Sports often act as center stage, with footlights all aglow, to some real-life nut jobs. Pat Dye, the old Auburn football coach, is just one of them. ESPN college football commentator David Pollack is another.
Truth is, they’re just two of the latest. There will be more. Plenty more. Guaranteed. Because with freedom of speech comes a whole lot of crazy, such as the objections these two full-blown footballologists uttered in recent days over the prospect of Condoleezza Rice being chosen to the new committee that will select the best four college football teams in the country to play each year for the national title.
Both Dye and Pollack figure Rice, the former Secretary of State, isn’t up to the job. And there you go. John Kerry, I hope you’ve got something else lined up post-Secretary of State, because by the measure of Messrs. Dye and Pollack, you couldn’t cut muster with the selection poobahs, either.
Rice spent four years in D.C., advising President George W. Bush, a man who needed lots of advice, on how to sort out some fairly intricate and dicey world dynamics, if you consider waging war and risking national security at least as prickly as, say, an end-around, a nickel package, a cover-2 defense or, my word, tossing a beanbag like a Scud missile to request that a play be reviewed.
According to Dye, a pretty good coach who lost his Auburn gig over a classic booster-and-bucks scandal more than 20 years ago, only real dadgum football people should be on that selection committee. Much to her credit, and I am sure her relief, Rice is not a real dadgum football person.
In her post-government dotage, Rice, 58, teaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a place that routinely sends real dadgum business geniuses into the world to be venture capitalists or perhaps to join worldwide governing agencies bent on curing piddling non-football issues such as world hunger and AIDS, or solving the shortages of electricity and water in Third World nations.
No, sir, you don’t want a woman like that figuring out if LSU deserves the nod over Ohio State for that No. 4 seed. Go sell crazy somewhere else, OK?
“How in the hell does she know what it’s like out there,’’ the 73-year-old Dye said Monday on WJOX radio in Birmingham, Ala., “when you can’t get your breath and it’s 110 degrees and the coach asks you to go some more?’’
To understand football, mused Dye, “you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt.’’
Pollack, an ESPN college football analyst, wasn’t quite as earthy as Dye in his rebuke of Rice. Appearing on the network’s “College GameDay” last Saturday, he ultimately said Rice shouldn’t be on the committee because, well, she’s a woman. Yep. Just when you think you’ve flipped past 1956 on the calendar, there you are again, some guy next to you pining for a Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs do-over.
Sexist and stupid is what Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg labeled the whole thing. “After all,’’ he wrote, “Rice lacks the proper qualifications, and by ‘qualifications’ I mean ‘a penis.’ ’’
Now, to be fair to Pollack, he had to be prodded slightly into saying during the show that he didn’t feel a woman’s place was at the selection committee roundtable. But he said it, finally shrugging and saying, “Yeah,” when host Chris Fowler asked him if he meant a woman should not be part of the process.
Later, no doubt after being treated to an ESPN exec’s (let’s hope female) death stare, Pollack went into prevent mode on his Twitter account @davidpollack47. Truth is, he’s not against women, he explained, at least to anyone dumb enough to buy it.
“I want people on the committee that eat, sleep, and breathe college football during the season,’’ Pollack tweeted. “It has nothing do with male or female.’’
No, sir. I mean, ma’am. Hey, if gun-toting Dick Cheney, Bush’s vice president during Rice’s tenure, had been mentioned for the committee, no way would Pollack want him, either. Just football guys. Just dadgum football guys.
Meanwhile, Rice hasn’t said a word. The selection committee has not been finalized, or at least been made public. I doubt she will say anything, in part because of who she is, and where she’s from, having spent the early ’60s, her grade school years, in the segregated South. What she’s hearing now isn’t nearly the same as then, but a fair amount of it must catch in her “bias’’ filter that those of her race and generation and sex carry with them like the scars of a polio vaccination.
I don’t truly know if Rice deserves to be on the committee, because “deserve” suggests a right or a privilege that probably isn’t anyone’s to bestow. As far as a I know, there is no great football superpower or being who could decide such a thing.
But I do know that Rice is a longtime football fan who is extremely bright, articulate, engaging, respectful, and she was privy or part of some humongous social/political decisions in her four years, 2005-09, as Secretary of State. If she’s not qualified to sit at a table with a bunch of sincere, level-headed, football-lovin’ people and figure out the four best football schools in America, then America has even more problems than I ever imagined.
Are you ready for some football, Madam Secretary? I hope so. Because when I hear comments like those of Dye and Pollack, I know football is ready for you.Kevin Paul Dupont’s ‘‘On Second Thought’’ appears on Page 2 of the Sunday Globe Sports section. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.