spite of the fact that it's Barton and his gang who want the government to step in and start calling the shots in a system that's currently run by the free market and pretty much nothing else. And just to make sure we were all aware of what a farce it was, Barton left his own hearing early, issuing an ominous warning that if CFB officials didn't move toward a playoff in two months, he and the rest of Congress would do it for them. That was nine months ago, and he hasn't done squat (for which we can all be very thankful).
Exhibit A: This doesn't have anything to do with football, but it does give you an idea of the level of brainpower we're dealing with here: In a March hearing on climate policy, Barton warned that a large-scale shift to wind-based power might "slow the winds down" and heat up the planet.
Sentence: Traded to North Korea the next time we have a prisoner we're trying to release from there.
8. Mark Mangino
Charges: In a way, the disgraced Kansas Jayhawks ex-coach deserves a kind of grudging respect: As hard as it is these days to lose one's job just for being an asshole -- look at Sean Hannity, Rahm Emanuel, and Lane Kiffin -- Mangino actually pulled it off. The offense that finally got Mangino bounced out of Lawrence was a truly hair-raising series of emotionally abusive tirades against players, but the truth is that was only part of a pattern of petty rageaholism going back all the way to his single season as head coach at a high school in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, where a group of parents went to the school board and demanded he be fired for his obscene, abusive language. It would be easy to shrug one's shoulders and say that Mangino's offended players need to man up a little, but cheap shots such as "Are you going to be a lawyer or do you want to become an alcoholic like your dad?" or "If you don't shut up, I'm going to send you back to St. Louis so you can get shot with your homies" (to a player whose own brother had been shot in a gang-related incident in St. Louis) -- particularly for something as minor as a dropped pass -- are the kinds of insults no adult person should have to take off of anyone, much less this childish, hate-filled Weeble of a man.
Exhibit A: After getting ticketed for repeatedly parking his big-ass SUV in loading zones and other restricted areas all over campus, Mangino tracked down the student parking-services employee who'd written him a ticket and cursed him out in public for 10 minutes. Shockingly, there is no record of Mangino ever being issued another ticket again.
Sentence: Permanently shackled just out of reach of a Hardee's 2/3-pound Monster Thickburger.
7. Mark May
Charges: If Webster's ever needs a visual aid to place next to their entry for "pompous," a head shot of May should do just fine. In an industry where being convinced of one's own brilliance is the rule rather than the exception, May still manages to take arrogance to another level, demonstrating a complete inability to disagree with or criticize someone without doing so in the most sarcastic, patronizing manner possible. And yet as convinced as he clearly is of his own fearless brilliance, he rarely does anything other than obediently parrot whatever meme or storyline ESPN is dead-set on pushing at the time (watch him levitate with indignation anytime someone dares to suggest USC is less than perfect, for example). Next to him, even Lou Holtz is almost watchable.
Exhibit A: Rolls his eyes at his own colleagues on camera like he was Al Gore in the 2000 presidential debate.
Sentence: Demoted to calling monster-truck rallies and maimed by a tire flying off a wrecked truck into the press box.
6. Jim Delany
Charges: You can't exactly blame the Big 10 commissioner for doggedly safeguarding the interests of his conference, even at the expense of other leagues -- it's a business, after all -- but Delany seems to have turned that responsibility into a nationwide crusade to sap college football of every last bit of enjoyment we fans might derive from it. The man runs his conference as if the '80s, '90s, and '00s never happened, pulling the plug on late-season night games and stubbornly resisting any sort of BCS reform that might give us, you know, better matchups for the postseason's biggest games. And when these myopic, ill-advised moves result in the Big 10 losing prestige and marketability on a nationwide scale, rather than re-evaluate his own strategies, Delany shifts the blame with passive-aggressive broadsides against the SEC for being able to recruit more talented players. If college football is stuck in neutral in terms of its organization and methods, Delany is the hand holding the gearshift lever there; in the modern CFB landscape, he is the Dean Wormer. But he'll never admit to that, because he's not familiar with this word "modern" of which you speak.
Exhibit A: In early 2007, with his entire conference still smarting over the vivisection Ohio State received at the hands of the Florida Gators in the inaugural plus-one BCS National Championship Game, Delany defended his league's honor basically by shitting all over the SEC -- and in as bitchy a manner as possible: "I wish we had six teams among the top 10 recruiting classes every year, but winning our way requires some discipline and restraint with the recruitment process." Pretty big talk for a guy whose conference still hasn't learned to count to 11.
Sentence: Caves to pressure to expand to 12 teams but turned down by program after program; finally forced to add the University of Akron, who beats Wisconsin in the inaugural Big 10* Championship Game but loses to UAB by 28 in the Rose Bowl.
