Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.
Only one game left.
To the notes!
Hawkeye Dad writes: Not sure which disgusted me more, the Stanford band's classless performance at the Rose Bowl or your defense of this group of spoiled brats. "Exposing the humorless is a public service?" Who are you to say what's funny or not? It wasn't funny. It was rich kids mocking hardworking middle Americans.
Ted Miller: Hawkeye Dad's note got edited for space because he went on to tell me what's wrong with this country and it became a wee bit too political.
Let's start with a baseline. The Stanford band is funny.
There's always a large group of opposing fans who don't think so, but that in itself VALIDATES why so many, many others are laughing: Thin-skinned, self-absorbed, self-righteous, biased, frumpy members of the privileged class are HILARIOUS when they don't get the joke.
That's typed with all due respect.
Of course, everyone should recognize the reality of personal taste. Everybody likes what they like and dislikes what they dislike. Some people don't enjoy the Stanford band. Some people don't think Louis CK is funny. A trip to the French Laundry would be completely wasted on a lot of folks. To some folks, "The Wire" was too violent and too full of cuss words. Some folks believe Thom Browne suits look cool. Some folks will tell you Tom Clancy is the greatest writer of all time.
Heck, I have my own subjective holes: I don't think Margaret Cho and Tim Allen are funny and I didn't enjoy reading "Moby Dick," "Mrs. Dalloway," or "The Brothers Karamazov." Not a Bruce Springsteen fan.
No doubt humor is a different animal. Humor often has an object. You laugh at something. Rarely is the term "classy" used to describe humor. But that's not the point here.
The Stanford band is unique, and that in itself reserves it a special spot in the college football landscape, and not just because of its Keystone Cops moment in the 1982 Big Game.
It is unique, for one, because it is musically awful and that is an important part of its shtick. While just about every other college band goes out there and tries its best to do a fantastic version of "Remember disco?" or "Inspiring songs from sports movies!" or "John Philip Sousa's B-sides" while marching in intricate, weaving lines, the Stanford band goes out there and flops around like a bunch of undisciplined slobs. To me and many others, that's already a refreshing change of pace.
You then pair that train wreck -- if you obsess about what other bands aspire to -- with what is a purposeful attempt to be as irreverent as possible. My guess is Stanford band meetings start with, "OK, what would really bother USC/UCLA/CAL/Oregon/Iowa fans? Because that's what we've got to do."
So you get band skits such as "A tribute to capital punishment," or "These Irish, Why Must They Fight?" -- which included a Riverdance-like number about the Irish potato famine -- and a mocking of the state of Oregon for its loggers and environmentalists dueling over the spotted owl's habitat. You get a tribute to great USC graduates, such as "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis, which caused this very writer to nearly fall out of his chair laughing. You get white Broncos on the field for another USC halftime show.
It's slapstick teetering on the edge of "Oh no they didn't!" and the performance often falls short of the premise, but the Stanford band is the only band in the nation that inspires curiosity at every game: "What the heck will they do?"
It's almost a tribute to Iowa that the best the Stanford band could come up with at the Rose Bowl is cow tipping and a dating site for "farmers only." It's distressing to me that Rose Bowl officials gave in to the whining and issued a vague statement -- "The halftime performance was not in line with the values of the Rose Bowl Game" -- one that I'm hoping is only about placating the whiners before moving on and forgetting this tempest in a teapot.
My defense here, by the way, has nothing to do with an affinity for Stanford and a dislike of Iowa. When I think of the University of Iowa, I think of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and then I think of Daniel Woodrell and want to send the school a bouquet of flowers.
Finally, if you don't like the Stanford band, you could always do a revolutionary thing at halftime and go and get a hot dog instead of watching it perform.
Gary from Charleston, S.C., writes: I'm excited about my Clemson Tigers playing Alabama for the national championship, another chance to knock the SEC off its high horse. I can't wait for what ESPN will say about the game, hoping against all hope it won't be more SEC this and SEC is the best and the SEC is the NFL. If I knew you were writing it, I'd have thought you'd feel the same, wanting to take down the fiction that the SEC is god's gift and the second-coming of the NFL. But then I see this, "Bama vs. Clemson is the CFP's glorified SEC title game," and I can't believe it. You let everyone down and you owe Clemson an apology.
Ted Miller: Er, sorry?
This is a case of some folks either not reading the story under the headline or being so blinded by rage at the headline that they can't comprehend the import of the story.
First off, Clemson is the most SEC-ish team in any other conference in the nation, nipping Florida State for this honor because it's just a bit more "southern" in its ways. Like the SEC powers, it's an NFL pipeline and a big-stadium team that packs Memorial Stadium to frenzied capacity (81,500) every Saturday. Beyond football, Clemson is far closer to Auburn, Ole Miss and Georgia in university culture than it is to North Carolina, Virginia and Duke.
That, however, is not the point of the column, as it notes: "Yet the inadequacy of that very sentiment -- obsessive regionalism! -- also enriches this game, which is already rife with enrapturing plot lines."
Then, more explicitly, "Yes, a good ol' southern brawl in the desert will decide the 2015 national championship, but the ACC-SEC schism is as real and freighted with meaning as the bitter divide between the SEC and everyone else."
Then I go on to write about the matchup, starting with the obvious connection between Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, an Alabama native and former player and coach, and Nick Saban chasing Bear Bryant's record of five national titles. After pointing out that Clemson matches up fairly well at the line of scrimmage with the Crimson Tide and owns a strong advantage at QB, I conclude:
Alabama and the SEC are trying to win their first national title in three seasons, hoping for a return to their dominance of the BCS era.
Whether you view that as a return to the dark side or not, it will be part of what fuels the anticipation for what figures to be a heck of a brawl.
Does that really sound like an over-the-top advocacy of the SEC at Clemson's expense?
Pool Master writes: Do the changes RichRod is making to his Arizona staff where he let go two of his long-time coaching buddies indicate that he’s done looking for jobs elsewhere and digging in to win at Arizona?
Ted Miller: Hey, lookie here ... just a normal question without recrimination. Crazy.
I was a little surprised by Rich Rodriguez's decision to let defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich go. Those are his guys, and it's fair to say this decision probably kept him up at night.
I don't think any smart head coach is ever done looking for jobs. That's just the nature of the business. That Rodriguez flew east to interview with South Carolina at least confirms that he's willing to listen to another program, even one that isn't elite.
No, my takeaway from this is that Rodriguez, focusing on his present job, made a tough call on how best to improve his defense, and that goes beyond scheme, X's and O's and technique.
While the Wildcats might do things differently than Casteel's 3-3-5 going forward, the bigger issue is Arizona needs more and better talent on defense. It needs, more than anything, to up its recruiting game on that side of the ball. To facilitate that, Rodriguez felt he needed to make tough staff changes.
My feeling is Casteel did more with less than just about any coordinator in the conference, but Rodriguez now believes the Wildcats can't move up in the Pac-12 pecking order without getting more from more.