Game Balls: A New Year’s Eve Paradigm, Shifted


When the College Football Playoff announced plans to hold national semifinals on New Year’s Eve, Bill Hancock promised to create “a new paradigm” for the holiday.

A plummet in television ratings in Year 2 of the Playoff, and the first with New Year’s Eve semis, forced the committee to immediately shift back. The Game Ball of the Week goes to those fine folks, who avoided the obstinance typical of sports decision-makers and announced that after the 2016 season, semifinals will be played exclusively on Saturdays, save seasons when the Rose Bowl hosts.

What’s more, the Playoff managed to not trample all over tradition, sparing the Rose Bowl its rightful place on New Year’s afternoon.

The holiday season isn’t for another five months, but in July, we got a Festivus miracle! But with an early celebration of a Festivus for the Rest of Us come some early airing of grievances.

No Game Ball this week for the Fox Sports Radio affiliate in Knoxville, which tweeted the most homeriffic question perhaps ever posited in any medium:

Earlier this week, right here on CFB Huddle, I tabbed five teams for potential disappointment in 2016. The above tweet is Exhibit A why Tennessee made that list, and might actually be the front-runner.

The buzz for a team and head coach that have yet to win a truly big game is almost deafening. Most have the Vols penciled in for the SEC Championship Game; some expect to see them play in one of those New Year’s Eve Playoff semifinals.

Butch Jones compiled the talent; he’s a masterful recruiter. However, his performance in the most important games, whether at Cincinnati or Tennessee, is lackluster. And while Dobbs is a very good quarterback — perhaps the best in the SEC this season — Vince Young ranks as one of the all-time greats in college football history.

Should Dobbs put together a Heisman-worthy campaign, capped off with a moment like this:

I’d refrain from any Vince Young comparisons.

Ready for Fall Camps

This marks the final weekend of July, which can’t possibly be the case. The month — hell, 2016 in general — is flying by. College football fall camps open around the country in the coming days. Consider USC do-everything star Adoree’ Jackson hyped.

USC opens its fall training camp a week from today, beginning the month-long buildup to facing defending national champion Alabama. Week 1 is a the longest measuring stick against which the Trojans could possibly stand, giving particular importance to these first weeks of practice.

That’s a bit of a theme ahead of the 2016 season; the bevy of high-quality Week 1 games places added emphasis on the first month of practices. No easing in with lower-level competition for teams with aspirations toward New Year’s Eve like Oklahoma, LSU, Florida State, Clemson. These teams and their opponents — Houston, Wisconsin, Ole Miss and Auburn — must get at it from the outset focused.

Fortunately for you, the fan, no such expectations exist. Just train your remote hand to be at its sharpest, and work out those eyes to watch multiple monitors simultaneously once Labor Day weekend arrives.

Last Chance U.

In the meantime, for those seeking a football fix in the final month before action commences, Netflix debuts an intriguing, documentary series, going behind the scenes with junior college powerhouse East Mississippi.

East Mississippi hosted Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly between his ouster from Clemson and arrival in Oxford, but EMCC has produced numerous more high Div. I prospects.

Last Chance U. launches this week.

I Want My MTV (Classic)

Perhaps the most common lament of older generations toward today’s youngsters is the dramatic shift in programming MTV underwent, once it began catering to the Millennial crowd.

Well, lament no longer. VH1, which apparently still existed, will become MTV Classic on Aug. 1. Fittingly, the switch comes 35 years to the week of MTV’s initial launch.

Though I’m technically a Millennial, the glory days of MTV helped shape my pop culture identity. I organized clandestine VCR recordings of Beavis and Butthead, stockpiling episodes on blank tapes to watch when my parents left the house. I stayed up late on Thursdays to catch Yo! MTV Raps, where I first discovered my affinity for Ice Cube, Notorious B.I.G. and other heavies of the ’90s rap scene.

And, in 1999, I limbo’d beneath the age restriction to see MTV Films’ Varsity Blues on its opening weekend.

I have shared my love for Varsity Blues in this space previously, so my fanboydom is well established. However, I don’t think the film gets its due for helping mold the sports-drama genre in the years to come.

The NBC series Friday Night Lights felt like a more refined version of Varsity Blues; makes sense, given FNL debuted just seven years later. That in and of itself is staggering, as this fall already marks the 10-year anniversary of FNL Season 1.

I may have a preseason binge-watch in me…

Regardless, I see Varsity Blues as the swan song of MTV’s Golden Age. Gen Xers might argue the ’80s were MTV’s peak, and it’s a valid argument. The network established the acts and trends of the decade.

But in the ’90s, MTV hit its stride, still honoring the Music part of its name, while integrating programming that matched the counter-culture ethos.

By the turn of the millennium, the network had grown big enough to produce a blockbuster film. Shortly thereafter, its television programming was geared more toward drama, and any vestiges of counter-culture were washed away.

I consider myself a full-fledged adult now that I’m fully capable of being curmudgeonly over nostalgia.