5. Ryan Pugh
Charges: Bar none, the dirtiest player in college football, and I'm not the only one who thinks so: Googling "Ryan Pugh chop block" returns 8,170 results. The Auburn O-lineman closed out his freshman year by injuring Clemson defender Dorell Scott on a chop block in the Peach Bowl; ended his sophomore season with a chop-block on Alabama's Luther Davis while Davis was still trying to get off the ground; and this past year, as a junior, managed to knock both a Ball State lineman and Tennessee defensive end Wes Brown -- who'd already been battling knee problems most of his career -- out of games via cheap hits. Even Auburn fans are starting to cringe every time his name is called.
Exhibit A: The videos are grainy, but that's #50 going after the backs of his opponents' knees both times:
Sentence: After shattering both tibiae and fibulae while being pancake-blocked in Auburn's 2010 opener against Arkansas State, has his shins amputated and his feet attached directly to his knees, a la Hank Hill's dad on "King of the Hill."
4. Urban Meyer
Charges: We all thought Steve Spurrier was as bad as it could get in Gainesville, asshole-wise, but at least the Ol' Ballcoach had a sense of humor. Meyer combines nearly all of Spurrier's worst traits -- preening arrogance, a predilection of leaving his starting QBs in well into the waning minutes of blowouts against overmatched gimme opponents just to pad their stats -- without an ounce of wit or personality. But the top Gator achieved a new level of cravenness last December when he announced his retirement the day after Christmas, revealing that he had been admitted to a hospital with chest pains following Florida's loss in the SEC title game and saying he needed to "reevaluate [his] priorities of faith and family" -- only to walk his "retirement" back to a "leave of absence" the very next day, adding that he fully intended to return by the start of the 2010 season. Yup, just two days after his eldest daughter Nicki hugged him and said "I get my daddy back," he basically told her, "Well, no, honey, you actually don't." Some conspiracy theorists speculated that Meyer's retirement/unretirement show was a calculated attempt to fire up a team that was bummed about playing in the Sugar Bowl rather than the national-championship game, but whether it was that or merely the rash action of a man who didn't think things through well enough is academic: If these are the kinds of games he's willing to play with his own family, Meyer has moved beyond the realm of the mere "jerk" and made a beeline for "sociopath" territory. On the bright side, if that's all he cares about his own health and well-being, then apparently it's OK to make heart-attack jokes about him after all.
Exhibit A: Apparently even a "leave of absence" was too much for Meyer to commit to: The University of Florida confirmed last month that he's been "actively involved in recruiting," and two weeks later Meyer said he planned on returning to full-time work by the time the Gators started spring practice. Hope those 48 hours were really special, Nicki.
Sentence: Cryogenically frozen in vivo and harvested for spare parts for Joe Paterno.
3. Adam and Craig James (tie)
Charges: Craig James was already loathed by CFB fans across the nation for his uncanny ability to tarnish games both big and small with his unique brand of dumb-jock smarm. Well, guess what: He reproduced. And together, Craig and his demon seed managed to take down the winningest coach in the history of Texas Tech's football program -- all because Mike Leach dared to put Adam in time-out. The dossier of bad behavior on the part of the Jameses is thicker than Leach's playbook: Adam displaying a "lazy" and "entitled" attitude, according to his own position coaches; Craig allegedly calling Texas Tech coaches repeatedly to lobby for more playing time for his son, to the point where they had to start screening their calls; Adam showing up to practice in street clothes and sunglasses, which prompted Leach's unorthodox punishment; and Craig threatening to sue TTU if they didn't launch a full investigation into Leach's behavior. As complex and bizarre as the whole situation is, two things about it are pretty simple: Adam James is a spoiled, no-talent brat, and his dad is an overbearing Little League parent who would be the dictionary definition of "ass clown" if that weren't an insult to both asses and clowns. We're still waiting to hear your explanation of what you were doing while Sherwood Blount was paying all those players at SMU, by the way.
Exhibit A: Before going public with his accusations against Leach, Craig James hired Spaeth Communications -- who directed the "swift boat" PR campaign against John Kerry in 2004 -- for tips on how to proceed; Spaeth helped distribute the highly dubious cell-phone video Adam James took of the place where he'd supposedly been confined by Leach. James the Elder also retained Spaeth to handle his PR as he mulls a run for -- wait for it -- U.S. Senate.
Sentence: Mauled by tigers during the first (and last) production of ESPN's "Circus of the Father-Son Gridiron Superstars."
