Commentary

Page 2 Power Rankings: College edition

Originally Published: September 7, 2009
By Patrick Hruby | Page 2

Welcome to another edition of Page 2's weekly Power Rankings, where the confusion of a world in which David Tyree is out of a job while Jay Mohr continues to be gainfully employed is replaced by the clarity of making a list:

1. Rich Rodriguez

Are we not entertained?

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Credentials: The Michigan football coach is in hot water for allegedly exceeding NCAA player practice time limits, which only obscures the larger issue -- namely, that the NCAA has to set practice time limits in the first place, the better to buttress the antiquated illusion that college football exists to serve academics. Ahem. The campus game is not a rah-rah extracurricular. It's "Oliver Twist" in shoulder pads. In an NCAA survey released last year, major-college players said they spent an average of almost 45 hours a week on their sport -- more than double the 20 hours of time football coaches are allowed to demand -- and just under 40 hours on schoolwork. So who's to blame? It's easy to point the finger at the control-freak taskmasters pacing the sidelines, goading and guilting their charges into "voluntary" unsupervised workouts. Thing is, coaches aren't paid megabucks to impart life lessons or pump up team GPAs. They're paid to win games. Likewise, it's hard to fault the players. They know why they've been recruited, why they're getting complementary meals, free books and female adulation -- and it ain't because they aced English 102. No, if you're going to blame someone for a system in which a former chairman of the NCAA infractions committee suggests in USA Today that athletes should be given a mandatory week off every summer so they can have family vacations -- and does so not realizing how utterly absurd that sounds -- then blame us. The fans. The tailgating, face-painting, national signing day-debating folks filling the bleachers. We're the ones who want victories and demand vicarious glory. We're the ones creating and setting the sport's incentives: cash, fame, a sense of outsized importance, just as long as you triumph, so do whatever it takes. We're the ones who love academics too little and football too much. If Rodriguez's players were simply doing what's implicitly expected of them, then so was their coach.


1a. LeGarrette Blount, Byron Hout

Sportsmen of the year

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Credentials: Despite pregame midfield handshake between teams that came as part of a national sportsmanship initiative, Oregon running back Blount throws postgame sucker punch at Boise State's Hout ... after Hout taunts him. This never happens in Ultimate Fighting.


1b. American Football Coaches Association

Always looking on the bright side of life

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Credentials: Claiming that Blount's punch does not dampen the sportsmanship initiative, the executive director of the AFCA tells ESPN's Joe Schad that "the good news is that nobody joined in. That would have been a brawl back in the day." Way to set the limbo bar of expectations high!


2. Washington Redskins

Countin' money like Scrooge McDuck

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Credentials: The Washington Post reports that the Redskins directly sold large blocks of tickets to professional scalpers brokers, as opposed to fans on their famously long waiting list. The reason? The team's ticket office packaged the cheaper regular-game tickets most people covet (and brokers can profit on) with the high-priced "premium" tickets few want to buy.

In other words: The club found a way to unload excess inventory without cutting prices. Supply and demand what?

Some Redskins employees also sold single-game tickets through online auctions instead of through the ticket office, charging well above face value. So long, middleman! And all of that would be infuriating ... if not for the Post's other Redskins report, which revealed that the team is suing fans who purchased seats or suites via multiyear contracts but can no longer afford them, usually due to the recession.

Yep, while at least nine other NFL teams just cancel defaulted ticket contracts and resell the seats to someone else -- go figure -- the Redskins go to court. And unlike anything involving actual football, they win. According to the Post article, the franchise earned a $60,000-plus judgment against a 72-year-old grandmother who is now facing bankruptcy. The team also sued a man who went to jail -- limiting his ability to both pay and watch the Skins -- and an unemployed paranoid schizophrenic. Seriously. In some cases, the Redskins even resold the very same tickets the club filed suit over.

Anything less would be bad business.

Is the Washington franchise dedicated to treating its fans like living, breathing ATM machines, withdrawing every last possible dollar no matter the psychic cost? Absolutely. After all, Albert Haynesworth doesn't come cheap. Will fans ever hit a no mas breaking point? Does Redskins goodwill have a limit? Probably not. The psychology of fandom isn't rational -- otherwise, the Cincy Bengals would be out of business -- but rather more akin to battered wife and/or Stockholm syndrome. And nobody knows that better than marketing man-turned-team-owner Daniel Snyder. A lifelong Redskins fan who counted a childhood team belt buckle as a prize possession, Snyder intuitively grasps exactly how far he can push the club's loyal followers: as far as he wants to.


3. Brooklyn Decker

Best friends box occupant since Marat Safin's "cousins"

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Credentials: Ongoing U.S. Open inspires us to pen our first -- and possibly last -- open letter:

Dear Andy Roddick,
Please keep winning televised tennis matches. Especially the ones broadcast in HD.

