Wednesdays @ 8PM on CBS College Sports.
Set your Tivos, 'Merica.
The other day I was flipping through channels, trying to find something, anything that wasn’t baseball on, and I came across a program that, shockingly, didn’t immediately set off any bells in my head. I mean, sure, I noticed it and arguably processed it in my brain, but I guess I was having a hate lapse at the moment and just kept going. Then at the game Saturday, I had several people bring it up to me, and after getting another e-mail yesterday morning, I knew exactly what the focus of today’s hate would be. Sometimes these posts write themselves.
So I want you to think of the least interesting sports related reality series you can. More so than MTVs Two-A-Days, a series that focused on a high school football team in Alabama. Then again, at least they were a power house and there were slutty partially educated high school girls, so maybe I should retract that. Alright, I assume you read the title of this post and saw the graphic so no more beating around the bush: The program in question is called SMU Football 2010: The Climb. For those of you who like to read deeper into things and maybe try and make this into some sort of bizarrely sadistic, avant garde film that’s just using SMU Football as a metaphor for pain and suffering, this might not be for you because it’s exactly what it sounds like – it’s a reality series following the entire 2010 season of the SMU Mustangs.
As you can imagine, there are many, many things that are terrible about this series on the surface. For one, it’s basically just a sterilized version of Hard Knocks. Except on Hard Knocks, as evidenced by this year’s version, coaches and players can cuss, scream, sulk, yell and do basically whatever they want because they’re professionals. The Climb is the exact opposite. Players are toeing the company line, June Jones mumbles, and all the fans come across as upbeat and optimistic about the upcoming season. It’s boring, it’s uninspired, and it could greatly use the influx of HBO money and NFL Films editing that Hard Knocks takes full advantage of. Even if this was about TCU, it wouldn't be much more watchable.
In fairness, this isn’t all SMU’s fault – if June Jones goes on TV, berates his team and then tells them to go get a fucking snack, there are going to be parents and boosters in an uproar about his gruff tactics. Then again, if SMU won more games they could probably have a little bit of colorful language swept under the rug but, I digress. I guess the thing that bothers me most is why did CBS College Sports pick SMU of all teams to feature on said show? I understand that in order to be called The Climb, the show inherently must involve a down on their luck program that is trying to make the leap from abhorrently terrible to passable, and SMU is perhaps the most famous of the down on their luck teams trying to make the leap from abhorrently terrible to passable in the entire NCAA due to their history. But really, The Climb could mean anything – it could mean TCU trying to climb the pyramid, or Notre Dame trying to become nationally relevant for the first time in years, or WWHD trying to climb out of bed and go to work after a game weekend. It just seems like there are much more interesting stories out there than SMU trying to reach bowl eligibility for the second year in a row. But, regardless, it’s the show we have and we should celebrate for what it means to us – a weekly vehicle for hate and ridicule that will fuel us in our battle for perfection.
The most unfortunate thing about the episode I saw is that it is two weeks old in real time. This is obviously because they must properly edit each episode to fit it into a 30 minute TV spot, which is really closer to 20, so they are always going to be running a week behind, like Hard Knocks. So, from that you should be able to discern that the episode that relates directly to the TCU game will not air under next Wednesday, at which point the hate drawn from it will be mostly irrelevant, although I'm definitely giving it a look anyway.
But, when you have lemons make lemonade, and I actually think this is the second most hate inspiring episode I couldn’t come across. For one, SMU had just BARELY lost to Tech 35-27. If it weren’t for some early INTS and a very unfortunate sack on their final drive, they could’ve had a chance to tie it. So, even though they lost, it was almost a moral victory for the Ponies because they usually get absolutely run out of the stadium by Tech. So in this episode they were returning to Dallas for their home opener against UAB, a conference game against an opponent they had never lost to under Jones. This would be a chance to get back to 1-1 and be 1-0 in conference. So, should’ve been a very, very impressive emotional episode for June Jones to rally his troops and inspire the confidence they needed to come out and roll the Blazers, right? I mean, June Jones getting that team last year to 8 wins including a bowl win is nothing short of a miracle and he has to have the charisma of a carnival barker on coke - fitting -, right?
Wrong. OH so wrong.
I’m just going to be honest – June Jones is probably the least inspirational coach in the history of the profession. He’s like Wade Phillips without the jolly idiocy and false hopes. Or Bill Belicheck without the supposed genius, Super Bowl rings and cunningness to bang another man’s wife. In a word, June Jones is dull. SHOCKINGLY dull. At halftime, SMU was up 14-7 in a game which they trailed 14-7 early but battled back to take the lead. And, despite what I’d seen during the entire episode, I just thought that since he was in the locker room and halftime locker room scenes in close games are supposed to be filled with emotion I’d at least get a raised voice or something out of the man.
The most heated it got was when he told his team to “go win the freaking game.” Yes, freaking. GP would not say freaking. The locker room had less life than a funeral home. And not that GP’s method is the correct one – Pete Carroll won a shitton of games at USC and he doesn’t seem like the swearing at his players type… but then again, Carroll is maybe the most charismatic coach in the ranks and also cheated his ass off, so that’s probably a bad example. And actually, the more I think about it, what coaches can you think of that have had great success but don’t have a bit of an intensity streak in them? Urban Meyer? Dude almost died on the sidelines… and he’d already won 2 BCS NC’s at that point. Les Miles? He’s cranky, but he’s also a terrible coach that lucked into a good situation to win a title and can recruit. Saban? Grade A Asshole. Stoops? Smug. Heck, Mack Brown, for all his North Carolina raised hokey relatability, at least knew to go out and hire Will Muschamp to yell and scream for him going forward. So, it may not be the best way, but it’s certainly working out for those guys.
