A couple of weeks ago, I was half-heartedly listening to a recap of college football scores while giving my toenails their last coat of polish before fall. I say “half-heartedly” because the level of artistry that goes into masking the grotesqueness of my feet requires a high degree of concentration.
When they started talking about ridiculous blowouts, my ears perked up and my foot flinched. In an instant, my impeccable paint job was ruined by an errant streak of Midnight Sapphire on my big toe. Why? Because there is one part of college football that has always fascinated me: money games.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, the simplest and least tasteful explanation can be delivered in a single word—prostitution.
Early in the season, powerhouse schools like to schedule an easy game or two to dust off the cobwebs, build confidence and impress their home crowds with a dominating win. To do this, they seek out smaller, lesser-known teams and pay them to get their asses kicked.
Small colleges usually have small athletic budgets, which makes this sort of deal extremely lucrative for them. Most don’t think twice about pimping out their football teams for 3, 4, even $500,000—or more. Then they put the players on a nice charter plane—compliments the opposing team, of course—and pray that they all come back alive and with the majority of their limbs (and cognitive function) intact.
The result? Scores like “North Carolina-62, Elon-0,” “Florida State-55, Savannah State-0,” and “TCU-56, Grambling State-0.”
In some cases, it’s almost sad. I feel for the guys on the losing side of the scoreboard. I don’t care where you play—if you’re a college athlete, you are a competitive person. And competitive people hate losing.
If it were up to them personally, I’m sure there are some morally grounded players out there who would refuse to lose for cash. Back in my days as a legit athlete, I probably would have agreed with them. But now that I’m just a lowly has-been, I would be willing to bend my ethical standards under the right conditions.
So that got me to thinking—what if they developed a similar system in the world of competitive distance running? I mean, think about it: when people watch world-class distance runners race other world-class distance runners, there is really no way of grasping just how fast they are moving. It doesn’t help that they all look like they’re out on a leisurely joggy-jog when, in fact, they are splitting sub-60s.
But if you threw in a race where world-class distance runners raced middle-of-the-road distance runners—former Big Sky Conference Championship bronze medalists, for example—the audience would be able to see just how good these Olympians really are.
Take Kara Goucher, for example—America’s Sweetheart of distance running. High school cross-country runners idolize her. They probably cheered her on during last month’s Olympic marathon. She finished just a hair over 2:26—a time that most men, even really good ones, could only dream of achieving—which was good for 11th place.
Except that in America’s eyes, 11th place is not good. It’s not good at all. In fact, you probably already forgot that Kara Goucher even participated in the Olympic marathon.
Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., we like winners—the bigger and more embarrassing the margin of victory, the better. The way I see it, there is only one way for Kara to avenge that 11th place disaster (besides winning gold in Rio, which probably won’t happen if Ethiopia still exists in 2016): winning a race by a laughably obscene margin.
That’s where I (or some other washed-up has-been) would come in. I could be the Grambling State to her TCU. I could sort of, but not really, compete with her and make her look really, really good. I could get her fans all fired up and give her a solid foundation of confidence for the rest of the season. All I would ask for in return would be a small* percentage of her race winnings.
So Kara, once you realize how incredibly genius this idea is, drop me a line. My inbox—and your comeback—awaits.
*Less than a majority** share.
**Between 1 and 49 percent.