My favorite part of the Tennessee Titans’ outrage at USC is how this is just one more step in USC’s heel turn in college football. Before you know it, the “win forever” kids from the Pete Carroll Era are going to turn into blonde fu-manchu with black beard-sporting, hanging with Dennis Rodman, nWo members and crap all over any positive legacy they might have had.
I, for one, am fine with this. There is absolutely nothing better in sports than a truly great villain, and the Trojans are well on their way to being the most hated team in college football. That is, unless Florida’s D-Generation X manages to steal the spotlight.
The nWo undoubtedly had the best stable of wrestlers in the WCW. There were a ton of champions and former champions in the mix. Yet there was absolutely nothing likeable about any of their matches except the chance they might lose. All of them: Hogan, Nash, Hall, Macho Man, hell even Lex Lugar and Sting once things got lame were all slow and boring wrestlers. The only thing they kicked ass at was being on the mic and self-promoting. Anyone who has watched USC’s offense the last three years or so knows something about slow and boring, despite recruiting a sex-load of talent.
Cheating is also pretty much what the nWo did, ensuring that any match featuring one or more of their members had little chance of being on the level. The Reggie Bush mess and the presence of Lane Kiffin pretty much make that a permanent part of the discussion during every USC game from here on out.
Besides, when a program reaches the heights USC did under Carroll, or Hogan did with the WWF, there’s just no way to top it. The only thing to do is to go heel and keep the core fans while still getting plenty of pop for being “bad” or “hollywood,” as it were. Pretty much every great wrestler has done it at some point, and it’s really hard for sports teams and athletes to stay good for really long periods of time without becoming annoying and tiresome. See: James, LeBron and Woods, Tiger. I bet quite a few less people would like even Jack Nicklaus if the internet had been around in the 60’s and 70’s.
And yet going heel doesn’t cost anyone any money: people might have hated that Hogan went bad and been aggravated by the intensely awful plot-creation by the WCW, but they damn sure watched every week.
OK, OK, we’ll make some wrestler/USC player comparisons. Twist my arm:
Lane Kiffin is Hollywood Hogan – Obviously. The leader of the pack and the most recognizable face. Was a reasonably well-liked guy until he bailed on Tennessee and then pissed off the Titans. In fact, his exit from Tennessee was a lot like Hogan’s heel turn from Bash at the Beach in 1996.
Kennedy Pola is Curt Hennig – Hennig stabbed the Four Horsemen in the back to join the nWo. Wildly overrated wrestler. WCW made way too big a deal about him. Pola turned his back on the Titans to join the Trojans at a terrible time.
Mitch Mustain is Sting – Sting was the big name guy until all the biggies from the WWF showed up. He was then reduced to dropping out of the rafters with a bat while dressed like The Crow so he could get on TV. The only way Mustain is getting on the field at this point is if he kneecaps all the coaches (and Matt Barkley) with a baseball bat..
Willie Mack Garza is Vincent (DiBiase’s bodyguard) – Garza is Monte Kiffin’s mini-me, basically he is the hands-on guy in the secondary. Much like Vincent, he delivers the messages sent out by the big man. Also doubles as his enforcer.
Bonus: Rick Neuheisel is Diamond Dallas Page – Wannabe, hapless nemesis to the nWo but just can’t pull it off. Tried to be a face, but is just too creepy on all fronts. Neuheisel would definitely pull a “self high-five” too.
However, there are two things I don’t get about the Tennessee Titans/USC/Kennedy Pola saga:
First, trying to hire a coach on the sneak doesn’t seem like Lane Kiffin’s style. The guy’s a cocky asshole, so I always figured he’d love to announce to other coaches that he’s about to take their assistants from them. Talking crap is what the guy was born to do. Coaching football is just his medium.
So when Titans head coach Jeff Fisher came to the media and announced that he was disappointed in Kiffin’s “lack of professionalism,” I have to admit I was taken aback. Why would Kiffin just leave Fisher a voicemail after Pola had taken the job? There’s no reason to act like he’s stealing Pola. He was hiring him fair and square, even if Pola had only been with the Titans since January. This is the way it works in the Wild West of Coaching. All Kiffin had to do was call Jeff Fisher 24 hours earlier than he did and, well, just be himself.
There are some (okay, many) who would say that Kiffin has always been shady. To those people I say, you’re absolutely right. I’m just a little surprised he showed such obvious laziness. Lane Kiffin is a lot of things, but he is never lazy in his shadiness or dickishness.
Second, why do Jeff Fisher and the Titans give enough of a crap about Kennedy Pola for Fisher to be involved in a lawsuit against his alma mater? Pola replaced Earnest Byner in January, after the season ended. He had absolutely nothing to do with the stunning season put up by Chris Johnson, so, though he’s absolutely a respected coach, this is no huge loss.
I recognize the timing of the hiring sucks since every football team everywhere is about to open fall camp. But do the Titans mean to tell everyone they don’t have a list of possible replacements for every coaching position, let alone for the guy who will have the most day-to-day interaction with their star player? Come on. Besides, they never should have fired Byner in the first place.
I’m not here to tell people what to do (yes I am). But it would be nice if the Titans didn’t whine quite this hard about losing a fairly random member of their coaching staff.