Opinion » Bill Cope


The unbearable lightness of Prater


Have I not tried to explain how football turns people into dumbasses? Huh? Haven't I?

Indeed I have. As far back as this column goes, I have repeatedly tried to warn my readers that if you occupy your mind with too much of that idiot, gawd-awful, cheesy game, you will become a dumbass. Repeat: you will become a dumbass. A monotonous, loud, obnoxious, vacuous, ill-tempered, hooting dumbass clown who will dress in garish colors that should be seen together only on fast-food joints and pinatas, and whom no one but other dumbass football clowns will want to be around. Folks, I just don't believe I can say it any plainer.

I have spent so much of my precious energy over the years alerting you to the perils of using football to escape the mundane reality of your everyday existence that I finally gave up. It happened last winter while virtually the entire Treasure Valley was drooling down their chins over Boise State's victory in that bowl game. I said to myself, The heck with it. If these people want to pretend that they are—by virtue of living in the general vicinity of a winning college football team's home field—somehow, themselves, extraordinary ... let 'em. No skin off my nose if they insist on being dumbasses. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must also admit the thought crossed my mind that if an overwhelming majority of Southwest Idahoans choose to behave like Bronco-frenzied dumbasses, then I would appear, by comparison, to be just that much smarter. You see, by nature, I am not that smart a fella. It is only by positioning myself in contrast to the reliably stupid segments of American society—e.g. Bush supporters, pit bull owners, the religiously addled, and of course, football goofs—that I can come across as having any noticeable brains whatsoever. This should come as no surprise. Hey, everybody does it. Why do you think Bush chose Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general?)

And listen, I was ready to stay out of it permanently. I was perfectly willing to let you Southwest Idahoans bask in the phony glow of reflected football glory and never again complain about football in general or the Boise State Broncos in particular.

But then comes Mike Prater, taking football-induced twaddle to a level that even I had never imagined, and I can't help it. I have no choice but to respond. Put me back in the game, Coach! That dumbass needs to go dooooooown!

If you've already heard of the dumbass thing Prater said, listen to it again. It bears repeating. When something this remarkably dumb comes from the mouth of an (allegedly) professional individual, it should cling to them like a foul stink. This is the sort of thing that people should say out loud only when they are by themselves, taking a shower or driving alone through Wyoming or something like that. It is the sort of thing even dumbasses should be able to recognize as so remarkably dumb, it should never be shared.

Yet Mike Prater shared it. Broadly. Over a local radio station, he said, concerning the University of Idaho: " ... horrible team, horrible program, the fans are horrible. The athletic director is horrible. The president is horrible. Everybody and everything associated with that team and that program is horrible. They should take a bomb, blow it up, and start over again."

Now isn't that something? Isn't that all the proof any reasonable person would need to confirm that something has gone horribly wrong with Mike Prater's brain? And if it's not Bronco football that wreaks such havoc with those little grey cells of his, what else could it be, as he is the editor of the Statesman's sports section—and what else is the Statesman's sport section if not an extension of Bronco football? Blow up the U of I because they don't have a good football team? ... that makes him the King of the Dumbasses in my playbook—though I imagine he would prefer to be called the "Quarterback of the Dumbasses."

(In the furtherance of full disclosure, I must once again remind my readers that I am a graduate of the U of I. But for anyone who understands the full extent of my revulsion to the pestilence of football, this should be inconsequential, as they would already know that my scorn applies to all football psychosis, wherever it may occur. I do happen to believe, though, that the plague is particularly virulent here in the Treasure Valley.)

Yet even with Prater's intellectual and verbal incontinence, I would be content to stay apart from this, if only it were a matter of football goofs whooping and hollering in one another's painted faces. What's more, I am willing to assume Prater did not mean to imply that Idaho's most distinguished university or the gentle town of Moscow should be destroyed in punishment for fielding a weak team. In all fairness, we cannot expect such an extravagant dumbass to be concise enough in his ranting to be clear on what exactly it is that should be blown up.

But Prater's comments reflect what I fear is the full corruptive power of college-level football dumbassiveness—that being the notion that football teams are no longer there to enhance the university experience, but instead, the university is there to provide a football team. Even though that may be all-too true in Boise, it is not what educated people think of when they think of higher education.

Such a perspective is particularly distressing here in Idaho where within the last few weeks, it has, been announced that not only does our state trail most of America in the percentage of young adults (18 to 24) who are attending an institution of higher learning, but we also turn out fewer four-year degree-holders than most other states. (To my knowledge, there have been no studies done on the relationship between a community's general level of education and that same community's level of enthusiasm for team sports, but could it be that, the fewer the college graduates ... the more the football goofs? Hmmm, interesting.)

In a final gesture of full disclosure, I should say that Mike Prater and I have crossed paths before—over the radio waves, in fact, when he called me irresponsible for suggesting that Boise would be a better place if the entire Boise State football program were dismantled—not with a bomb—and replaced with diversions that didn't lead to such obsessive and boorish behavior. As a result of that experience, my estimation of Mr. Prater as a dumbass of considerable note goes back well before his most recent outburst.)