"Us Against The World"

There are two legends currently coaching college football. One is <b>Bobby Bowden.</b> The other is Joe Paterno. Whether they leave this game on their terms, riding high on the shoulders of their players after a successful season as they richly deserve -- or go out while being pushed to retirement's door by disenchanted alumni, boosters and fans -- is tantamount to their lasting image and footprints they leave on this game. Click here to read Jeff Snook's thoughts on Bowden and the 'Noles.

Editor's Note: Jeff Snook is a veteran sports writer and author. Snook, who currently resides in West Palm Beach, covered FSU for a number of years and recently penned a book on Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes' national championship season. Snook will be a contrubting columnist with TheTerritory this football season.

I always believed that old "it's us against the world" attitude was naive, self-serving, selfish and simply tiresome when it came to sports teams facing outside components -- or opponents in most cases.

In college football, it was the teams most of Middle America loved to hate – the Public Enemy No. 1 Hurricanes of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson.

In boxing, it was Mike Tyson, who used the term even though he was a singular being. For Mike, there was no "us" unless he counted his dollars – all of which are now as gone as Kobe Bryant's pristine image.

In baseball, it was the Oakland A's of the 1970s, who partied and brawled their way to titles and colorful reputations. In college basketball, it was John Thompson's Georgetown Hoyas, who would have set up pre-season camp in Siberia if the NCAA would have allowed it – just to avoid those pesky reporters from getting too close.

Let's be real: It never was them against the world in the first place, simply because 99 percent of the world didn't give a damn.

But it was them against conventional wisdom, common thought, and the cookie-cutter process. As the college football season approaches, it appears to the rest of the nation that the Florida State Seminoles have evolved into the latest chapter of this anti-social behavior. And here's an unoriginal thought: That may be a good thing, as far as wins and losses and public perception.

In covering college football for the past 25 years, it has hit me like a John Elway out-cut between the eyes that not just some, but most 18- to 22-year-olds, are not properly trained to deal with the media.

Worst of all, they are not educated about the media, and its role in America's free-speech society, let alone its role in college athletics. They head to college to learn how to pick up a blitzing linebacker, how to look off the safety, how to tackle with their heads up -- and, we all hope, how the specifics of Chemistry, Algebra and perhaps World History 101 and the subsequent degree may make their lives better someday.

But the specific techniques of how to eloquently handle the losses to Notre Dame and troubling quarterback controversies with dignity and grace -- not to mention the avoidance of temptation of whether Arizona State will cover that six-point spread -- perhaps don't come as naturally.

And when reporting on those issues, the media at times has piled on, distorted some facts and exaggerated others.

So in response, the coach that has been more media-friendly than any other in college athletics for the past quarter-century, is implementing a max-protect scheme around FSU's locker room.

Here's a shocker – what took Bobby Bowden so long?

Let's face it, since 1976 when Bowden arrived in Tallahassee from West Virginia, the media has changed as much as Cher's clothes during a two-hour concert. In the old days after a loss, you could watch two teammates argue over a play-call or interception and realize that it didn't quite carry the significance of overhearing a nasty give-and-take between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld over that supposed al-Qaida-Iraq link.

In other words, it didn't make the next day's newspaper.

Now that FSU's locker room is closed, the rival Hurricanes are one of the few still holding to the open locker room policy. Florida closed its locker room, probably for good, in the mid-1990s. Notre Dame is closed. Ohio State never had an open locker room. Neither did Michigan, or most NCAA football powers for that matter. Does it help them win any more games? Probably not.

But what it does is prevent the public from getting an up-close view of every squabble, argument and sometimes, shoving match, between teammates. Here's news -- in the world of sports, competitors sometimes hate to lose. From losses, frustration grows like mold and scapegoats sprout like mushrooms.

But why show it to the world?

I always thought one of the worst jobs of a sports writer, aside from dealing with editors who last attended a game when Nixon was in office, was fighting your way through an overcrowded locker room, notebook in hand, while the hot steam from the showers made your polo short stick to your body like chewing gum to the bottom of your shoe.

As far as the Seminoles go, after nine losses in two season, dealing with each other after a game without prying eyes and ears will be a good thing. They can focus now on what's important – doing what it takes to get back into the top-10. They can take that "us against the world" approach and use it like the motivating factor it should be.

"See what the nation is saying about us," Bowden should tell his team.

"Our program is down. It's done. No more top-five finishes. We're a bunch of thugs. We can't win anymore. And we can't stay out of trouble. Do you see it. Do you hear it? Do you want to do something about it?"

Yeah, it would be one of the great "us against the world" speeches of all time. And it would be the perfect time. Their success or failure over the next four months is more crucial to their program than that of any other program in the nation, save perhaps Penn State.

Why?

There are two legends currently coaching college football.

One is Bobby Bowden. The other is Joe Paterno.

Whether they leave this game on their terms, riding high on the shoulders of their players after a successful season as they richly deserve -- or go out while being pushed to retirement's door by disenchanted alumni, boosters and fans -- is tantamount to their lasting image and footprints they leave on this game.

Ironically, both have had major disputes with the media in the past two years. Paterno has argued with Big Ten officials in the same manner a baseball manager argues with an umpire. He lectures the media more than he lectures his team. Recently, he had a player acquitted of rape, but he was criticized repeatedly for letting that player play in a bowl after he was accused. It all has left him bitter. Now Bowden has joined him in leveling some backlash, albeit with a more aw-shucks, joking style.

This season is crucial for both legends. They deserve to exit this grand game on their own terms, having given almost a century of work combined for the betterment of it. They deserve to get the last laugh – at doubting fans, at father time and at the media that has written that the game has passed them by.

They, too, must believe this season is as important as any of their careers. Although Bowden and Paterno are better history students to say it, they, too, must feel it is them against the world.


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