Water cooler banter

Working in a newspaper’s sports department is sometimes like waking up and getting dressed to stand by the water cooler all day.

Okay, sure, we work our butts off at times, and at all hours of the day (I found myself at Osbourn Park at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning). But the cool thing about working here is you’re among knowledgeable sports fans whose opinions aren’t driven by the quest for high ratings. The conversations get testy, comical and bizarre.

Sound like you and your poker bunch? Your fantasy cronies? The gang you sit with at the game?

Here’s what’s on our minds this week. Feel free to e-mail tell us what’s on yours.

Okay, we’ve established that college football needs a playoff system. Although Miami and Ohio State may bail out Division I-A, college football actually has three playoff systems, all fun to watch, especially for those of us who went to small colleges and universities. If you didn’t, give it a shot. You can follow the action at www.I-AA.org, d2football.com and d3football.com (Sure, I work for the latter on the side, so shameless plug… but I’d be checking it anyway if I didn’t work there).

Divisions II and III are in their second weekend and Division I-AA is kicking things off this weekend. The two 16-team playoffs and the 28-team affair in Division III will give you visions of what it would be like if Miami or Ohio State had to go through a 16-seed (like Florida or Colorado State), an 8-seed (like Kansas State or Washington State), a 4-seed (like Iowa, Oklahoma or Georgia) before facing each other for the national championship.

Who would win? We the fans, of course.

Coolest thing about sports? How about the most talented team not always winning, the rivalries and the unpredictability?

I spent last week in Washington State, where the Apple Cup, the University of Washington’s annual matchup with WSU, was the hot topic of conversation. That and the tipoff of Gonzaga basketball. Trust me, folks out there forgot about the Seattle Seahawks a long time ago.

Washington State was cruising, lost their starting quarterback Jason Gesser… and boom! We had a thriller on our hands, one that the Huskies won in triple overtime.

The most talented team doesn’t always win. Ask the Texas Longhorns, or the Thanksgiving Day Redskins. Do we have to bring up those 8-8 Norv Turner/Terry Robiskie Redskins.

That’s part of what makes these games fun to watch.

Who would you cast a Heisman Trophy vote for? I was thinking Penn State’s Larry Johnson, as was another staff member … until they brought up his numbers against Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan (something like 200 of his 1,700 yards came against the best teams Penn State has played).

Who else is there? Willis McGahee? Gesser? Iowa’s Brad Banks?

Well, at least we know Ty Willingham is coach of the year? Right?

How was last night’s episode of Smallville? And why did Tony kill Ralphie on the Sopranos anyway?

Hey, we don’t always talk sports.

You know what I miss? Thanksgiving Day high school football. We had it the day after, when Hylton and Osbourn Park played on Friday, but up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, that’s a Thanksgiving tradition.

Teams play their 10th game at 10:30 on Thanksgiving morning, usually against their rival. Everyone is home from school and off work, so they can make it to the big game.

Football up there is a part of Thanksgiving Day long before the Lions and Cowboys come on TV.

Speaking of the Cowboys, didn’t you just know the Redskins would lose after they kept re-running Steve Spurrier’s soundbite about giving owner Dan Snyder the game ball?

Another neat thing about the Cowboys game: Woodbridge’s Matt Lehr started along the Dallas offensive line, and his quarterback, Chad Hutchinson, pitched five games for the Potomac Cannons in 1998.

You never know what the Prince William area might produce.

So does Jordan have another feather in his cap if he retires while the Wizards are competitive? Sure, they were just 6-8 before Friday’s game in Indiana, but they’ll be OK when the NBA’s greatest player hangs ’em up after this year. Presumably, he’ll return to the front office, where he can continue building a team that people didn’t even want to watch before he showed up. Don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten.

So what are you talking about this week?

Keith McMillan is a News & Journal Messenger staff writer. Reach him via e-mail at [email protected]

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