ATLANTA — The Brits have been known to use their uncommonly clear eyes to observe one of the utmost characteristics of the United States: We excel at razzmatazz. Sometimes they sneer at it, sometimes they don’t. Just this very fall in Austin, British driver Lewis Hamilton, hoping for enhanced razzmatazz in Formula One, told gear-head reporters, “The Americans are way better than us Europeans in putting shows on. You look at the Super Bowl, the NFL games, the NBA games.”
Yet then, because we excel at razzmatazz, we have become addicted to razzmatazz. Because we have become addicted to razzmatazz, the craven need for razzmatazz seeps into everywhere — even into the grinding, plodding human experience of hiring some dude.
Somehow, the drudgery of hiring college football coaches must have its proper razzmatazz. It must be a good show.
It must be smooth and splashy and redolent of a well-tended lawn, lest all the neighbors around the country snicker that the lawn does not seem well-tended enough.
Here’s the culture that hatched the term “win the news conference,” even while nobody has ever pegged just what a school and its athletic director win when they win the news conference.
Do they get some old BCS runner-up trophy? Do they get a replica of an Irving G. Thalberg Award?
Maybe members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, during their autumnal deliberations, stop off at times to say, “But they really won the news conference.”
Maybe they don’t.
Let’s play along, then, after this turbulent week of Southeastern Conference football coach-hiring, even while realizing we’re playing along with lunacy. Who had a good show? Florida had a good show, Mississippi State a fine show, Ole Miss a decent show, Texas A&M a good show even as some of us might doubt whether the show is as good as people think it is. And then Tennessee . . .
Tennessee, of course, has had a show wretched enough to compel a nation, or at least a Twitter nation.
Florida nibbled professionally with Chip Kelly and whatnot, then lured its former offensive coordinator, Dan Mullen, from Mississippi State. Good show. Taut! Stable! Decently directed!
Ole Miss deleted the word “interim” from the description of Matt Luke, as does happen here and there. Decent show. Steady!
Mississippi State won at the art of curiosity, importing offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead from Penn State, making Moorhead that rare human who will have coached in both New York (Fordham) and Starkville (Mississippi State). Credit that man for seeing the beauty in divergent places, and credit Mississippi State for a fine, interesting show. Novel! Cross-regional!
Texas A&M spent a big bale of Texas money to reel in Jimbo Fisher from Florida State, knowing Fisher just went 5-6 after proving unable to solve losing his starting quarterback to injury, and knowing Fisher went 27-1 with Jameis Winston at quarterback, a very good 56-22 without Winston and a suitable but complaint-worthy 25-12 since Winston left for the NFL. Splashy!
Tennessee, meanwhile, has not won its news conference because it has not had its news conference. It fired John Currie, the athletic director, on Friday.
Here’s a summary of what Currie had done thus far:
He had been hired April 1, a date perhaps portentous.
He had fired the previous coach Sunday, Nov. 12, in a news conference so dreary it threatened to numb every nerve ending in the room as well as some nerve endings connected only through satellite radio — all of which, of course, should have been irrelevant.
He found his choice for coach, a choice endorsed and employed by Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, one of the top three coaches in the country. Tennessee fans rebelled heavily at Currie’s choice, so Currie rescinded that offer and carried on.
He asked another guy. The other guy said no. So he asked another guy. This other guy said no. So he asked another guy. That other guy said no. So he asked another guy. That guy said no. This was not a good show! Currie may have asked other guys, those other guys may have said no, and somewhere along the way, if allowed to continue, he might have found Bear Freaking Bryant. Nobody knows. It was an employer’s process in seeking an employee, but it so crucially lacked the razzmatazz to be a good show. It had insufficient sexiness. It even had temporary rejections.
Had he spent the weekend asking another guy, such as Washington State’s scientist of offense, Mike Leach, and had that guy turned up years down the line coaching Tennessee in a Southeastern Conference championship game, as no Vols coach has done in 10 years and counting, and counting, and counting, everyone would have looked back upon the search as a fleeting inconvenience. Some people might have lauded Currie’s persistence.
Yet the intricately viewed rejections made the lawn look unkempt. It made the show muddled, uneven, even splintered. Where’s the plot?! The show was not good enough, so Tennessee had to fire the athletic director, because it was too unwieldy to fire thousands of fans.
Now, firing the fans, that would have been a show — maybe even a stepped-up, revved-up version of another famous show about firing people. That thing could have achieved utter razzmatazz.