Monday, June 09, 2003

One of the reasons why it's so easy for me to root for Rick Neuheisel is that I've realized who he reminds me of: Bill Clinton. The two of them have a great deal in common. Both were prodigies, who came from the hinterlands of America (Clinton from Arkansas, Neuheisel from Arizona) to become nationally prominent in their chosen field. Both men have law degrees, although neither has ever practiced law for any significant period of time, and both have had a habit of parsing every legal technicality to get away with stuff. Both were caught in embarrassing lies about relatively trivial matters. Clinton was the first boomer President, while Neuheisel was the first Gen-X head football coach, and both were the recipients of a great deal of resentment from the people they passed along the way, particularly their contemporaries. The subconscious image that comes to mind when people think of the former President is him playing "Heartbreak Hotel" on his saxophone, just as football fans instinctively think of the song "Margaritaville" when Neuheisel comes to mind. And both have been nicknamed "Slick" by their enemies.

Today is the day that the Washington A.D. is supposed to decide whether Neuheisel gets the boot, but no matter what happens, I know he has a bright future. Of course, you know and I know that putting money into an office tournament pool is "gambling", just as we all know that sexual relationships encompass all matter of activities, including blow jobs. But as Kenneth Starr and Robert Ray discovered to their horror, trying to nail someone who is smarter than you are on a technicality can boomerang. Regardless of whether Neuheisel relied on the now-infamous internal memo approving tournament pools organized by third parties, the existence of that memo makes it next to impossible for either the university or the NCAA to take action without seeming to be grossly unfair. The NCAA regs in question do not specifically mention office pools as a prohibited activity, even though they have been around for ages, and to do so now will invite a huge lawsuit.

From my own personal experience, I can tell you that Rick Neuheisel is one of the most charming people I have ever met. He's funny, engaging, and brilliant, skills that would make him a formidable politician (he's probably a Republican, so I'm not sure I want to encourage that path). And like Bill Clinton, certain people hate him with an intensity so passionate as to be obsessive. Eventually, if you keep giving your enemies a loaded gun, one of them will fire.

Rick Bragg Note: much of the research above was done by my loyal stringer, Prof. David ("Smilin' Jr.") Johnson, who reminds me that NCAA head honcho Myles Brand is also a Philosopher (but more to the point, is he a Straussian?).


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