November 5, 2002

I hate Oklahoma's Mike Stoops

I hate Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops for being good at his job and thus ruining the Big 12 conference championship hopes of Iowa State and the Heisman campaign of its quarterback, Seneca Wallace.

You will of course be wondering why I give a damn about a college football game involving two schools that I do not now attend and have, in fact, never attended. That's an excellent question, and the only way I know of to answer it is to go into my own background.

I grew up in Iowa, and, no, there's not a whole lot going in Iowa. Of course, I don't mean to confirm the east coast stereotypes of the Midwest, and Iowa in particular, as a place still waiting on the Rural Electric Cooperative to extend the power grid into our homes. I mean only to acknowledge that there's very little to get excited about there. Specifically, we have very few professional sports franchises. In fact, apart from minor league baseball, we have none. You may be aware of Kurt Warner's time with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League, an experience I'm sure he would rate as barely superior to stocking groceries in Cedar Falls, but you may not be aware of the franchise's decision to move after nearly going bankrupt in Des Moines. They now play somewhere on Long Island. (Of course, I've never been to an Arena Football League game and don't consider the loss of an Arena franchise any big deal, but that's a separate issue.) So, yes, it's very rare when an Iowan can become excited about sports. College sports, which rank somewhere between semi-pro bowling and Major League Soccer in the interests of most Americans, have consequently taken on an added importance in my home state. But the rather woeful record of our major colleges hasn't helped matters at all.

That's why the early performance of the Iowa State Cyclones, and quarterback Seneca Wallace in particular, was a big deal, at least for some people. Consider, for instance, my parents, neither of whom graduated from an Iowa state school, and who didn't send any of their three sons to a state school. Nevertheless, they have gone to Iowa State home games for the last 15 years, largely because it's something to do on a Saturday afternoon in the fall. Those have been some of the most woeful fifteen years in the history of college football, including a 0-10-1 season in 1994. This year was different, with a team ranked ninth in the country and a front-runner for the Heisman leading them. That is, until Mike Stoops sent his band of paroled miscreants onto the field one Saturday afternoon in Norman.

How bad was this game? Does four-for-22 say enough? How about 43 yards? How about three interceptions? How about "crushing blow to all that is good and pure in the universe?" Personally, I think 49-3 says it all. Now, you may be saying that this is unfair, since Oklahoma is hardly a bustling state. But Oklahoma has had more than its share of success, and Oklahoma football is like cocaine—a particularly good analogy, given the nature of the Barry Switzer days—in that it may go away for a while, but it'll always be back.

Now, you may also be saying that it's wrong to write an "I haaate" about a man who's simply doing his job well. After all, there is no evidence of NCAA infractions at Oklahoma, despite my unsubstantiated use of "paroled miscreants" in a preceding paragraph. Fair enough, but we're talking about an irrational hatred here, and there's no sense in talking someone out of an irrational hatred.

Finally, you may be pointing out that the University of Iowa has a chance to win the Big Ten this year, and that Iowa State can still qualify for a bowl game, which given it's history is more than one could reasonably hope for. I thank you for implying that I should lower my expectations. Goddamn regional elitists.

OK, I'm running out of space and haven't spewed enough hate. So, to close, here's some wild yet somehow highly plausible speculation about what Mike Stoops did to celebrate his victory:

1. Spent the money he made on his ImClone stock on bald eagle eggs.

2. Went to a local nursing home to kick the crutches out from under old ladies.

3. Took a junket, along with Phil Knight, to a Nike sweatshop in the Philippines to fire child laborers unable to meet the production quotas on Oklahoma merchandise.

4. Twisted non-existent moustache, laughed maniacally.

5. Set fire to a small town's turn-of-the-century Carnegie library, simply because he can.

6. Held a congratulatory barbecue with Darth Vader and the ghost of John McGraw.