Taken away with college football
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

They had to call in the janitor to the Cooler today.

Casey Printers
Brian Murphy's bedsores were nothing compared with the aches Miami's Matt Walters gave Florida A&M QB Casey Printers.
He had to bring a mop. To wipe up the saliva.

And yes, he sported Aykroydian rear-cleavage as he sopped up my spit. (Please. Don't ever forget, no matter how many lousy movies Dan Aykroyd has made, to give comedic credit where it is due. Aykroyd brought the plumber's crack to American television in the "SNL" of the 1970s. It was a scream, and he deserves his moment.)

Meanwhile, the janitor could only say one thing to my pool of drool:

"You saw the Saturday TV listings, too, huh?"

Dwellers, there is no other way to say this, so I will simply list what my eyes saw upon opening Saturday's sports page, under the TV listings:

9 a.m., Washington at Michigan, ABC.

9 a.m., Central Florida at Penn State, ESPN.

9:30 a.m., Kansas at Iowa State, Fox Sports Net.

10 a.m., Colorado at Colorado State, ESPN2.

12:30 p.m., Baylor at Cal, local TV.

12:30 p.m., Virginia at Florida State, ABC.

2:30 p.m., Tennessee at Wyoming, ESPN2.

3 p.m., Mississippi State at Oregon, Fox Sports Net.

4:45 p.m., Clemson at Georgia, ESPN.

5 p.m., Notre Dame vs. Maryland, ABC.

5:45 p.m., Wisconsin at UNLV, ESPN2.

I will now pause a moment to let the enormity sink in to you, too, dear reader.

Check that out.

On Aug. 31, 2002, I could sink my girth into the Strat-O-Lounger, grasp the TiVo remote in my right hand, ease the Strat-O into Position Two with my left hand, and not leave -- sparing breaks of an essential nature -- from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

We're talking bedsores, people. We're talking pizza delivery. We're talking an end table filled with so many empties, it looked like a chess board.

We're talking college football.

Cue the drool.

Do you know what this means? This means that if I am forced out of the house by my babe, to catch some art-house flick on a late Saturday afternoon, I can offer to drive ... just to listen to Beano Cook on the radio. If only Edward R. Murrow delivered reports as meaningful.

Tyrone Willingham
The Murph would rather spend his intellectual energy studying Tyrone Willingham's inscrutable face.
Do you know what this means? This means that if my babe insists we head to the local pub after the art-house flick to discuss themes and sub-themes in the film, I can subtly coax my local barman to change the station from Irish hurling -- a good enough game -- to Tyrone Willingham's debut from the Meadowlands. Then, while she wonders if Robin Williams' character in "One Hour Photo" represents the futile struggle of man's war against insignificance in this world, I can nod my head -- and spend my real intellectual energy studying Willingham's inscrutable face, as if it were the Rosetta Stone.

Do you know what this means? This means wondering if Baylor was on the take against Cal! This means caring about Virginia Tech-LSU! This means wondering why all the hot chicks go to SEC games, and not to Big Ten games!

College football, dwellers. It's a beautiful thing.

Once, an Irish lad was over in America living with me. A good pal he was, and one Saturday morning, he and I had the TV on to a Notre Dame-Michigan game. As the ABC camera panned the 100,000-plus at The Big House, my pal uttered a statement of pure shock, unable to comprehend the humanity for a game played by men in their late teens and early 20s:

"Oh! Da crowd!" he said in his County Clare accent.

Yes, da crowd.

We pour into the arenas on Saturdays. We gather with pals on Saturdays. We agonize with our alma maters on Saturdays, not because the football matters ... but because it is a three-hour span of a fall Saturday where we can remember our youth, since gone. When a term paper was our biggest concern.

When we wondered if the cute chick from Orange County in our dorm liked us as much as we liked her. When we didn't have to go to work.

Now, years later, we open the paper on Saturday mornings. We check the TV listings.

And we are taken away.

Forthwith, a snap back to reality, to a dynamite weekend of sports, and to our Weekend List of Five:

1. College football: all about the kickers
Philip Brabbs
After missing two field goals, one 44-yarder made Michigan kicker Philip Brabbs, right, the toast of Ann Arbor.
Do you get the feeling that you could perform as efficiently as your average college kicker? I'm not talking about, say, Russell Erxleben. That cat was like Gus, the Kicking Mule. I'm talking about every other kicker at every other college program. You know, the guys who look like the paperboy. What is with the utter Opie-ness of the look of college kickers? What is with them missing extra points?

What is with them missing chip shot field goals, then removing their helmets and revealing a fresh-scrubbed look of innocence to make you feel guilty for hurling five-star profanities upon their buzz-cutted head?

