Opinion » Bill Cope

Endless Halftime II

And this time I really mean it

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Think back two weeks, regular readers, and recall that in the wake of the MPC Bowl Game, I suggested Boise State should drop its football program. You know me. Normally, I don't discuss sports here. I consider writing about sports to be not worth the energy, time and ink one wastes in the effort. Sportswriting is much like talk radio in this regard, in that they both amount to basically nothing more than a boring way to piss away the hours.

But seeing as how the entire MPC Bowl experience turned into such a slapstick farce--what with the loss by the Broncos when so many of their faithful following were quite sure they were Number One (and had big Styrofoam "We're No. 1" fingers to prove it), the cruel booing of the losing quarterback, and not in the least that Rodney Dangerfield-esque pre-game banquet--I thought it would be fun to jump on the banter wagon and suggest that Boise would be better off without a college football team.

Did I seriously believe Boise-ites would seriously consider the dismantling of their favorite pointless distraction?

One can always dream ... but no. Think of that column as you might one in which I propose that born-agains stop going to church because it's killing their brain cells, or that Republicans stop supporting George Bush because he's killing their sons and daughters. I wrote it for the same reason some people like to tease wasps.

In it, I said I was prepared for angry letters. What I was not prepared for was angry radio personalities. You see, the day after the column appeared, I got a call from the producer of a local sports talk show asking if the hosts could interview me on-air. I say "hosts" now, but having never in my life pissed away any hours by listening to sports-talk radio, I came away with the impression it was "host," singular. The producer did say something about an unpredictable "prater," but honestly, I didn't know then what a "prater" was. As far as I knew, a "prater" was a technical term used to describe a faulty piece of broadcast equipment. Or maybe an obsessed listener who calls in every day and "prates." As in, "chatters." "Blabs." "Prattles on."

Anyway, come the big moment, I was surprised to learn I had not one but two hosts interviewing me. And one of them, I came to learn, was Mike Prater, sports editor for a local daily newspaper. (I prefer not tell you the station, the show's name, or the show's host's name. The namesake host was courteous enough and seemed genuinely interested in why I came up with the idea. Nor will I tell you which daily newspaper. I have no beef with them other than the childish practice they have of putting Boise State football news on the front page. You know, as though it matters or something.)

It turned out this Prater fellow was one displeased host. (Or is he a guest host? I don't know, and I guess I'm not interested enough to find out.) In no particular order, he called the column "shallow," "narrow-minded," and the most "irresponsible piece of journalism he had ever read"--which is quite an indictment coming from a man who works for a paper that puts football news on the front page.

But never mind that. I've been called "shallow" before, and "narrow-minded," and I lived. And never once have I claimed that this column is journalism or that I'm a journalist. I tried to defend myself by pointing out that what I try to write is opinionated humor, and that in pursuit of that goal, I often approach my subject matter from outlandish directions. But Mister Prater is a much faster talker than I could ever hope to be, not if I spent years practicing in front of a Knight-Ridder Christmas party. Plus, like so many other modern on-air personalities (i.e. Chris Matthews), he seems to have abandoned all pretense to common consideration when it comes to letting someone else complete a sentence without being interrupted. The result was that I spent the entire interview hemming, hawing, and feeling like my ankles were being gnawed on by a particularly noisy and ill-mannered dog.

There is one matter I must pursue, though, which is Mr. Prater's assertion that Bronco football is our community's premier "bonding" experience. What else, he asked, could bring 30,000 people out to sit in the rain and hoot?

Personally, I think "bonding" is for cows. Geese. Ants and honey bees, as they go about their business of being oblivious to everything but some dubious and indistinct communal interest. And if watching young men in tight knee-pants wrestle about on brightly-colored carpeting is somebody's idea of "bonding" ... well, that's another issue entirely.

But if, indeed, "community bonding" is such a vital matter, I am now convinced we must find something more worthy to bond around. After my conversation with Mr. Prater, I have definite proof to a theory that has slowly developed in my mind since my earliest days, when I witnessed perfectly reasonable people lose all sense and self-control as they root, root, rooted for their favorite grid-ironers. Yes, definite proof!

Not until I spoke with Mr. Prater (or listened to Mr. Prater speak, as it were) did I realize how emotionally dependent some people are on this silly-ass game. (Poor Mike even likened football zealotry to the "warm and fuzzy" feeling America had immediately following 9/11. So would I, though "warm and fuzzy" isn't the description I would choose.) I know for certain now: Boise State must drop its football program, raze the stadium and turn the land into a small riverside park dedicated to the pursuit of inner peace, civic tranquillity, and compassion for the disturbed. It is the only remedy to the damage Bronco football has done to this community, all because so many empty souls made the mistake of bonding around it.

And it is only now--here in the calm and quiet of my own venue... where I can get a word in edge-wise... where I can employ language at its most precise without the threat of an FCC fine--that I can expose the evidence of football's perfidious hold over our most vulnerable and susceptible neighbors. You may have already suspected it yourself, particularly if you spend any time in sports bars from August to the Super Bowl. Yes, regular readers, it's true: An overexposure to football can turn certain people into dicks.

So join with me, citizens, and let us exorcise this demon from our community before more fall prey to such a meaningless existence. For the childrens' sake, join in my chant: "No Broncos! No Broncos!"