Renaissance Online Magazine Sports

FEBRUARY 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 2



SPORTS

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MARK DEWING, a freelance writer and British expatriate, moved to the U.S.A. partly to experience heavy snowfall, but primarily because he got tired of having to wait until 2:00 a.m. to watch the Super Bowl live. He has worked as a social worker, freelance photographer, tomato picker, mortuary cleaner and bookstore buyer/manager. He most recently worked within the publishing industry as a PR consultant. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and he wishes the Dodgers still lived there too.




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Bowl Day in Arizona One Giant Fiesta

MARK DEWING

TEMPE, ARIZONA -- After watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers dominate their Fiesta Bowl contest against the Tennessee Vols, it began to look like the rankings were about right. Nebraska came into this contest ranked #3, and Tennessee entered the game ranked #6. The Vols however had even more to fight about than that, they won at this same venue last year to claim the national championship over Florida State, and despite a 9-2 record felt they deserved another shot at being #1.

It was billed as a tough contest between Nebraska's rushing and Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin's effective passing; however on the day it turned out to be more about the Cornhuskers size and power. The vaunted Tennessee defense looked like a high school team bravely hanging on despite being out-run, out-jumped and overwhelmed by Nebraska's bullies. It seemed that Tennessee just hadn't played anybody else this good all season. Their average rushing yards given up per game was around 130, yet they gave up 321 in this crucial game -- 108, and the first TD, to Cornhusker I-back Dan Alexander alone.

The Tennessee fans seemed to know something ominous was in the air, and stayed away in droves. As one Vols fan put it to me, "My husband wouldn't come because he said it weren't for a national championship, why bother?"

This led to Sun Devil Stadium being swathed in more red than a Bolshevik rally on May Day. A lot of good tickets were being scalped for less than their actual value, and I think they had mostly made their way from some of the more pessimistic Tennessee fans allotments. I sat behind the bright frilly orange clad Volunteer Southern belle cheerleaders, who true to their profession and character were cheerful throughout their team's brave attempts to combat Nebraska's dominance. Though by the fourth quarter their forced full smiles and yelps seemed to remind me of Jack Nicholson's turn as the Joker in Batman.

Outside the stadium the whole of Tempe, a Phoenix suburb, the storekeepers and barkeepers had two choices on this day, be open for business and risk the crowd's unruly behavior, or close-up and flee town. Those who had opted to flee were in the minority, though those that stayed may have wished they hadn't as tides of red, with small flecks of orange, swept through their bars, restaurants and stores. I observed one Tennessee fan lying drunk and completely passed out in the back of his SUV, his fat, bare, hairy legs protruding like the branches of a dead tree out the back window of his vehicle. I observed a Mexican restaurant selling bottles of Corona to three different people, and each time charging a different price -- it seemed to depend more on how drunk they were judged to be rather than the team colors they were wearing. I avoided all the marked up $40/$50 official sweatshirt stands, and wondered what this town must be like on a normal day.

The game became competitive during a dramatic third quarter, when a sloppy Cornhusker fumble was compounded by a penalty, and suddenly the Vols had reduced their deficit to only a field goal. However, this only seemed to annoy the slumbering giant from the Cornbelt and two backbreaking massive drives later -- one of 96 yards and another of 99 -- they had rushed and finesse passed their way back to a more commanding lead of 31-14. Even a 44-yard touchdown pass by Tennessee came too late, and Nebraska got the ball back and ran down the clock. By that time, though, just about all the Vols fans, apart from the poor cheerleaders and their companion, the buckskin clad rifleman mascot, had hightailed it back to their hotels, which is just as well because if I had to hear one more rendition of "Good Ole Rocky Top" I was going to hurl. I'll say this for the Vols fans though; at least they didn't wear anything close to being as ridiculous as the Cornhuskers Cornhead hats.

I remain convinced that a playoff system is the still best course to take for Division 1-A college football, and I would propose that it utilize at least 10-12 teams in a seeded playoff bracket. Florida State probably was the best team this year, but they looked like they could have been beaten at least three times during the regular season, and how proud can they be that a freshman quarterback from a smaller less sportingly prestigious college almost embarrassed them on national television?

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