Sincerely,
The Page 2 Power Rankings


3a. Marat Safin

Making the world safer for tennis rackets

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Credentials: Charismatic, underachieving head case. Such is the tennis epitaph for Safin, a two-time Grand Slam winner who bowed out this week in his final U.S. Open appearance, who over the years could have won so much more. He had a concussive serve to rival anyone, powerful groundstrokes as clean as a Hemingway sentence, startling mobility for a 6-foot-4 player and the good looks to be a crossover star (just ask your wife, girlfriend or a female acquaintance). When Safin shredded Pete Sampras in the 2000 U.S. Open, he looked like the future of men's tennis. Only the future never happened. Instead, Safin went on to smash rackets, date hotties, curse himself on court, tease fans with occasionally beautiful play, give the most consistently entertaining press conferences in the sport and generally flame out at inopportune moments -- never more so then when he lost to undersized, overmatched Thomas Johansson in the Australian Open final, appearing more interested in the gaggle of fembot-looking babes sitting in his friends box. (A smirking Safin dubbed the group his "cousins"). Was Safin's career disappointing? Perhaps. But maybe not. The very tempestuousness that prevented Safin from being a consistent winner made him oft-entertaining, always intriguing and endearingly human. Besides, would Roger Federer ever drop trou to celebrate a rousing point, like Safin did to wild applause at Roland Garros? Not every sports story has to end with lessons learned and fulfilled potential. Adieu.


4. Brett Favre Brett Favre Brett Favre

Will crack you

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Credentials In honor of Favre's illegal, getting' fetal, no-cheap-intentions crackback block to the knees of Houston Texans safety Eugene Wilson -- in a preseason game, no less -- we humbly present the following list:

Other Things Brett Favre Has Done Without Malice
• Announce his retirement
• The last five games of the 2008 season
• Get sacked by Michael Strahan during the 2001 season finale
• Emulate Don Johnson, circa 1986
• Announce his retirement again
• Throw 310 career interceptions, the most in NFL history
• Inspire tortured literary metaphors involving Huck Finn
• Announce his desire to stay retired
• Find ways to skip training camp
• Contribute to global warming via excessive lawn mowing


4a. The Favre-Lovin' Media

As vindicated as Jose Canseco

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Credentials: Too much Favre. No more Favre. Stop showing and writing about Favre. That's what sports fans like to say. Only guess whose purple No. 4 jersey topped NFLShop.com's best-seller list from April 1 to Aug. 28? Ruh-roh. Hey, all of us villains in the sports media might be like Hollywood, rolling out dumb superhero movie after dumb superhero movie. But somebody out there -- make that a lot of somebodies -- keeps buying tickets.


5. Mark Sanchez

Dreaminess now confirmed by science

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Credentials: Using computerized facial analysis, labor economists find that NFL quarterbacks are uniformly ... handsome. How so? Point No. 1: Humans associate facial symmetry with attractiveness. Point No. 2: The average man's face is 90 percent symmetrical, while the lowest-scoring NFL quarterback's face is above 96 percent. So why are signal-callers literally a bunch of pretty boys? The same labor economists speculate that good-looking children are steered toward the quarterback position, and that NFL talent evaluators are subject to the same unthinking biases toward handsome people that the rest of us are. (More evidence: previous research showing that handsome quarterbacks are paid more than similarly productive but less attractive peers). Anyway, it's no wonder teams like the Jets and Redskins were falling all over themselves to land Sanchez in the draft -- you won't find San Francisco rookie Nate Davis playing brooding lifeguard in GQ.


6. Pacman Adam Jones

The CFL has standards?

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Credentials: Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers announce plans to sign Jones, then back out of deal after Jones appears in Internet video flexing his muscles, confusing the CFL with the United Football League and bragging that he would remain in Canada only until an NFL team called. Chin up, Pacman -- with a little bit of luck, you'll be dropping interceptions from J.P. Losman in no time.


7. Curt Schilling

Surprisingly interested in a job that requires bloviating self-importance

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Credentials: Retired major league pitcher expresses interest in running for the Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy, but tells a Boston radio station that "the whole media spotlight crap" would be difficult to deal with. Hmmm. Blaming the media via a media interview? Schilling's a political natural.


8. Ron Artest

Ron being Ron

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Credentials: Sharpen your pencils. Pop quiz!

1. Which of the following will go on?
(a) Ron Artest's heart
(b) Everyone else's eardrums

2. Which of the following has Artest NOT used Twitter for?
(a) Making up with the guy who threw beer at him during the Malice at the Palace
(b) Giving out his personal e-mail address and phone number
(c) Meeting up with fans to have dinner
(d) Contacting his home planet


9. Ozzie Guillen

Speaking easy

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Credentials: Following a three-game New York Yankees sweep of Chicago, no-filter White Sox manager drops the following chestnut: "Well, we came to New York and visited the new Yankee Stadium. It is a very nice ballpark, and the hotel we stayed at was also very nice. That's all I have to say about these last three days." Prior to the final game of the same series, Guillen also said his team stunk, that everyone in his clubhouse should be embarrassed and that the only White Sox currently earning their paychecks are the trainers.

