Lumps of Coal All Around

By Mark Nagi

The Christmas season is finishing up but there is still time to hand out lumps of coal for those in the sporting world. We’ll do this for no rhyme or reason, on a local, national, and even international scale. If they played hockey on Mars, I’d find a way to include them as well.

Let’s start with our old friends, the College Football Playoff Committee. This year they allowed their personal biases to take center stage with the decision to rank Alabama 5th and Tennessee 6th, giving the Crimson Tide the Sugar Bowl and denying the Vols from playing in that game for the first time in over 30 years.

They chose to ignore the following facts when deciding which 10-2 was better.

Tennessee beat Alabama.

Tennessee had a better strength of schedule than Alabama.

Tennessee destroyed LSU, a team that beat Alabama.

Tennessee’s best win was Alabama and Alabama’s best win was… Texas?

The committee pointed to the Vols’ 25-point loss at South Carolina and the fact that Hendon Hooker tore his ACL as reasons for this slight. But the loss to the Gamecocks, which was very bad, didn’t look as bad when South Carolina beat Clemson the following week and ended up ranked in the top 20. They also gave Alabama credit for their “quality losses,” as both came on the road on the last play of the game.

This was the committee giving Tide coach Nick Saban (who spent the final weekend politicking for a spot in the playoff in a sad display) a soft-landing spot in New Orleans since they wouldn’t put the Tide in the top 4.

By almost any metric, Tennessee was more deserving of that Sugar Bowl berth than Alabama, but life isn’t fair.

Which leads me to the next coal recipients, the Heisman Trophy voters. How on earth do you leave Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker out of the Top 4?  All Hooker did was carry the Vols to a 10-2 record with wins over Florida, LSU, and Alabama, plus UT’s first-ever number one spot in the CFB playoff rankings. Off the field, he writes children’s books, which fit perfectly into their “character” category when considering potential winner’s qualifications.

No Tennessee player will ever win the Heisman Trophy. If it didn’t happen for Johnny Majors or Peyton Manning, I don’t see it ever happening. But you can’t tell me there were four better college football players in the nation this season than Hendon Hooker.

Next? Here’s a shoutout for those connected to the World Cup. FIFA voting for Qatar as the host a decade ago was as shameless as it gets, but that is par for the course for FIFA, which also gave the World Cup to Russia in 2018.

Fox Sports television coverage in the states largely ignored the human rights atrocities committed by the host nation and basically served as propaganda for the small Middle Eastern nation.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that sports washing doesn’t exist. But for all around the sport to just put their heads in the sand for the glory of the almighty dollar is embarrassing.

I’ll give a lump of coal to the schedule makers that can’t give us more high school football. (This is a joke, but why do the best sports have the shortest seasons?)

Here’s hoping that next Christmas time everyone gets a wide selection of candies and toys and that I can leave the coal in the mines.