Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer will surely get some heat for his postgame comments following the Orange’s 28-6 loss to ACC counterpart Louisville Friday. Per Stephen Bailey of The Post-Standard:
“I’m the luckiest guy alive,” Shafer said. “I see ISIS is out there cutting people’s heads off. The real world has got some major problems, some major problems, and we’re just so doggone lucky to be coaching and playing a sport, and being criticized for not getting a call made with a couple seconds left in the game or being criticized for not catching a dead pig with air in it.”
Yes, the comparison is clumsy. Shafer’s reference to members of the Islamic State brutally decapitating idealistic opponents and journalists after an ACC football might seem like he’s trivializing the ongoing atrocities in the Middle East, given the less-than-eloquent phrasing.
But at its core, the point Scott Shafer was going for is spot-on.
Sports have never been more popular than they are now, particularly football. As such, fans are more emotionally (and financially) invested in their teams’ success than ever before.
So, when a team loses as Syracuse did Friday, criticism is amplified and athletic departments are left to worry about their bottom line.
Enough emphasis is placed on the success and failures of college football programs that Michigan’s ongoing turmoil can command top billing on the nightly news alongside stories about the violence in Iraq.
Now, Syracuse isn’t Michigan and Scott Shafer won’t attract the same kind of attention as Brady Hoke. Nevertheless, the importance placed on big-time college football now and evident through Michigan does speak to Shafer’s point.
The awkward ISIS comment is sure to be the hook when Shafer’s press conference comes up in conversation over the coming days, but this quote, also via The Post-Standard carries a lot more weight:
“To me, life’s pretty damn good and I’m so lucky to be having to field these types of questions [about game management]. I feel so blessed to be a football coach and living a dream. Every once in a while it’s uncomfortable, but that’s what makes the highs that much better.”
We live in a country in which we’re free to not just watch college kids play a game, but discuss it, write about it, and fret over it. We don’t have to worry about sectarian violence in our backyards, and for that, we’re lucky.
Sometimes our national obsession with sports in general and football in particular overshadows more pressing concerns: healthcare, education, and so forth.
It’s not such a bad thing if every once in awhile we all take a step back and realize there’s a whole lot of much more dire consequence going on than the final score of a college football game.