Monday, September 14, 2009

The Derek Jeter of College Football

I ended up watching the last quarter of the Ohio State-USC game. I need to preface this by saying a few things. First, one of the best effects of being out of the country for awhile was I quit caring about college football for a number of reasons (sheer distance, the clearly-awful lack of a playoff, and the fact that it's better for my personal health and stress levels not to care). I also had no illusions about a national title for Ohio State, and I'm honestly fine with that - I'd rather see an Indians championship, a Cavs title, even a Browns appearance in the Super Bowl (stop laughing - I only mean some day). If Ohio State wins it sometime, great, but I have other priorities. Finally, I had no illusions going into this game that Ohio State would win, and honestly, I think the 18-15 loss was respectable, and much more than I expected.

That said, Matt Barkley can go to hell.

It's not because he "led" the Trojans to a win. It's not because he had a very good game as a college freshman. It's not even because he looks like a total douchebag who would literally die if he went to a college not located in Southern California. It's because of the Jeter-level tongue-bath the media began giving him immediately after the game.

Everybody knows the media just loves a quarterback - can't stop talking about them. The way the media usually tells it, the quarterback either totally won the game for you, or totally blew it for you. There may as well be no other players on the field. Even yesterday, when Adrian Peterson unsurprisingly dominated the Browns, the meme was "Brett Favre, with all his experience, knew to just hand it over."

And so it's been for Barkley. "He led his team!" "Such poise!" "A star is born!" "He's SO clutch!" "He won it for USC!!!!" Which would be fine....except he didn't win it for USC.

Joe McKnight did.

Again, I'm not saying this out of any bitterness. I watched that entire fourth quarter, including the final drive. USC was on their 5 yard line, facing 95 yards to win. It was Joe McKnight with a big run to get them away from their own end zone. It was Joe McKnight who made a very good catch and then ran it up for about 10-15 yards. It was Joe McKnight who stymied Ohio State that entire drive. Yes, Barkley got two first downs with quarterback sneaks, but that's not exactly impossible on 3rd-and-short plays. I'm not saying Barkley was a non-factor, or that he was horrible. But the way the media has talked about it, you'd think he'd thrown for 550 yards and 17 touchdowns. Overall, it's been an enormous disservice to McKnight's performance, about which nobody is talking. I thought the hype would die down once the game was over and people could look back at it and say, "wow - McKnight really made the big plays for them." But the media hasn't done this; indeed, the hagiography has only grown since Saturday night. Basically, Barkley is a white quarterback at USC - a perfect storm of extremely undeserving media hype (hello, Matt Leinart 2.0). Whereas McKnight was just a (black) player who made the biggest plays to help his team win on that last drive.

It's really a no-brainer which story the media would flock to.