Sigh. Some guys have all the luck.

Ours is a society in which what you say can get you into almost as much trouble as what you do. (See Imus, Don). As such, we're insanely envious of Guillen. Because he's thisclose to entering the Barkley Zone, the best place to be in sports. Better than being a champion. Better than being an All-Star. Better than being Manny being Manny, even. The Barkley Zone is that rarified public status where no matter what outrageous thing you utter, everyone just laughs and nods, because you're just tellin' it like it is, and your oh-no-he-didn't! reputation frees you from normal social constraints.

Think about it: Is it better to be Tiger Woods, your every utterance scrutinized and criticized like Alan Greenspan circa 1997, even a totally innocuous comment about Ernie Els' work habits? Or would you rather be Guillen, who not only says what he thinks but is revered and celebrated for doing so?

Speaking of said celebration: Maybe we need the Barkley Zone. Maybe we need people like Guillen -- in sports, in the workplace, in life -- to give us a vicarious thrill. To fill the same function court jesters performed for kings. A world full of Guillens would be testy, unmannered and probably plagued by fistfights; a handful of Guillens makes an otherwise bland and clichéd it-is-what-it-is sports world a little more interesting.

Alternately, Guillen could simply be funny.


10. Second-String Superheroes

Empty the bench!

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Credentials: Disney's $4 billion purchase of Marvel Comics doesn't simply marry Mickey Mouse to Spider-Man, Buzz Lightyear to the Hulk, ESPN to Iron Man (though we'll happily cross-promote Scarlett Johansson's catsuit-wearing role in the upcoming "Iron Man" sequel). It also means that Marvel's extensive roster of B-list hero talent may finally get a long-overdue chance to shine. How about a Machine Man Saturday morning cartoon? A Razorback amusement park ride? A Stingray-Hannah Montana team-up? And what of brave Union Jack? Should he forever be condemned to trans-Atlantic obscurity, suffering the same fate as Oasis?


11. The Chupacabra

Next on the to-find list: Sasquatch, the Roswell alien, Daunte Culpepper's game

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Credentials: Mythical animal previously spotted in New England, Russia and the Philippines -- pause here to reform exploded brain -- allegedly caught in Texas, where the owner of a taxidermy school claims to have an actual body. The wonder isn't that a supposed Chupacabra find happened; it's that it happened without being a prime-time Fox special.


12. Charlie Weis

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

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Credentials: Former Notre Dame football players raise a billboard facing the school's campus that reads, "Best wishes to Charlie Weis in the fifth year of his college coaching internship." Since when do former Notre Dame football players have something against interns?


13. Offensive Coordinators

Uneasy lies the headset

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Credentials: Three O-coordinators -- Kansas City's Chan Gailey, Tampa Bay's Jeff Jagodzinski and Buffalo's ironically named Turk Schonert -- are handed pink slips. In the preseason. Before an actual meaningful down of professional football has been played. At this rate, the team turk on next season's "Hard Knocks" is going to end up knocking on his own door.


14. Matt Hasselbeck

Smart enough to not draft his own team's defense?

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Credentials: Seahawks quarterback Twitters about playing fantasy football, obliquely raising an interesting question: What if fantasy baseball had been available to Pete Rose?


15. TYPING IN ALL CAPS

REMAINS ANNOYING

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Credentials: A New Zealand accountant who was fired for sending e-mails with words bolded, in red and in capital letters wins a $17,000 unfair dismissal award. In related news, a New Zealand company spends just $17,000 to get rid of someone who types in all caps.


Also receiving votes:

• Former "Price is Right" host Bob Barker to host WWE "Raw." FYI: a set of four metal folding chairs costs about $100.

• Chicago Bears defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek suffers his fourth season-ending injury in as many years. Meanwhile, Ryan Seacrest is about to enjoy his ninth consecutive injury-free season hosting "American Idol," again proving that the universe is not only unfair, but cruelly so.

A top French chess player showed up to a tournament drunk and passed out at his table after 11 moves. This never happens to John Daly.

Never receiving votes:

The Department of Labor is investigating possible collusion between the NFL Players Association and the league. Wait -- you mean pro football's labor peace isn't simply a result of the sport's copacetic goodwill and general awesomeness?

Major League Baseball fines Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon for taking too long to throw his first pitch, but does not fine the Washington Nationals bullpen for taking too long to get anyone out. Go figure.

• Uberbabe Megan Fox compares "Transformers" director Michael Bay to a genocidal WWII despot who shall remain unnamed, eliminating the 0.000001 percent chance she'll ever work at Page 2. Rats.

Patrick Hruby is a columnist for Page 2.