Irony, Football and Life

This past Friday while having lunch, I created a bit of a scene. I was with my Dad, the legendary accountant Ron Johnson, at a teriyaki joint in Edmonds. It was moments before we were to be served our chicken and steamed rice. Dad and I were seated near a sunny window. <br><br> As he was looking out onto the street with his mind seemingly miles away, he suddenly asked me a question… Had I had heard who was going to be on the cover up the upcoming Sporting News?

Listed as the best player in college football?

I leaned forward and grabbed the table, excitedly pitching forth the possibility of Reggie Williams… Dad shook his head no… Well, then Cody Pickett! I asked this with a dash of naïve wonder… Again, nope, my Dad shook his head. I paused and grew introspective, thinking that it must not be a Husky, but rather some other player in the Pac-10, or else why would he bring it up?

USC's Mike Williams? Oregon State's Stephen Jackson? Dad shot these down as well. My guesses finally dried up and I shrugged and asked for the answer.

He plays for Miami, my Dad said. Then for me it was like a car accident that you see in progress but can't do anything to stop. The words poured forth in slow motion… "K-e-l-l-e-n W-i-n-s-l-o-w, J-r.", my Dad said with regret tingeing his voice.

"Sweet Jesus, NO!" I bellowed out and slammed my fist to the table, which rattled from the blow. A half-dozen restaurant patrons all turned in unison to see what the hell was going on at our table. I raised my hand in an apologetic gesture. "Sorry, folks, just receiving some bad news over here," I stated. There was a mixture of amused smirks and disgusted frowns.

Then Dad and I were served our meals and we began chowing down. All the while we were shaking our heads and quietly muttering to ourselves the ironic injustice of it all.

It is something to behold. Not so long ago, highly touted Kellen Winslow, Jr. was being heavily recruited to come to Washington. Word was that the Huskies were his #1 choice. Unfortunately for the Huskies, Winslow's Dad, the former NFL star for San Diego, wasn't letting him come to Montlake. The Washington head coach wasn't going to coach his son if he could help it, and apparently the rest of the Husky coaching staff in general wasn't culturally diverse enough for Kellen Senior's liking.

Winslow, Sr. apparently preferred Michigan State or Stanford, as both universities had African American coaches. Winslow, Sr. stated on national TV that this factor was critically important to him. He wanted his son to see first-hand, an African American in a position of high authority. In a general sense, I can certainly understand wanting to have a sense of unlimited possibilities permeating a son's mind.

Meanwhile, Rick Neuheisel had a Rose Bowl championship under his belt and was recruiting Winslow, Jr. hard. Washington State's Mike Price was the dean of Pac-10 coaches and boasted a widespread grandfatherly image to boot. Both of these coaches were deeply entrenched in their positions, with invincible job security. Mike Price seemed like he would be in Pullman for another 50 years and would celebrate his 100th birthday at Cavanaugh's with some harmless drinking games.

In Seattle, the concern was for when Neuheisel might be off for the NFL, or to a job like Notre Dame. In his recruitment of Winslow, Jr., Neuheisel and the young kid reportedly had a very strong connection.

Now we jettison a couple of years into the future, to August 2003. The seeming status quo is now in ironic disarray. The Winslows, father and son, having settled on Miami as the compromise choice, are seeing the team led by a head coach named Larry Coker.

Culturally diverse? More so than Rick Neuheisel? OK, if you say so.

Say what you want but it all worked out for Winslow about as good as you could have expected, even if the end result didn't come as intended.

Michigan State's African American head coach was fired last year before the season was even over. Stanford's head coach left Stanford and took over arguably the greatest coaching job in college football, at Notre Dame. Mike Price and Rick Neuheisel have both been fired. Mike Price is suing the University of Alabama and Sports Illustrated for a combined $40 million. Rick Neuheisel will likely be placing lawsuits of his own against the NCAA and the University of Washington.

Things have been in a real mess up here in the state of Washington.

Meanwhile, Kellen Winslow, Jr., is gracing the cover of a national magazine and is being touted as the greatest player in college football. At least to this point, you have to admit that his college choice wound up being more than just a compromise. It was a perfect fit.

After all, had he gone to Washington, Michigan State or Stanford, his coach of choice would be gone by now. In all three cases he would have also suffered through a less than stellar 2002 football season.

Instead, there he was on national TV this past January, playing for a second national championship ring. In that sense, you've got to be happy for him... But Damn it! He sure as hell would have looked great wearing the purple and gold.

So I hereby cry in my rice and neurotically bellyache to everyone within earshot. It is my right as a college football fan.
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories