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      The NCAA Is a Donut Burger

      January 11, 2012
      From the column 'The Mercy Rule'

      There's something frankly porny about it, the way that Paula Deen is leering at this other woman. It’s disturbing for a couple of reasons, and Deen herself—a cackling, linen-swathed, blaze-orange hot wing of a woman—is only the most obvious and extravagantly bronzed of those. There is, for instance, the fact that she is purr-howling at her guest about burgers, which will be topped with fried eggs and bacon and presumably whatever else is lying around—suet or a pint of sour cream or a pile of deep-fried hair, something. But because there is this plate of glazed donuts just sitting right there, like a rifle on the wall in the first act of a Chekhov play—or some industrial-ass pleasure-wand that is for some reason just sitting there on the "teacher's" desk in a porno, if you are for some terrible reason still into that particular metaphor—you know what's going to happen. Eventually, Deen is going to do what she does, which is yowl with laughter and put a burger, and then an egg, and then bacon atop one of those donuts, and put another donut on top of it, and take a bite. And when she does it is horrible, inestimably more horrible than I could make it sound. That is probably one reason why I thought of all this while watching Monday night's similarly offensive BCS Championship game.

      The football game itself was as excruciating as any game imaginable—after winning a November meeting that devolved into a contest over which team was shittier at kicking field goals, LSU was shut out by Alabama in the rematch, and didn't manage to move the ball past midfield until the fourth quarter. Bama, for its part, dominated in the most excruciating manner possible, being dazzlingly destructive on defense and playing offense with a clenched, joyless conservatism so profound as to make Rick Santorum look like Keith Moon.

      That these may in fact have been the two best college football teams in the nation surely matters to the players and the regiments of first-person-plural-abusers that follow those teams around the country. For everyone else, it was a reminder of how much harder-to-watch—how much flubbier and flabbier and less adventurous and more stubbornly sluggish and just generally worse—college football is than its NFL analogue. It was bad enough, in fact, to encourage viewers to remind themselves of the horribleness of everything else on television—I spent three minutes watching The Bachelor with my wife, and can attest that while that festival of tearful twentysomething winezillas was far more depressing than the football game, it did not offer notably inferior football.

      For those who don’t see college football as purer and more authentic than professional football, the world of big-time college football amounts to a hugely lucrative minor league that exploits the fuck out of its players, is predicated on selective enforcement of ethical and academic standards, and is abetted by the plump cynicism of a crass aristocracy of college presidents, big-money boosters, and TV types. Oh, and which the lower right-hand quadrant of the country follows with an ultra-intense clannish ardor generally more associated with the Latin Kings than, say, alums (and non-alums) of land-grant universities. College football matters a great deal in parts of the country besides the South—it is a way of faintly creepy life in states as far-flung and notionally progressive as Oregon and Wisconsin—but at the very least it matters enough to SEC schools that they have been willing to do what it takes to be better at football than anyone else. Alabama's national title was the sixth straight for a Southeastern Conference team.

      To “fans” (really, we need a stronger word than that) of college football—and specifically the NCAA-bestriding, double-bird-flipping colossus of the SEC—the sport is both a source of local and regional pride and a way to create not just a community but a universe unto itself, one complete with its own creepo radio hosts and shit-talk language and localized villains, its own litany of vast-but-somehow-also-obscure slights and scandals unforgiven and unforgotten.

      If that little universe seems to an outsider to be Hobbesian in its exploitiveness and willed ignorance and weirdly aggro pride… well, there are some reasons for that, but one big one is that you aren't from there, and so wouldn't get it. To a rootless cosmopolite elite like me, big-time college football looks for all the world like a fat-slicked, transparently un-consumable Paula Deen donut burger. For others, for reasons of their own, it is delicious enough to justify the diabetes-sweats it brings. Whether it makes you salivate or leaves you nauseated is, finally, a matter of appetite.

      @david_j_roth

      Previously – Sorry, You’re Going to Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

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