It’s been a big week for those from and around the University of Alabama. Shaun Alexander was named MVP of the League. Tyrone Prothro was awarded ESPN/ABC/Disney’s Pontiac’s Game Changing Performance of the Year. The Crimson Tide won their bowl game and landed inside the top ten in the final AP rankings.
As for me, I was booted in the first round of a poker tournament at an off-shore casino, lost a fight, skipped out on a bar tab, and narrowly avoided a spot on the unemployment line. On the bright side, I did answer the bell to see the infernal 10am kick off of the Cotton Bowl and my Player’s Club membership is in good standing. It’s been a weird year.
With time to kill in international waters, I watched Rutgers lose a shoot-out in their first bowl game in three decades, their second bowl game ever, against the same team they played last time. Different score, same result. Hopefully, it won’t take another thirty years for the first school to play college football to make it back.
Slot jockeys have more superstitions than pitchers and more advice than drunks. They’ll lead you to so many altars that your knees will buckle on instinct: Play the same slot all night – never play the same slot twice – always play after someone steps away – never be the next person – always bet the max – never bet the max. Try watching a football game with this noise in the background while you’re drinking your watered down bourbon and Coke.
But to their credit, those who make slot machines stumbled across a great discovery a few years back, one that made their beeping, cash-vomiting robots more popular than ever before: Never pay out.
Even if you win.
Especially if you win.
During halftime, when there’s nothing to keep your attention but highlights of plays you’ve already seen, that’s when you notice the missing sound. You hear the grannies jingling their plastic cups of tokens, you hear the high-speed beeps from the slot wheels revving like a cartoon chainsaw, you hear the buttons being slapped and the levers being released – but you do not hear coin.
In the old days, the only certain joy in the slot room was the payout – not your own, of course, but someone’s. And the payout was signaled by the sudden flush of hard coin into a metal basin at the bottom of the machine, a dull thunder of metal on metal dozens, hundreds, of times in succession. A sound no sweeter to the slot jockey than “Come home, faithful servant” to a Christian.
However, the digital revolution has taken God’s voice from the slot room. Instead of coin, now there is credit and the slot jockey can do one of two things with this credit – pay it out or play it again. The reason you never hear coin is the same reason you never see just five beer cans in your neighbor’s recycle bin.
Sadly, that’s how it is with college football lately. There’s a lot of credit and seldom little coin. So if ever I were to get ahead, I hope somewhere in the back of my brain I’ll remember to pay out. After all there is some coin out there to be had: Rutgers even making a bowl, Spurrier beating Fulmer again, Reggie Bush stacking up 500 yards past midnight, Navy running the triple option, Joe Pa going batshit crazy, Brodie Croyle hitting two bench seniors in a row to set up the last winning drive of his college career, wounded ducks winning the Cotton Bowl, DeMeco freakin’ Ryans, and Vince Young being the biggest man in America by playing like a kid in the backyard – a very fast, very big kid who it turns out can read zone coverage and escape the blitz.
See you at spring practice.