In the spirit of the season, I would like to share my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the program director at ESPN who decided to schedule the Heisman Trophy presentation, immediately followed by Pony Excess, the story of SMU football. Brilliant – absolutely brilliant. Saturday evenings programming was by far one of the best backhanded commentaries on our sporting, if not our entire culture, that I have seen ever in a public forum.
Even the most casual observer knows of the cloud of suspicion that surrounds Cam Newton, his father, and some “pay for play” stories. Thus far the young man has been cleared by the NCAA and is eligible to play, but it is a rather odd situation. All of the above said, who would have ever foreseen this priceless gem coming from Cam Newton early in his acceptance speech:
My parents do a lot of things behind the scenes that go unnoticed.
Hilarious. Was that supposed to be funny, a slight admission, a wink and a smile moment of “jokes on you – I got away with it”, or a subconscious slip? I admit it, I throughly enjoyed the hilarity and absurdity of such a statement…looking at the others who were also in the room watching the TV, we all were busting out laughing and asking “did we really just hear that…really”.
Then, to roll quite literally from that speech into the latest installment of the ESPN 30 for 30 film series that just happened to be Pony Excess. A film on the “pay for play” world of SMU football in the early 80’s. Seriously, the irony was absolutely priceless. The film is great – and it makes it abundantly clear that “pay for play” was not a new phenomenon 30 years ago, and was not isolated to just SMU. It was also rather clear of how it all happened. Winning, doing what it takes to win, and enjoying the spoils of victory (bragging rights, championships, revenue) in the moment were the drivers…ego and money trumped the moral and ethical right. Based on Saturday evening programing, it seems not much has changed over the years in college football.
A huge thank you to the program director for ESPN. Your wisdom and sense of timing, irony and humor are very much appreciated. Maybe, just maybe, your showing us through the lens of film and sport that sometimes we need to take a step back, and remember that winning might not just be everything. At least not winning at all costs.