The Washington-Michigan game was as good an example as any. The Michigan kickers -- it took two for this mess -- missed kicks of 36, 42 and 27 yards. The Washington kicker missed a freaking PAT. You wondered how these dudes ever earned uniforms. You wondered how they could show their faces at the postgame keg party, sidling next to some O-lineman packed in ice who had strained every ligament in his body, only to say to that O-lineman: "Hey, Thor, good game today! Sorry about the missed kicks, but could you pass the keg tap?"

And then the Michigan kid knifes the winning kick home. And then he's a hero. He's running all over and they're doggie-piling him and Ann Arbor is on fire. And at the postgame keg party, the kicker kid, now a hero, was sure to score with the cute chick because Thor is still packed in ice, healing every ligament he strained while Opie the Kicker chilled for 59 minutes.

God bless college football, dwellers. God bless college football.

2. Eighteen! What is this, co-ed softball?
How can a big-league team win 18 in a row? How can it happen?

Miguel Tejada
Miguel Tejada showed why he's an MVP with his walk-off homer against the Twins on Sunday.
I understand a co-ed softball team winning 18 in a row. I've recently become involved in a co-ed softball league from the local bar, and let me tell you -- we suck so badly, getting out of an inning is worthy of a V-J Day-styled celebration. Any team with women who are any good can roll every other team out there, and post 18 in a row over the rest of us buffoons.

But that's co-ed softball.

The Oakland A's -- ahem, ahem, cough, cough -- pimped heavily here at the Cooler for the last two seasons, are making good on it all. But who makes good to the tune of 18 straight wins? This is the stuff of the occult. There is no explanation. They are very good. They are not this good. They have apparently sacrificed a herd of goats shipped in from the Dominican, at midnight on Mount Davis -- that abhorrent seating aberration in center field, built for the Raiders -- and poured the blood over a life-size voodoo doll of Bud Selig.

This, perhaps, would explain the 18 straight.

As for the rest of it, how about this: Best starting staff in baseball. A third baseman you'd kill to have on your team. A shortstop who is the MVP of the American League. And a manager so cool, ice cubes die in envy.

Ladies and gentlemen, your co-ed softball champs, the Oakland A's.

3. A word on the strike that never was
You are hereby under orders to never blame the players for anything again. Faced with despicable, book-cooking owners, faced with an inexplicable mountain of anti-player public opinion, faced with taking the heat for another work stoppage, the players conceded massive amounts of bargaining real estate to those lying jackals we know as owners.

OK. We got our ball back, uninterrupted. That part was good.

But don't forget that if Bud Selig and His Merry Band of Tools got their darkest fantasy, we'd have no baseball right now. No A's streak. No Giants-Dodgers duel in the West. No Yankees-Red Sox this week.

Forgive, ball fans. But don't ever forget.

4. Who caught the "MTV Video Music Awards"?
Britney Spears, Michael Jackson
The MTV battery: Britney Spears the biker dominatrix pitching to Michael Jackson behind the plate.
Forget Christina Aguilera's chest work, which obviously occupied the better part of a Beverly Hills surgeon's afternoon. Forget Britney Spears as biker dominatrix -- admittedly, an absurd request.

Did anybody stop to check out the King of Pop?

I know. I know. Riffing on Wacko Jacko as some sort of freak is the equivalent of riffing on Carrot Top as some sort of comedic turd.

Believe me. I've been on MJ's case since the "Off the Wall" days, when his "Rock With You" spilled out of my older sister's bedroom in 1980. Back then, he looked like any other respectable, Jheri-curled, proud black man. He could have been Isiah Thomas' redshirt freshman brother on Indiana's national championship team in '81.

But now -- and understand, I know this is hammering a way-dead caballo -- now ... you really need to check him out again. You really need to know how bad it has gotten for this cat.

It got so bad, we hit pause on the TiVo, just to check him out.

Just to check out what can only be described as the Alien-meets-Kabuki-girl-with-baseball-catcher-shinguards look.

And hey, where's the nose? Has anybody seen the nose? Can we put out an APB on the nose? Maybe it's been bronzed and put on his trophy shelf, next to the Grammy for "I Want You Back" -- back when the funky little dude could bring it.

Now, he just brings me sweaty nightmares -- in which an alien spaceship, manned by a Kabuki girl and Mike Piazza, transports me away to a parallel universe and ... aw, never mind.

Bradlee Van Pelt
After wins over Colorado and Virginia, Bradlee Van Pelt and the Colorado State Rams are gunning for UCLA this weekend.
5. A final riff on college football, for cleansing purposes
My school (UCLA) tees it up on Saturday against Colorado State. Maybe your school (Arizona State) thumped Eastern Washington in your opener. Maybe your school (Iowa) beat Akron by 36 points. Maybe if you went to Arizona State or Iowa, you should be ashamed of your scheduling.

Regardless, it is here. The second-most beautiful time of the year, behind Cooler Day.

A pennant race heats up, an NFL season is around the corner, and college football is here.

And just think, Wacko Jacko and Otis Sistrunk can gather together in a sports bar near you, eagerly awaiting the University of Mars' opening tilt.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

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