2. Lane Kiffin
Charges: It would be easy to call USC's new head coach the football version of George W. Bush -- a smug hotshot who used his last name to land a series of jobs for which he was unqualified, made an ass of himself in public, and left institution after institution in worse shape than he found it, only to continue failing upward -- but at least Dubya's trying to raise money for Haitian earthquake victims; it is damn near impossible to find a situation in which Kiffin has thought about anyone but himself. It would also be easy to write him off as a mere douchebag, but as a douchebag myself, I take offense at that. No, Kiffykins occupies his own plane of dipshittery, rolling into the University of Tennessee on a wave of recruiting gimmicks and nervy sound bites and exiting just 407 days later, leaving both his players and his fan base in a cloud of dust. It's clear now that Tennessee was just a stepping stone to the USC job all along -- he and Ed Orgeron, who'd coached together as assistants at Southern Cal, shoved as many UT team traditions out the door as they could and replaced them with warmed-over versions of the same stuff they'd done with the Trojans, and when the time came to depart for L.A., they tried to take their most prized recruits with them. Hell, Kiffin never even bothered to get a Tennessee driver's license, which we found out when he wrecked the Lexus that UT had gone to the trouble of leasing for him, nor did he even bother to tuck his shirt in at the press conference where he announced his departure from the Vols. It's abundantly clear that Kiffin has learned nothing from the whole exercise, and merely transported his little consequence-free fantasy world to Los Angeles, where he committed his first secondary violation after less than two full weeks on the job. The only remaining vestige of Kiffin's blink-and-you-missed-it tenure in Knoxville is the paperwork filed by a local attorney to name a sewage-treatment plant after him -- but sewage-treatment plants are actually a necessary and valuable part of our civil society. Can anyone say the same about Kiffykins?
Exhibit A: From Kiffin's introductory press conference at USC: "The fan base and students [at Tennessee] are extremely passionate about sports. Especially about football. As I look at the reaction of what happened last night, I really thought to myself. I said, you know what, they're upset that we're leaving because of what we've been doing. If they weren't upset that we were leaving, then we weren't doing anything right. So the fact that there were a number of people upset there, because we had done so much in so little of a time."
Sentence: Placed in a dunking booth over the aforementioned sewage-treatment facility as part of UT's 2010 Homecoming festivities.
1. Ed Orgeron
Charges: A dumb, hulking ape of a man with less talent than Lane Kiffin, less scruples than Urban Meyer, and less self-awareness than Ron Zook, "Coach O" probably would be mopping a high-school gymnasium floor in Louisiana right now were it not for one fateful discovery he made years ago -- the realization that if you rip off your shirt and bellow "WILD BOYS" at high-school football players in a Cookie Monster voice, some of them are just dumb enough to sign with you. Since then, Orgeron's fearsome reputation as a top-notch recruiter has buoyed him to a series of inexplicably prestigious jobs, and his recruiting tactics have only gotten more ruthless and craven. Back in 2005, for example, Orgeron didn't even wait for the waterlogged bodies to be dragged out of New Orleans' Ninth Ward before he started calling Tulane players in an attempt to lure them to his own nascent disaster of a regime at Ole Miss. Fired after assembling the Rebels' worst head-coaching record in 60 years, Orgeron popped up again as Lane Kiffin's enforcer at Tennessee. And when Kiffin bolted for USC after only a year, Orgeron followed obediently behind, trying to take the Vols' prized 2010 recruiting class with him as he went -- and not only did he lie when asked about it, he had the nerve to get pissed off at UT's athletic department when they refused to give him their recruiting files. Lane Kiffin may be a human turd, but at least he's managed to bump his career winning percentage over 0.300; Orgeron is a human turd who is a terrible coach and possibly insane to boot, and it's only a matter of time before he either gets USC in even more trouble with the NCAA than they're already in or drives a bulldozer through the front of a Chick-fil-A for giving him sweet 'n' sour sauce instead of honey mustard. Basically, a worthless, repellent individual who blemishes the good name of any athletic department he joins, a man whose loathsomeness is beginning to outweigh his entertainment value. But look on the bright side, Coach O: You finally won something.
Exhibit A: While Kiffin was hastily delivering his farewell speech to his team, Orgeron was calling early enrollees telling them not to go to class so they could transfer to USC -- and doing it within earshot of Kiffin's pissed-off Tennessee players.
Sentence: Wrapped in bacon and fed to alligators in the Louisiana bayou.
And one more, whose loathsomeness defies numerical ranking:
John W. Lomax III
Charges: Lomax, a 21-year-old from Bloomfield, Connecticut, doesn't play, coach, or write about football, but his loathsomeness transcends sports and qualifies him for inclusion on this list just the same: Lomax is the man arrested for stabbing Connecticut Huskies cornerback Jasper Howard to death outside a dance back in November. So basically, because Lomax was having a bad evening, he felt justified in taking the life of a kid who'd made it out of the poverty of Miami's "Little Haiti" neighborhood, became the first in his family to go to college, worked hard and had a shot at an NFL career. Oh, and was going to be a father. If you want to go ahead and slot Lomax in at #1 on this list, you'll get no argument from me.
Exhibit A: The argument that resulted in Howard's murder allegedly stemmed from one of his teammates "disrespecting" one of Lomax's female friends. Yup. That's it.
Sentence: Life in prison with a picture of Jamiya Tia Howard -- the daughter whose name Jasper Howard chose the night before he was killed -- permanently placed over his bed.
Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to nominate, read, and/or link. (Y'all get a lifetime exclusion from the "You" mentioned at #10.) Our society's loathsomeness level being what it is, I'm sure we'll be doing this again before too long.