So here’s your silly/stupid/my-culture-is-better-than-your-culture debate of the day:
What is the most amazing ending in college football history? And there are only two answers.
1. The Play, which just celebrated its 31st anniversary.
2. Saturday’s Iron Bowl.
[RELATED: Auburn returns missed field goal, stuns No. 1 Alabama]
And as it always happens, it breaks down on semantics, as in “Define Amazing.”
And as it always happens, the dictionary is no help:
a·maz·ing (uh-mey-zing), adj. – causing great surprise or sudden wonder.
So, that settles nothing. But the tiebreaker is the culture. Auburn-Alabama is as serious as a freshly diagnosed lump, while Stanford-California is largely a hoot. The reason: College football is religion in the South. Religion is a sport in the West.
Thus, The Play could not be considered a moment of hilarity in Alabama, because the fans of the school whose band took the field prematurely would probably have rushed the field to beat the students with their own instruments – and if you’ve ever seen someone need a tuba-ectomy, you know how serious that can be. Moreover, there are only three kinds of people in Alabama – ‘Bama fans, Auburn fans, and the 5,000 who care about Alabama-Birmingham.
Conversely, the Field Goal Touchdown, or whatever the hell they agree to call it down there, would be a fascinating but not epochal moment in California, because so many people don’t care about Stanford, Cal, or college football.
Nick Saban will be held solely responsible for this loss, and the national championship that died with it, even by people who worshiped him hours earlier. Joe Kapp, who was largely derided for being behind the times as the Cal coach, was more than forgiven for creating and perfecting the “grabass” call that resulted in The Play, and John Elway never playing in any bowl game.
In other words, we can all agree that the stakes Saturday were far greater, and that the fans in Alabama could appreciate them more than would the people in California. On the other hand, Northern Californians would appreciate and lionize The Play in ways that Alabamans could never truly appreciate or enjoy. Put another way, Saturday’s result loses something if you say the reward for the winner was the Bluebonnet Bowl, while The Play stands on its own weird petard.
To be fair, each fan group got the lifelong memory it deserved and could appreciate (and/or despise) best. Life doesn’t always deliver such glorious serendipity.
But we haven’t answered the question, “Which game ending is more amazing?” And there, we have to work the question a bit.
First, which ending is more conceivable if you took the game and dropped it in the middle of nowhere to be played between ITT Technical Institute and the University of Phoenix? The answer would be The Play, because the ending of Auburn-Alabama was a strictly football ending, while The Play’s was more musical if not terpsichoreal.
Second, which ending created greater hard feelings? Well, anything Auburn-Alabama would (Google Harvey Updyke if you don’t believe it), so that question answers itself in all situations.
Third, what is a bigger deal – Alabama not going to a third national championship, or Stanford losing a Big Game it thought it had won? That one’s like puppy love – the answer can only be provided by the puppies.
So the answer, if one must be honest, is in the slackened jaw of the beholder. They both provided the same response – “What the hell just happened?” but some Stanford and Cal fans still don’t know for sure if what happened was allowable under football rules, while Alabama and Auburn fans know damned well what happened, how legal it was (completely), and how long it will linger (think a meteor hitting Highway 82 and wiping out all life for the day when this game stops mattering).
So stuck for a better answer, we’ll call it a draw, at least in one perfect way. Everyone got a story for their great grandkids – even if the great grandkids are neither great, nor theirs.
And if any people you meet say they know which one is more amazing, then tell them they’re lying. Because they are.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.