The Death of Cinderella
by Andy Turnbull, 1/7/00 Tuesday night we saw the future of college football… and it is a shame. The Florida State Seminoles beat the Virginia Tech Hokies in what ended up being quite a good show, but ultimately a disappointment. Not because I’m a Hokie and my team lost, not because Florida State isn’t a good team and deserved to win, but because it was another loss in the battle between good and money.
When most people objectively look at this game, they will come to the inevitable conclusion: Virginia Tech was the better team. But teamwork doesn’t mean what it used to. I will give Florida State its due; they played an exceptional game. The few mistakes they made (two recovered fumbles and a couple of ultimately meaningless penalties) were not capitalized on by the Hokies. Other than that, the Florida State Seminoles played the game with as few as mistakes as a team can possibly hope for.
But what disturbs me is the legacy that will be left after this game. When the media begins to dissect this game until all meaning has been lost, there will be three things left. The play of Peter Warrick, Corey Simon, and Sebastian Janikowski, the coaching of Bobby Bowden… and the play of Michael Vick.
The conclusion will be made that Michael Vick did everything he could to bring the Hokies to victory but was let down by an cast of non-stars who couldn’t produce. And nothing could be further from the truth. Virginia Tech has one of the strongest units of football players that I have ever had the pleasure of watching. And when I say strong, I mean, every single player or coach on that team gives it all for each other and the glory of the Hokies.
Not one of the players or coaches has ever claimed to be the reason why the team did so well or even the reason that the Hokies won this game or that. And if you think Bobby Bowden isn’t sitting somewhere smoking a cigar and patting himself on the back for his perfect season and his national championship, you need to fill out the application for Terry Bradshaw’s school of reality.
The future of college football has been reduced to the idolatry of superstars. No longer can the concept of a “team” win games. No longer can the underdogs who were out to prove themselves by overcoming the greatest of obstacles be rewarded. No longer is the whole greater the sum of its parts. Instead, the Hokies, the very definition of the word “team,” are sent home winless by a bunch of unsportsmanlike egotists whose seemingly only motivation is the almighty dollar and the glory that supposedly comes with it.
And, as much as it pains me to say it, the Hokies are probably not immune to this phenomenon. The pall of Vick-dom that will settle upon Blacksburg for the next couple of years will stifle any other discussion of the Hokies. The name “Hokies” will never be more than a sentence away from the mention of Vick.
Not to take away any tenth of a second from Vick’s 40-yard time, but I can’t imagine that the soft-spoken Vick will be able to resist the unbelievable and unrelentless insistence that he is the reason why the Hokies are upon the national scene. Journalists, in their desire to reduce a complex concept into a tidy thought understandable by most Massachusetts first graders, will shine a spotlight on Vick so bright NASA will have to request it be turned down for each shuttle launch. Any human that can emerge from that microscope unscathed has eleven more deeds to accomplish before they can be let back into Mt. Olympus.
I’m confident that the Hokies will find themselves playing for the $30,000 Waterford football again, but I fear the only thing standing between those Hokies and that title will be the integrity of Frank Beamer and his hopefully unshakable belief that the word “team” doesn’t include the letter "I." And on that day, Cinderella’s shoe will be lost on the dance floor among all the sport agents wanting to dance with Prince Charming.
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