Next year, college football will begin holding a postseason playoff featuring the top four teams in the country, as selected by committee. Initial reports, which aired this week, indicate that the committee will include a number of college coaches, a sportswriter, a retired lieutenant general, and former Secretary of State turned Stanford professor Condoleezza Rice. A girl.
“Now I’m going to stick my foot in my mouth, probably,” ESPN commentator Dave Pollack said when asked about Rice’s probable appointment. “I want people on this committee — guys — that can watch tape . . . that have played football, that are around football, that can tell you different teams, on tape — not on paper.” ESPN host Chris Fowler asked Pollack if that meant women should not serve. He responded: “I’ll say it, yeah. Yeah.”
“All she knows about football is what somebody told her,” former Auburn football coach Pat Dye weighed in. “Or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television. To understand football, you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt . . . I love Condoleezza Rice and she’s probably a good statesman and all of that, but how in the hell does she know what it’s like out there when you can’t get your breath and it’s 110 degrees and the coach asks you to go some more?”
Guys. Guys. Let us remove our feet from our mouths and take a good, long look at what’s actually transpiring on the turf. Two teams of rivals are competing to outsmart, outmaneuver, and overpower the other, invade their territory, and gain access to a preciously guarded zone. The committee will be responsible for reviewing each squad’s battle history, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, predicting the outcomes of potential conflicts, and ranking them according to their relative power on a national scale. It’s pretend war. Who could possibly be up for such a task? Maybe a person who has served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State?
Condoleezza Rice isn’t just fit to serve on the committee. She is ridiculously, laughably qualified for the job. Yes, Rice’s understanding of playing college football is confined to visual information, printed words, and stuff “somebody told her” — this is generally how knowledge is communicated among humans. In Rice’s case, she’s been learning about the game since her high school football coach father welcomed her home from the maternity ward with a pigskin in her crib. Since leaving public office, she’s eyed the NFL commissioner job and frequently discusses strategy with Stanford coach David Shaw. She can watch tape. I bet she’s even prepared to “tell you different teams.”
You know who’s not necessarily fit for the committee? Some guy who can feel deep in his atrophied muscles that it sure is a scorcher out there — reminds him of his bowl debut in ‘72, back when you had to run plays uphill both ways in the mud and you liked it. The gig requires someone who understands the game, but is also capable of taking his or her head out of it long enough to see the bigger picture. The guys who are counting Condi out probably wouldn’t make the cut.
Amanda Hess is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. She blogs for DoubleX on sex, science and health.