2009 BCS Championship and Sportsmanship


I originally submitted this as a post in response to an article in The Guardian (UK). The article was Off-topic post on Alabama's lack of class by Michael Tomasky. It was written the day after Alabama defeated Texas for the 2009 BCS National Championship in college football. (This game played was played in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California in January 2010). To fully understand the post you will want to read the article and the comments above mine. Last I checked they were still available for viewing. In case the link doesn't work or you don't feel like reading it, Mr. Tomasky was asserting that Alabama showed a lack of class and sportsmanship by "running up the score" against Texas at the end of the game.

My post

I am a Texas fan who attended last night's game in question, so you can keep that in mind when considering my comments.

In the past, I have watched Texas bend over backwards to avoid running up the score on an opponent. Many times, this has even included wasting most of the fourth quarter by deliberately earning delay of game penalties so we are backed farther away from the goal line. Mind you, this is even when playing our second or third string players. I don't agree with that behavior at all. I think it is a waste of playing time for all the players, and a rip-off to the fans who invested time and money to watch the game. I am fine with taking the starters out, but I say let the backups play ball.

On the other hand, there is what Bama did: They never stopped trying to score points, not even in the final minute when leading by 10. Texas did not have enough time-outs to get the ball back. let alone score twice. Attempting to score in that situation truly was classless.

I see some people (E.g. jonappleseed) here are defending Alabama because they ran the ball instead of passing. Bama ran the ball because they *couldn't* pass. Their QB completed a mediocre ~50% (6/11) of his passes for a middling 58 yards and no touchdowns. In contrast, Texas' *back-up* quarterback threw for 156 yards and two touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the sport. No, Bama was not trying to be nice when they ran the ball, they were trying to run the part of their offense that was working, and score as many points as possible.

As I said, I have no problem with letting the back-ups play hard right up until the game is decided. The situation changes though when inside 2 minutes and with control of the clock. At that point, running out the clock is the smartest way to win. At that point, doing anything other than this is no longer playing to win, it is playing to do something else. To do what exactly? I can't read coach Saban's mind. Maybe he wanted (as some here suggested) to get some extra stats for some players. If so, that impulse is understandable, misguided though it may be. Perhaps he did it to try to embarrass his opponent. If so, then it was truly a classless act. I don't know.

I do know that the touchdown was not the only classless act by Alabama that evening. Let's start with Marcell Dareus throwing the ball into the stands after his touchdown. As any student of the sport knows, this is against the rules. It is universally seen as excessive celebration and bad sportsmanship. Any but the most partisan Alabama fan would have to agree with that. Credit goes to the officials for flagging it as a penalty.

Speaking of partisan Alabama fans, I sat behind 2 pairs of them who for some reason were sitting in the Texas side of the stadium. 2 of them were young boys and were as polite as they could be - rooting for their team and not rooting against their opponent.

The other 2 were the exact opposite. One of that pair actually cheered when McCoy got hurt and later turned around with his camera phone to try to take pictures of Texas fans reacting to the loss. His partner was obnoxious in doing the Hook 'em Horns (The UT hand gesture) upside down. It would be similar to flying your opponents flag upside down or hanging your opponent's mascot in effigy. It really is not in good taste. Unfortunately this is a common sight from many of our opponents. Why don't they show some class and root *for* their own team instead of *against* who they are playing? There is a decided difference between the two.

I hope the 2 polite young men are more representative of Alabama than the other examples.

Also, jonappleseed, the fact that Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit didn't proclaim it as running up the score does not prove a thing. Unless it is ESPN criticizing Mike Leach (on which they have a conflict of interest) they are usually very unlikely to criticize a coach for much of anything. It might affect their chance to get an interview later, or maybe lose them a few viewers who disagreed. This is especially true when it comes to the SEC, who are the media darlings.

To Fulton: you asked if these are "peer" schools. In most senses they are. They both are storied programs with lots of victories and championships under their belts. In another sense, they are not peers at all. Over 100+ years of the sport these 2 teams have met only 9 times. The results: Texas 7, Alabama 1, and 1 tie. So in that sense, no they are not peers at all. Texas stands head and shoulders above. (And we have a winning records against SEC teams Florida, LSU, Arkansas, Georgia,... etc. as well).

Yesterday, though, the Tide stood on top and hats off to them for the win. We will meet again. When we do, will Texas run up the score? I really don't care if we do or not. So long as we take the all-time record to 8-1-1. Hook 'em Horns, and God Bless the United States of America, and all the People of the World.