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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 • Posted June 16, 2010

When Numbers are Up…

For serious college sports fans, these are fitful days. Gobs of them linger in limbo, wondering where they’ll land when all the wrinkles in conference affiliations are ironed out. In the span of a few weeks—if not days—much more will be known about the big-time collegiate alignments believed to eventually include 16 members in each of four mega-leagues.

The whole deal is big business for the big schools, even if viewed as "monkey business" by non-fans. The latter cock their heads sideways as ongoing "hard" news of oil spills, budget crises, health care issues and politicians’ shenanigans, etc., is squeezed into smaller space, with reduced-size headlines and lower placement on the page—the front one, no less.

Be assured, too, that university chancellors and presidents are caught up in the angst. They’re so harried that left hands don’t know what the right ones are doing. You can bet that one of them is constantly checking the pulse of regents while the other one alternately "glad hands" and probes donors’ pockets. They’ll huff and puff, vowing that conference affiliations are NOT about money. Mark it down: When such professions are made, a central truth emerges; it is MOSTLY about MONEY, ever-growing tubfuls of TV revenue. Their minds swirl with numbers, very big numbers….

* * * * *

All this shuffling makes one question the wisdom of the inclusion of numbers in the names of conferences. I mean, the "Big 12" works fine with 12 members, even if critics call it the "Dirty Dozen." With three other conferences expected to pluck at least seven of the "Big 12" schools, the old name won’t have the same ring to it, if, in fact, it survives at all.

If "sweet 16" is the goal for the Pacific-10, Southeast, Atlantic Coast and Big Ten Conferences, it is foolish to include numbers in the names of the former and the latter.

Whatever finally comes down, these shifts provide golden opportunities for conference fathers (and mothers) to consider unnumbered names devoid of geographical ID’s. Maybe they should consider foundational words like "liberty," "united" or "premiere," what with member schools scattered all over the map. Different time zones could throw our "sleepy times" asunder, but legislatures may ride to the rescue by "jimmying" time zones.The reps have prevailed over tougher zones, and could even decree "time zone adjustment" during football season…..

* * * * *

Numbers are dizzying in this entire saga. They do, however, augment gluttonous institutional athletic budgets. And they’re handy to establish odds and point spreads.

Back in the 20th century, I joined a half-dozen other small-college presidents to determine the name for a new athletic conference. The acronym I suggested was met by yawns. I liked "CASA," standing for "Collegiate Academic/Sports Association." I thought CASA sounded "homey," collegial and inclusive. Others didn’t.

I don’t think "academic" set well….

* * * * *

Maybe I’m not giving numbers their due. Actually, they come in mighty handy in many situations.

Bob Murphey, the late East Texas humorist who charmed audiences for several decades, got a lot of mileage from a "numbers" yarn. "I’m from Nacogdoches, Texas," he’d drawl, claiming his hometown to be the birth place of the ZIP code.

"None of us could spell ‘Nacogdoches,’" he explained. "So the government decided to simply number it."…

* * * * *

Numbers also served prisoners well decades ago when they whiled away the hours telling jokes. It got so all of them knew every joke, word for word, so they decided it would be simpler to call out jokes by numbers.

Someone yelled, "Number 92," meriting ongoing laughter. When it died out, another prisoner shouted, "Number 57," and again, the place was awash in giggles. "Number 14," exclaimed a new detainee. It was met with graveyard silence. He repeated the number two more times with the same "nothing" response. "What did I do wrong?" he questioned.

"Some can tell ‘em and some can’t," he was told….

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com.

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