And the thing is, I wanted to believe that Jones was just toning it down for the cameras… but his players don’t seem to be inspired by him AT ALL. I should’ve written down names for specific quotes and I didn’t and I apologize, but one kid said that all Jones told them was that, “winning the conference is the only goal.” Really? This is what you’re paying the man $2 million for? Some CUSA championships? I suppose you have to crawl before you learn to walk, but shouldn’t Jones have higher aspirations for this team in his third year? The man took HAWAII to a BCS game; he should no doubt be able to do the same with the facilities and money he has in Dallas. And now that TCU, the program that they judge themselves against, has gone to a BCS game and had top 10 finishes, shouldn't he up the ante some?
My theory? Jones is beaten and he doesn’t care. He’s getting SMU a CUSA championship, Liberty Bowl bid - two things no one in their right mind thought he could do- and is getting the hell out of there at the end of the year for greener pastures, assuming they’re available. Most of it likely has to do with the administration – I think I adequately outlined what was going on there in regards to the lack of support he’s been shown in his recruiting efforts thusfar. But at least part of it has to have something to do with the other prominent feature of this episode.
SMU still has some of the most apathetic fans in the country.
The middle part of the episode is a big featurette on the tailgate – excuse me, they don’t tailgate they BOULEVARD – scene at SMU ie how far it’s come and what it means to the school. Call it the fake SMU Grove all you want, it’s still a pretty nice arrangement they have, what with the trees and the shade. It doesn’t come close to approaching the Grove in terms of female quality and overall extravagance, but it’s a nice thing they do there, I’m not ashamed to admit that. But the difference is, Ole Miss fills their stadium on game days and SMU doesn’t, although Ole Miss may have some trouble going for them this season with those losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt.
I realize this is dangerous ground for me to walk on re: Tailgate attendance/game attendance, but to hear the people they interviewed talked, you’d think they were so fired up they were going to have to move their games back to the Cotton Bowl to accommodate all the new fans. But honestly? When they showed the crowd throughout the first half – the HOME OPENER, mind you, against a conference foe- there were no more than 5000 people in the stands at any point. This is not an exaggeration. Imagine us opening up with Air Force after a season where we were bowl eligible for the first time in 25 years, smoked that team in said bowl, and then almost beat Texas in Austin the week before but for a few mistakes. Don’t you have to imagine we’d fill at least half of our stadium? I think anyone would.
These kids are REALLY, REALLY proud of the Blvd and commonly use it as fire when comparing TCU/SMU and therein lies the problem – sometimes a tailgate scene can be too good in the eyes of its inhabitants. For the majority of the segment, they interview a group of early 30s Phi Delt alums who set up a big spread every game. They outline how far the Blvd has come since it started, how much fun it is for familes, blah blah blah, but the big reveal is he says, “And we bring TVs with DirecTV hook ups so we can watch other games and the SMU game…”
I had to rewatch and yes, sure enough, he DID say that before immediately cutting himself off and giving the camera a nervous look. In my comments last year that incited a near riot between us and the Eastern Bloc Elite, I suggested I was angry that the Letterman’s tailgate showed the games because lots of folks simply sat in the parking lot and watched on TV when there were 10,000 empty seats inside. That’s just poor form and I'll never agree with it. The Letterman’s tailgate moved this year so I can’t comment on if they still do this, but why would you go on national television and say that? How do you think the school feels about this? When you have a team that is having its most successful season in a quarter of a century and you still have 25,000 empty seats in your meager capacity stadium because everyone would rather sit outside and watch it on a 30” television, why WOULD they throw full support behind the program?
Part of the blame for this likely resides with the rulemakers who do not allow in and outs at their games – a CRIPPLER for college football fans of all types since alcohol isn’t sold during the games – but shouldn’t they be excited enough about their team to at least go in for the first half? And, like I said, it wasn't like this game was a blowout - it was 14-7. A sad state of affairs in Pony Land.
Yesterday on the Hardline, they were having a discussion and college football came up, namely the TCU/Baylor game which cOUrby actually attended – as witnessed by lt4heisman – and came away so impressed with the gameday atmosphere as a whole that he's doing a segment on it tomorrow. Meantime, Danny started talking about the SMU/Washington State game this past weekend. Coming off a big conference win and playing a Pac 10 foe, no matter the team, at home should draw some big numbers you say? In Danny’s words, “There were 75 people there.” Now, I’d say this was just Danny being Danny because his enthusiastically condescending attitude towards everything is what makes him funny but honestly? 75 was probably close to accurate, although I’ll have to check this week’s episode to verify.
So, with no fans, and the most boring coach in America, you have to wonder, “what makes this team go? Why should we fear them this weekend” Well, I guess the players seem nice enough. Except QB Kyle Padron is REAL weird lookin’. And as for what this episode really showed me as far as what we should expect tactically from SMU this weekend? Well, their best player in the game was Running Back Zack Line who had something like 150 yards and 2 TDs. Oh yeah, he’s also white and kind of fat. But at least the defense is a little better.
Really, the only thing that kind of made me mad about the whole episode was the reiteration that they stole our hand sign and morphed it into their own, but you already knew that.
I'm not even sure I hate SMU after watching that... if anything, I think it made me understand why they are the way they are. And it's a sad sight to see.
Sorry guys, that wasn't very good hate. So here's a picture reminder that Craig James is employed by the biggest sports conglomerate in the world for his opinions.