If ESPN were to swap Chris Fowler for Ryan Seacrest and the Heisman Trophy presentation for an American Idol elimination episode, would anyone really know the difference? Take away the huge amphitheater and Seacrest's obnoxious faux-hawk and the two events seem cut from the same mold. Why? Because the only information you really care about comes "after the break."
Right now, we're living through a fascinating television era, an era when 10 good minutes of content can be miraculously engineered to last a full hour. If someone could harness and reapply this capability elsewhere, we'd all be getting better gas mileage and lasting longer in ... uh ... blinking contests. But alas, when limited to the TV world, we're stuck wading through umpteen commercials and fluff-laden segments when we only want to see the conclusion.
However, that's not always a bad thing. When networks are desperate for more airtime, strange things are bound to happen, especially when dealing with live, drawn-out programming. And though last Saturday's Heisman presentation was much longer than it needed to be, there were a few curious moments we might've missed had ESPN not spread out its coverage. Here were my favorite five:
5) Sam Bradford breaking all Heisman records for "unreal" references in an acceptance speech.
Bradford turned 21 at the beginning of November, so we'll cut him some slack. However, it goes without saying that a little liquor from Billy Sims' flask would've gone a long way toward quelling his nerves. In remarks that ran 3:30 in length, Bradford used the term "unreal" a total of four times, and in contexts that made the word stick out like a sore thumb. Granted, it wasn't nearly as conspicuous as the time President Bushthanked Pope Benedict for his "awesome" speech, but it was up there.
4) Ron Dayne doing his best Ice Cube impression.
You might be wondering, what exactly has Ron Dayne been doing since fading from the NFL? Why, it's funny you should ask. Apparently, he's been busy growing Ice Cube's beard from Next Friday. Honestly, it's identical! Moving on...
3) Former Heisman winners giving personalized salutations to the camera.
As with any Heisman ceremony, a select contingent of living winners was called on stage and introduced before the award was handed out. But it was those introductions that provided some of the night's most subtle comedy, as each person seemed to give a signature salutation to the camera. It wasn't quite the spoken intros we've grown to love on Sunday Night Football or the bizarre way a drunken wedding party enters a reception, but the peace signs, awkward gestures and that flannel suit George Rogers wore were equally uncomfortable.
2) Tim Tebow performing surgery on an unassuming child.
By now, Tebow's accolades have ensured he'll be the subject of enough human interest stories to keep Steve Cyphers employed forever. But Saturday's segment was, quite literally, a cut above the rest. Shown on one of his recent trips to help the underprivileged, Tebow was pictured wearing a doctor's mask and assisting in the removal of a cyst(!) from the back of a child's leg. Now, we all know Tebow is more perfect than the Six-Million Dollar Man, and, yeah, restrictions in other parts of the world are less stringent, but ... so many questions. Let's start with: How does this not violate some medical code?
1) Billy Sims hooting and hollering like a rammied-up sailor at a strip club.
How does Billy Sims like to celebrate a fellow Sooner winning the Heisman Trophy? Clearly, by shouting the Oklahoma "BOOMER!" battle cry 11 times at the top of his lungs. Seems like a natural reaction, no? Normally, the "BOOMER!" chant is met with a "SOONER!" response, just not this time -- or should I say, just not nine of the times Sims chose to scream it aloud. It was the most obnoxious Heisman moment since 2003 ... when Sims did the same thing to celebrate Jason White's victory.
After charting the success of SEC coaches over the last few years -- namely an over-intense coach at Florida, a two-timing mastermind at Alabama and a token "crazy guy in the fight" at LSU -- it will be delightful to introduce two new scenarios into the 2009 equation. With a few months until they actually start coaching, do you favor the "Coach with Disproportionately Hot Wife at Tennessee" or "Coach with Minimal Qualifications at Auburn" plot? It's a pivotal question.
For me, it's the Gene Chizik hiring at Auburn that will be most interesting to follow. It's really the only answer to this question. You mean to tell me that this was Auburn's idea of an upgrade over Tommy Tuberville? A guy who went 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State and lost his last 10 games? Really? Charles Barkley might be onto something with his race arguments, but we'll steer clear of that here. The real issue at hand is that while the prettiest girl in the coaching class may have only been a "7," Auburn opted for a "2." A nice gesture? I think so. A good hire? Not so much.
At what point does Penn State's Tom Bradley get so fed up that he bolts for a head coaching position at another school? Now that Joe Paterno has signed a three-year contract extension, you'd have to think Bradley is getting somewhat antsy, unless there is a hidden clause proclaiming him the head coach in waiting.
Two other thoughts worth mentioning: First, I've been writing all season the notion of Paterno being a true "head coach" is nothing more than an illusion. Paterno's been injured all season, "coaching" from the booth and working from home on some occasions. He's not the same coach he once was. Does it weigh on Bradley, the de facto next-in-command, that JoePa is getting credited for games he might well be winning as a de facto head coach? And secondly, when Paterno's extension expires in 2011, will Penn State finally start phasing him out by using a fake headset like the time the captain gave Dwight Shrute a fake steering wheel on Lake Wallenpaupack? Just wondering.
1. Better holiday drink: Egg nog or Bailey's Irish Cream?
2. Better bowl matchup: Oregon-Oklahoma State or Boise State-TCU?
3. Better television type:LCD or Plasma?
4. Better play-by-play guy:Vern Lundquist or Brad Nessler?
5. More annoying Facebook app:(Lil) Green Patch or Snowball Fight?
6. Better restaurant-themed bowl: Papajohns.com or Chick-fil-A?
7. Funnier Emmitt Smith phrase:"Blowed out" or "Rice of passage"?
8. More underrated position:Holder or long snapper?
9. Better YouTube clip:Bubb Rubb or Leprechauns in Mobile?
10. Likelier national champ:Florida or Oklahoma?
It's bowl time, so we're stepping up efforts here at Quick Slants headquarters and picking seven lucky games instead of our normal three. Plus, going 7-0 would put us at 20-11 for the season. But let's first mention three games we're not touching with a 10-meter cattle prod:
LSU vs. Georgia Tech (Chick-fil-A Bowl): Something about LSU's ongoing quarterback experiment coupled with Tech's quirky offense and surprisingly high ranking (14) for an ACC team leaves me at a loss for words and excitement.
Oregon vs. Oklahoma State (Holiday Bowl): Seems like the kind of game in which both coaches would concede their defenses and go for it on fourth-and-35 just for the hell of it. Plus, Mike Gundy seems like someone who would eat a live goldfish for sheer amusement, and it's a good rule of thumb to stay away from coaches like that with money on the line.
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (Orange Bowl): It's best to avoid putting any money on this game so you have no actual reason to watch it. Heaven knows the rest of the country won't.
Onto the picks...
Troy -4.5 vs. Southern Miss (New Orleans Bowl)
Notre Dame +1.5 vs. Hawaii (Hawaii Bowl)
Maryland +1.5 vs. Nevada (Humanitarian Bowl)
Wisconsin +5 vs. Florida State (Champs Sports Bowl)
Texas Tech -5.5 vs. Mississippi (Cotton Bowl)
USC -10 vs. Penn State (Rose Bowl)
Texas -10 vs. Ohio State (Fiesta Bowl)
Ty Hildenbrandt writes Quick Slants every week. E-mail him at email@example.com and check out his podcast at SolidVerbal.com.