On xenophobia, Young and Zidane

By Os Davis  |   Tuesday, December 26, 2006  |  Comments( 4 )

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Is anyone else utterly baffled to the point of distraction by ESPN's "Top 100 Sports Stories of 2006?"

All right, we all know that such lists are mostly irrelevant, that huge corporate networks like ESPN have an agenda, that there is no such thing - despite what prime-time talking heads would have you believe - as journalistic integrity. Fair enough. Despite it all, though, somehow even the cynics figure the ESPN'ers have a little sense of perspective in their field of expertise.

Like most of us in the post-Letterman world, this writer is unwillingly addicted to top 10 lists, that slow week-and-a-half revelation of each spot in turn "all the way to No. 1" in the best tradition of pop top 40s. "What were the top 100 sports stories of 2006?" ran the lead day after day as the "Worldwide Leader in [American] Sports" touched on Jerome Bettis and Andre Agassi's retirement, Tiger Woods' continued dominance, and the Miami Heat winning their first title.

At No. 3 - No. 2 on my list - was the Floyd Landis steroids scandal at the 2006 Tour de France. Lovable Barry Bonds' own drug "issues" and controversy, pretentiously entitled "Tragedy of Bonds," finished at No. 6. At No. 2 was my top choice and really the only choice, a single moment that will forever mark an all-time great's career: Zinedine Zidane's headbutt of Team Italia defenseman Marco Materazzi and subsequent ejection from soccer's World Cup finals.

The significance of the tantrum and red card was immediately evident to even the soccer knowledge-challenged Americans. For symbolism, nothing could beat ol' Zizou having to pass by the golden World Cup trophy set out on a table as he headed into the locker room. In the aftermath, British sportscasters broke out every adjective in the language for "shocking," YouTube got hit with a tsunami of hilarious videos, Materazzi wrote a book, and the French created a song and dance step based on the 10 seconds of play.

Before this rant really kicks into high gear, take a moment to consider: What might the reaction be if, say, Shaquille O'Neal got tossed in overtime as his Heat were going for another championship in his publicly declared last game? Or if in 2016, 39-year-old Tom Brady, after beautifully schooling the competition on the way to the finals (like Zidane did against mighty Brazil, gets himself an ejection for taunting, thereby handing the San Francisco 49ers their sixth trophy?

Deemed more important than the final play of perhaps the greatest French soccer player of all-time by those Worldwide Leaders in [American] Sports? The 2006 Rose Bowl in which Vince Young's Texas Longhorns overcame the Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush USC Trojans, 41-38. ESPN gussied up its choice with all sorts of praise for Young, who "had made the story of this night his own."

Huh? Isn't this a bit like the Academy giving Steven Spielberg a lifetime achievement Oscar before he did "Schindler's List"? The editorial board of the Worldwide Leader in [American] Sports, clearly suffering from a case of premature adulation, chose to give props to a guy who has literally just entered the big leagues in a sport that America is pretty much alone in caring about on a level that many American sports fans don't even follow.

Sure, Young rang up 467 yards and three TDs, a monster performance by any standard. Yes, Young's run on the quarterback draw with 26 seconds remaining won the game for the 'Horns. Yes, it was a game filled with all the excitement and giddiness that characterizes classic college-level games.

But come on. Young was able to take advantage of a USC 'D' which covered the QB unforgivably loosely and gave up nearly twice as many points as the 21.3 it had averaged during the season. And Trojan head coach Pete Carroll decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 - without Bush on the field for USC, mind you - on the So. Cal 45 probably ended up costing the team the title by a couple of inches.

And in the alternative "what if" universe wherein USC wins its third straight title, what's the ESPN story of the year? Leinart's 377 yards passing and Bush's 177 total yards? (America hates a loser, you know.)

Someday after the careers of this notable trio, pundits will look back on the 2006 Rose Bowl as a jumping-off point rather than a be-all, end-all sporting moment. What these three guys have already accomplished since then overshadows brilliant performances in a single game. Young's got the Titans on the cusp of an utterly unexpected playoff bid. Playing in the feel-good story of the 2006 NFL season, Bush has run up over 700 yards receiving while on the way to possibly changing his "halfback" position forever and bringing the New Orleans Saints into an unheard-of Super Bowl run. And Leinart, well, he's saddled with that football substitute known as the Arizona Cardinals but has performed admirably with a lack of weaponry in the desert.

In 2010, when we're looking at conference finals of Tennessee versus the Los Angeles Bengals and Arizona against New Orleans, who will call the Rose Bowl Game of 2006 the highlight of Young's career? Tell you what: That year will also see another edition of the single greatest tournament in all of sports: the World Cup. Will Zidane reenter the consciousness of billions? Oh, yes.

Vince Young, future superstar, deserves accolades, not hyperbole. And readers of The Worldwide Leader in [American] Sports sure deserve a lot better than silly hyperbole from xenophobic so-called experts.

They're not still bitter about Team USA getting bounced from the FIFA World Championship, are they? Nah, couldn't be.

RealFootball365.com: The first to proclaim the Tennessee Titans favorites to win the AFC in 2007.
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About Os Davis

Os Davis has taken a twisted route to get to RealFootball365.com in his nearly 17 years in professional writing, working in any number of capacities in the sportswriting, news reporting and film criticism worlds. In print media, Os has served as editor at a few publications, including Albuquerque's...
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CommentsComments: 4  |  Sign Up  View all comments
No.1
fr8ttrain
11:37 AM
12/27/2006
Where are you getting your info on Cincy moving to LA? The only thing I can say is I moved to Maryland, and the Colts shipped...
No.2
RJB III
09:08 PM
12/29/2006
Dude, Have some hot chocolate, or as I say hot Cocoa, relax and try to get into a mellow mode. Who cares about the French,...
No.3
Goebel
02:23 AM
01/14/2007
Why do you hate VINCE YOUNG, you must not like Black people, or you dont like black players who are way better then the heisman...
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