We start off with an apology: my heart hasn’t been in it for the past two seasons.
It probably showed up in the quality of the work, and I know some of you noticed I didn’t write a Delusional Optimism column last year, but… I couldn’t bring myself to care about college football the past two seasons.
I don’t want to go over the ground again, and I’m not speaking for anyone but me, but I thought the decision to play college football in 2020 during the height of the pandemic was disgusting. When the world was shutting down, we had no problem running out an unpaid workforce out there in front of empty stadiums so the schools could keep cashing those big TV checks.
Look, I got the argument for pro sports, and those players were represented by a union who could negotiate on their behalf. But playing games for no other benefit but to make money just felt so wrong to me. I had a real problem with it, and I still do. And I’m sorry I was a part of promoting those games. I’m not innocent here. My heart wasn’t in it, but I helped keep this machine rolling because it can never stop.
I do think that we crossed a bit of a moral Rubicon at that point. There’s always been some head nod towards tradition and the fig leaf that we were doing this for the school student bodies, but… 2020 exposed that as a lie. It is only about a money, tradition be damned. And we will risk the players’ health because we have to fulfill those TV contracts.
The quick march to super conferences, the explosion of NIL money as near open bribery, and the raiding of everyone’s roster via the transfer portal all feel like a natural outgrowth of that season, when motivations were truly laid bare. If the players are nothing but employees then, yeah. Go get paid, y’all. As much as you can.
2021 was more of a get back to normal season, but I still just couldn’t do it. It still didn’t feel right to me, and I still felt that betrayal of 2020. I’m not asking anyone to feel like I did, but I felt complicit in the destruction of college football as we knew it. Why should any player have the slightest bit of loyalty to any program?
And we cynical hipsters tend to make fun of things like tradition and loyalty. Playing for the old Alma Mater and giving it all for the student body. But you know what? Those are the values which make college football matter.
I’m not going to deny the money is there, it would be impossible at this point. But these values matter. They make it special. Reading JaMarcus Russell’s amazing post-career confessional made me realize that while making the League is the goal, college is perhaps the last time it is still, at least somewhat, a game. This is the time it’s still fun. It’s still more game than business.
I thought about hanging up the blogging spurs, my entire generation of writers is already gone. I came in with Pittman, and most of y’all reading this don’t even remember our blogfather. It’s the same on the other SEC sites, which have turned over their staff or gone dark. That’s how quickly things change on the internet. Fifteen years is a lifetime online.
Instead, I want to try and go back to what we once were. Well, just me. I promise to be less cynical, because cynicism is intellectual laziness dressed up as moral superiority. I want to be more good natured, more fun. Look, I’m still going to make fun of Bama and revel in my hatred of Auburn, but that stuff can be done in the right spirit.
I want to look forward to football again. I want to have fun, and drink in this sport in all of its brilliant stupidity. I lost my way these past two seasons, not because of what was going on on the field, but the fact there was goings on at all. The lousy play didn’t help, but I got a kick out of moments like LS-Shoe and the bowl game.
The 39-player roster should go down in LSU legend. That was bleeding purple and gold, and sacrificing it all for the team. And winning a game on a shoe toss is the sort of stuff that justifies the existence of a blog.
Mainly, I want to feel that optimism each Saturday again. And I want to feel it it with this community. Even if it is delusional. Especially if it is.